Tag: drupal

Sometimes three days of the Nonprofit Technology Conference are just not enough. We get it. 🎊

Take advantage of already being at 18NTC, surrounded by the smartest people at nonprofits, and join us for a pre-conference event. This year, we’re proud to offer the following:

  • Drupal Day
    A day for IT decision makers who either currently manage or are considering the Drupal content management system in the nonprofit sector. Sponsored by ThinkShout.
  • WordPress Day
    An interactive, all-day learning and networking event for nonprofit leaders and staff who manage WordPress websites. Sponsored by Kanopi Studios.
  • CiviCRM Day
    A day for CiviCRM users in the nonprofit community. Sponsored by AGH Strategies.
  • Creating a secure nonprofit
    A half-day session about security breaches, compromised data, and cyber attacks that can put nonprofits and their beneficiaries at risk. Sponsored by Microsoft.

All pre-conference events will be held at the New Orleans Convention Center on April 10, 2018—the same location that will host the NTC the following day.

Sign up by adding it to your 18NTC registration. Or, if you’re already registered, use our handy form.

Drupal Day has come and gone, and while the event itself goes by in the blink of an eye, the lessons learned resonate long after the conference ends. I spend a great deal of my time blogging about why people should get out of their comfort zones and take a deep dive into new technology—not just in an online forum, but in an honest-to-goodness social situation. I know that, for a lot of people, this is terrifying. But the spirit of Drupal Day is inclusive, and all of the introverted anxieties I start to feel during the few weeks leading up to the event dissipate instantly as soon as the room fills up. The enthusiasm is contagious. Judgment? Non-existent. No matter your technical competency level, you’re welcome at Drupal Day, and it’s this culture that’s been fostered that makes me so proud, and privileged, to coordinate Drupal Day.

So what is Drupal Day exactly? It’s a day-long workshop that NTEN has incorporated into the Nonprofit Technology Conference as a pre-con event. ThinkShout has had the honor of coordinating this event for the last four years. This year, we were very fortunate to have so many fantastic speakers volunteer to lead breakout groups, allowing us to offer a wide variety of sessions. This year, we heard from four nonprofit case study presenters, Lisa Goddard from the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, August Adams of Families USA, Craig Sinclair from the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, and Kirsten Sims from Cradles to Crayons. They all provided such diverse and relatable stories, and fantastic examples of how they’ve put Drupal to work for their organization. Each of their stories varied widely, and we explored fantastic use cases, like Salesforce being leveraged to streamline both volunteer and donation processes. We saw Drupal used to manage a massive library of media, and learned from firsthand sources how an organization making the switch to Drupal can set themselves up for success.

The Immersion Experience

One of my favorite aspects of Drupal Day is that the technical competencies of attendees span the spectrum, from Drupal-savvy developers, to nonprofit staff that are simplytrying to get comfortable with Drupal terminology; their personal stories all differ, and Drupal Day is the opportunity that both sides need to bridge the gap between those two worlds. We’ve all been at square one before. The better we are at remembering that and empathizing, the better we are at providing a positive experience for others who are new to the community and less familiar with the lingo.

Drupal Day in particular provides an environment that I consider a shining example of this sort of interaction. We’re united by the common goal of using Drupal for good, and that is so evident when this crowd comes together. It’s not about throwing around jargon or cramming as much code into everyone’s brains as possible: it’s about finding that common ground we have, whether we’re coming from the marketing world, web development, or program, and helping each other accomplish our goals as we cross the bridge that unites us.

A Resource Extravaganza

A huge piece of events like these, and Drupal Day in particular, is the exchange of resources. This isn’t limited to the tools we use; rather, it includes the people whose experience becomes the example. Session topics this year ranged from digital asset management, Drupal project management and user feedback, to online mapping in Drupal, CRMs, and design. But yes, we do love those tools. Especially the free tools, like Etherpads, the suite of Google services, and, of course, Drupal.org— a fantastic hub of fellow Drupalistas. The paid ones are good too. I will never stop singing the praises of Lynda and BuildAModule for online Drupal training, especially for those who want to learn more about Drupal but don’t know where to start, or are unable to attend community events.

What Now?

Drupal Day may be over, but the learning never has to stop. What can you do? Well, if you attended Drupal Day, you can start by taking a good hard look at those notes you took and think about what the next step is for you.

Are you ready for a deeper dive into Drupal? Maybe tackle some code? It might be time to consider attending one of your local Drupal camps. Connect with your breakout session leaders and see what they recommend.

Perhaps you are simply still stuck trying to evaluate whether or not Drupal is right for your needs. Don’t stop asking questions; reach out to that new contact you made that morning and see what they took away from the day. If you live in the same state, see about teaming up and attending a local Drupal event together. Take the steps you need to get more comfortable in the space, and remember that we were all newbies once. Seriously consider exploring BuildAModule’s training library, and take a look at the websites of the organizations you heard from. Experience for yourself the difference Drupal has made for their websites.

So you didn’t go to Drupal Day? That’s OK. There’s always next year. You can also join some of the Drupal Day veterans and attend a local Drupal camp. If you’re curious about Drupal, there’s no real wrong way to enter the Drupal world. Whether you prefer online research or in-person meet-ups, it doesn’t matter—what matters is that you’re learning. If you’re considering a switch to Drupal, or just want to learn about what it can do for your organization, I encourage you to get out into the community and get it from the horse’s mouth; see for yourself how other organizations have made the transition. Arm yourself with all the information you can handle so you can be in the best possible position to make that informed decision. No one in the Drupal community wants you to fail, and that’s part of the beauty of the open source world: when we contribute something positive to the technology and community we all rely upon, everybody wins.

For the last 15 years or so, we’ve seen consistent growth in nonprofits’ appreciation for how open source tools can support their goals for online engagement. The immediate benefits of implementing an open source solution are pretty clear:

  • With open source tools, organizations avoid costly licensing fees
  • Open source tools are generally easier to customize
  • Open source tools often have stronger and more diverse vendor/support options
  • Open source platforms are often better-suited for integration with other tools and services

The list goes on… And without going down a rabbit hole, I’ll simply throw out that the benefits of open source go well beyond content management use cases these days.

But the benefits of nonprofits supporting and contributing to these open source projects and communities are a little less obvious, and sometimes less immediate. While our customers generally appreciate the contributions we make to the larger community in solving their specific problems, we still often get asked the following in the sales cycle:

“So let me get this straight: First you want me to pay you to build my organization a website. Then you want me to pay you to give away everything you built for us to other organizations, many of which we compete with for eyeballs and donations?”

This is a legitimate question! One of the additional benefits of using an open source solution is that you get a lot of functionality “for free.” You can save budget over building entirely custom solutions with open source because they offer so much functionality out of the box. So, presumably, some of that saving could be lost if additional budget is spent on releasing code to the larger community.

There are many other arguments against open sourcing. Some organizations think that exposing the tools that underpin their website is a security risk. Others worry that if they open source their solutions, the larger community will change the direction of projects they support and rely upon. But most of the time, it comes down to that first argument:

“We know our organization benefits from open source, but we’re not in a position to give back financially or in terms of our time.”

Again, this is an understandable concern, but one that can be mitigated pretty easily with proper planning, good project management, and sound and sustainable engineering practices.

Debunking the Myths of Contributing to Open Source

Myth #1: “Open sourcing components of our website is a security risk.”

Not really true. Presumably the concern here is that if a would-be hacker were to see the code that underlies parts of your website, they could exploit security holes in that code. While yes, that could happen, the chances are that working with a software developer who has a strong reputation for contributing to an open source project is pretty safe. More importantly, most strong open source communities, such as the Drupal community, have dedicated security teams and thousands of developers who actively review and report issues that could compromise the security of these contributions. In our experience, un-reviewed code and code developed by engineers working in isolation are much more likely to present security risks. And, on the off chance that someone in the community does report a security issue, more often than not, the reporter will work with you, for free, to come up with a security patch that fixes the issue.

Myth #2: “If we give away our code, we are giving away our organization’s competitive advantage.”

As a software vendor that’s given away code that powers over 45,000 Drupal websites, we can say with confidence: there is no secret sauce. Trust me, all of our competitors use Drupal modules that we’ve released, and vice versa.

By leveraging open source tools, your organization can take advantage of being part of a larger community of practice. And frankly, if your organization is trying to do something new, something that’s not supported by such a community, giving away tools is a great way to build a community around your ideas.

We’ve seen many examples of this. Four years ago, we helped a local nonprofit implement a robust mobile mapping solution on top of the Leaflet Javascript library. At the time, there wasn’t an integration between this library and Drupal. So, as part of this project, we asked the client to invest 20 hours or so for us to release the barebones scaffolding of their mapping tool as a contributed Drupal module.

At first, this contributed module was simply a developer tool. It didn’t have an interface allowing site builders to use it. It just provided an easier starting point for custom map development. However, this 20-hour starting point lowered the cost for us to build mapping solutions for other clients, who also pitched in a little extra development time here and there to the open source project. Within a few months, the Leaflet module gained enough momentum that other developers from other shops started giving back. Now the module is leveraged on over 5,700 websites and has been supported by code contributions from 37 developers.

What did that first nonprofit and the other handful of early adopters get for supporting the initial release? Within less than a year of initially contributing to this module, they opened the door to many tens of thousands of dollars worth of free enhancements to their website and mapping tools.

Did they lose their competitive advantage or the uniqueness of their implementation of these online maps? I think you know what I’m gonna say: No! In fact, the usefulness of their mapping interfaces improved dramatically as those of us with an interest in these tools collaborated and iterated on each other’s ideas and design patterns.

Myth #3: “Contributing to an open source project will take time and money away from solving our organization’s specific problems.”

This perception may or may not be true, depending on some of the specifics of the problems your organization is trying to solve. More importantly, this depends upon the approach you use to contribute to an open source project. We’ve definitely seen organizations get buried in the weeds of trying to do things in an open source way. We’ve seen organizations contribute financially to open source projects on spec (on speculation that the project will succeed). This can present challenges. We’ve also seen vendors try to abstract too much of what they’re building for clients up front, and that can lead to problems as well.

Generally, our preferred approach is generally to solve our client’s immediate problems first, and then abstract useful bits that can be reused by the community towards the end of the project. There are situations when the abstraction, or the open source contribution, needs to come first. But for the most part, we encourage our clients to solve their own problems first, and in so doing provide real-life use cases for the solutions that they open source. Then, abstraction can happen later as a way of future-proofing their investment.

Myth #4: “If we open source our tools, we’ll lose control over the direction of the technologies in which we’ve invested.”

Don’t worry, this isn’t true! In fact:

Contributing to an open source project is positively selfish.

By this I mean that, by contributing to an open source project, your organization actually gets to have a stronger say in the direction of that project. Most open source communities are guided by those that just get up and do, rather than by committee or council.

Our team loves the fact that so many organizations leverage our Drupal modules to meet their own needs. It’s great showing up at nonprofit technology conferences and having folks come up to us to thank us for our contributions. But what’s even better is knowing that these projects have been guided by the direct business needs of our nonprofit clients.

How to Go About Contributing to Open Source

There are a number of ways that your nonprofit organization can contribute to open source. In most of the examples above, we speak to financial contributions towards the release of open source code. Those are obviously great, but meaningful community contributions can start much smaller:

Participate in an open source community event. By engaging with other organizations with similar needs, you can help guide the conversation regarding how a platform like Drupal or WordPress can support your organization’s needs.

(Editor’s note: We are excited for the “Drupal Day for Nonprofits” pre-conference event at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference!)

Host a code sprint or hackathon. Sometimes developers just need a space to hack on stuff. You’d be surprised at the meaningful connections and support that can come from just coordinating a local hackathon. One of our clients, Feeding Texas, recently took this idea further and hosted a dedicated sprint on a hunger mapping project called SNAPshot Texas. As part of this sprint, four developers volunteered a weekend to helping Feeding Texas build a data visualization of Food Stamp data across the state. This effort built upon the work of Feeding America volunteers across the country and became a cornerstone of our redesign of FeedingTexas.org. Feeding Texas believes so strongly in the benefits they received from this work that they felt comfortable open sourcing their entire website on GitHub.

Of course, if your organization is considering a more direct contribution to an open source project, for example, by releasing a module as part of a website redesign, we have some advice for you as well:

First and foremost, solve your organization’s immediate problems first. As mentioned earlier in the article, the failure of many open source projects is that their sponsors have to handle too many use cases all at once. Rest assured that if you solve your organization’s problems, you’re likely to create something that’s useful to others. Not every contribution needs to solve every problem.

Know when to start with abstraction vs. when to end with abstraction. We have been involved in client-driven open source projects, such as the release of RedHen Raiser, a peer-to-peer fundraising platform, for which the open source contribution needed to be made first, before addressing our client’s specific requirements. In the case of RedHen Raiser, the Capital Area Food Bank of Washington, DC came to us with a need for a Drupal-based peer-to-peer fundraising solution. Learning that nothing like that existed, they were excited to help us get something started that they could then leverage. In this case, starting with abstraction made the most sense, given the technical complexities of releasing such a tool on Drupal. However, for the most part, the majority of open source contributions come from easy wins that are abstracted after the fact. Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule about this – it’s just something that you need to consider.

Celebrate your contributions and the development team! It might sound silly, but many software nerds take great pride in just knowing that the stuff they build is going to be seen by their peers. By offering to open source even just small components of your project, you are more likely to motivate your development partners. They will generally work harder and do better work, which again adds immediate value to your project.

In conclusion, I hope that this article helps you better understand that there’s a lot of value in contributing to open source. It doesn’t have to be that daunting of an effort and it doesn’t have to take you off task.

My Year in Drupal

I’ve been fortunate to attend some of the biggest Drupal events in the U.S., and I always walk away from them with plenty of food for thought. Months ago, NTEN afforded me the space here to sing the Drupal community’s praises, and I haven’t stopped since. I’m constantly reminded of how much I value its existence. More recently, I flew down to San Francisco to take part in the Nonprofit Summit at BADCamp that I’d co-coordinated, where I got to hear from the Bay Area folks about Drupal and nonprofits in their neck of the woods.

Once Again, The Drupal Community is Awesome

Events like BADCamp remind me of the value of discussion and the exchange of ideas. Struggling to find a solution? Look to your community. One of the reasons I so appreciate the Drupal community specifically is how wonderfully they collaborate. Out of resources? Speak up in your discussion group or start a thread on a forum and watch the outpouring of support and ideas. The next thing you know, you’re looking at a list of new modules and tools that you’ve never heard of, and they might be exactly what your site needs.

There’s something wonderfully exciting about being in a room full of people with the same idea: let’s create and use technology to help people. This kind of collaborative atmosphere can make even the tallest of technological hurdles seem surmountable. If you enjoy events like BADCamp for networking and learning about nonprofit tech, then there are a couple of other events you’ll want to put on your calendar.

NYC Camp

If you are a fan of BADCamp, then NYC Camp is just your speed. It’s a free, week-long Drupal conference in New York City from March 16-22, 2015. There’s also a nonprofit summit on the Friday of that week, which you definitely won’t want to miss.

Drupal Day at NTC

For the last three years, we’ve been coordinating Drupal Day at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, so I may be a little biased when I say this is an excellent opportunity to learn more about Drupal for nonprofits. You’ll hear from Drupal experts as well as nonprofit technologists sharing their Drupal stories and successes. This is a chance to learn about what exactly goes into building a Drupal site and how you can leverage it to further your organization’s mission with case study-style presentations throughout the day. But it’s not just about code — it’s about everything else that goes into making a successful website: content strategy, user experience, responsive design, infrastructure, the whole nine yards. If you’re curious about taking that first step toward Drupal, this event is a great place to start, and then get ready for a whole lot of excellent information.

This year, join us on March 3rd, the day before NTC, in Austin, Texas. Registration for Drupal Day is free when you purchase a ticket to NTC. If you’ve already registered for the NTC, but didn’t sign up for Drupal Day, never fear! Just contact NTEN event staff and ask to be put on the registration list.

Never Stop Learning

I never cease to be amazed at how much I still have left to learn. I know I’ll never truly be done learning, as is the nature of technology. It’s always in motion, always evolving with us and our ideas. I’m constantly surprised by even the simplest of tools. For instance, if you’re organizing a meetup or hosting a summit of your own, it’s a great idea to provide attendees with a site for collective notes, like an etherpad. This is especially helpful if you have multiple sessions happening concurrently. That way, even if your attendees can’t attend every session, they can read their peers’ notes. One of the most rewarding parts of the BADCamp Nonprofit Summit for me was opening up our once-blank etherpad after the summit and finding pages and pages of notes, tools, and URLs from discussions throughout the day. In a matter of hours, we created an amazing nonprofit tech resource.

I really hope you’ll take the time to participating in a Drupal Camp or Drupal-themed event and really immerse yourself in this community. These camps are often highly affordable (or free, in the case of BADCamp and NYC Camp), so it’s just a matter of finding one near you. Need help with that part? Build-a-Module’s got you covered. Yes, that same site I mentioned months ago offers online Drupal training as well as a calendar of Drupal events all over the world.

I also hope those of you who are NTC-bound will consider adding Drupal Day to your schedule; it’s a wonderful introduction to the Drupal community. Even if you can’t make it to NTC or Drupal Day, take a chance on a Drupal Summit. Meet new peers, exchange ideas and concerns, and join in on this ongoing conversation. When you speak up, you become part of the change we all need to make this community, and Drupal, even better.

One of the greatest lessons of my life happened in 4th grade. The assignment was simple, straightforward, and one that you wouldn’t think required much thought: Describe how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“I got this,” my nine-year-old self probably thought before I set out to write this down. “I’ve been eating PB&J for YEARS at this point, so how hard could this be?”

As it turns out, there’s a whole lot of detail you need to include in preparing something as simple as PB&J. And all of my years of experience as a consumer of the product did little to prepare me for how to instruct others in how to best create it. This was made painfully and hilariously obvious to our class by our teacher, Ms. Perry. She proceeded to re-enact the instructions with a delivery that in hindsight was a combination of Lucille Ball in the candy factory, and Bob Newhart as the driving instructor.

The two moments that most stand out to me were when Ms. Perry simply stacked the jar of peanut butter on top of a slice of bread, put the jar of grape jelly on top of that, and topped the whole thing off with another slice of bread. The other was when she wasn’t instructed to use a knife and made a delightful mess smearing peanut butter and then jelly onto bread with her bare hand. Lesson learned.

I remembered this experience the other day when I sat down with one of our senior developers, Tim. We talked about the fundamental elements of a Drupal site, how they relate, and — most importantly — the order in which elements need to be determined.

We talked about nodes, content types and fields, and how having a thorough understanding of these and what they need to be are often the key component in ensuring a client’s web site is built on time, on budget, and is in line with the client’s expectations.

Drupal is a very powerful, flexible content management system, and nodes are the primary means for building out web pages. And just as rights are balanced out with responsibilities for creating an effective, functioning society, so too is the need to establish a bedrock foundation of nodes, content types and fields from which flexible renderings of data can be done easily and efficiently.

The front-facing nature of most of the traditional IA and design processes, however, can make this a challenge. Strategic goals are established that then get put into visual representations through wireframes and designs. This is not, inherently, a bad process. However, problems can occur when there is a lack of clarity around how content makes it from the CMS to the webpage, how it needs to change and how this might evolve over time. Also, this is often not the primary focus or expertise of most clients (nor should it be) and makes it easy to gloss over.

A simple way to guard against this is to take a “trust but verify” approach. You can trust that any information you need to display on a page can be done, so long as it exists and is in the proper structure for working through your content management system. That said, it’s helpful to verify the following:

  • The content exists
  • Everyone knows what it is and what it is trying to represent in real life (e.g., a publication, a product, a user profile, etc.)
  • Everyone knows where it exists
  • Everyone understands how it can be pulled in and any parsing of the data is verified up front
  • Everyone is clear what might need to evolve over time with this data
  • Everyone is clear on whether the content will be updated over time, who will be updating, and how they are expected to do so
  • Everyone is clear about everywhere this information needs to live on both the site and the web as a whole

It’s helpful to think of this as something of a natural revolution on the web. In the earliest days, content and styling were intertwined on every individual web page (R.I.P. ). Later, we witnessed the rise of cascading style sheets (CSS) that work best when data is kept separate from the “presentation layer.” We’re currently in an era where organizations need to think about a digital presence that extends well beyond their own web site(s).

In an age of responsive design websites that require choices to be made about what and how pages render on mobile devices, and with application programming interfaces (APIs) that can extend your organization’s public data well beyond your website, a fluency around how data is structured and flows needs to be at the core of any digital strategy.

This approach isn’t a “nice to have” option that companies can elect to ignore. Doing so is done at one’s own risk.

After thinking and talking about it for a long time, this year we at NTEN are finally beginning a website overhaul and re-launch in earnest. After all, the nonprofit association for people working at the intersections of tech and social change should have a website to match that mission and vision. Follow along as we chronicle the joys and occasional headaches.

NTEN is excited to announce we will be working with Pongos Interactive to implement our new site. Pongos is a WordPress development firm located in Maryland.

The decision to move from Drupal to WordPress was not taken lightly. NTEN has deep ties with the Drupal community and has been on the Drupal platform for years. However, while we plan to continue our support of the Drupal community as much as ever, we decided for our own website redesign that WordPress was the better option.

One of the primary factors behind this decision was our need to create a strong integration between our CRM (Abila’s netFORUM) and our content management system. With WordPress, we were able to find an existing and fully tested integration that we could build on top of. With Drupal on the other hand, while building an integration was possible, it would have needed to be developed mostly from scratch, which would have been much more difficult and expensive.

Another factor that weighed heavily in this decision came up once we started analyzing our actual website needs. While Drupal still seems to have the edge in overall functionality, it turns out we don’t really need any of those additional features, and in the end found that WordPress was more than capable of meeting our needs while at the same time being more accessible to our end users.

We are now in the planning stages of this rebuild and are looking for help from our community.

  • Website survey – we have a survey live on the site now. Please – we need to hear from you to be sure we are building the right thing!
  • Usability testing – we will be doing a lot of usability testing over the summer and early fall. Please contact Jessica (Jessica@nten.org) if you would be willing to participate.
  • Content Strategist – we are looking for a consultant to advise on content strategy and information architecture. More information is available here
  • Graphic Designer  – we are looking for a graphic designer for the website. More information is available here

Read our previous blog post here.

April 6-12, 2014

This week is National Volunteer Week! Points of Light, the organization that established this program in 1974, says “National Volunteer Week is about taking action and encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change – discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to make a difference.”

To recognize the tireless work of volunteers that support the nonprofit sector, we’ll be publishing a blog post every day this week to celebrate their contributions. We’re kicking off Monday with a shout out to NTEN’s Community of Practice (COP) leaders.

Here at NTEN, we marvel at the community members who run our COPs all year long because they create the space for that discovery and difference-making to happen, through thoughtful facilitation of online discussions and regular calls, webinars, or tweet chats. Some are veterans in the #nptech space who’ve been organizing with us for years; others have just started their groups after being inspired at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference. We can’t ever thank them enough, but in honor of National Volunteer Week, I want to give a heartfelt shout-out to these volunteers:

We also have COPs for accidental techiesonline/offline community builders, and nonprofit tech consultants, all of which are fueled by community participation.

If you’re looking for peers who will help you hone your skills and develop your career or network, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to peruse the COPs, and join one or a few. I know the volunteer facilitators will make sure you feel welcome.

Is there a COP that you wish existed? Thinking of starting one yourself? Read this FAQ and then email us at community@nten.org with questions or ideas.

Learning a new technology can be incredibly intimidating, especially if you’re going at it alone. There’s great comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one with those particular questions or having this recurring, frustrating problem. Stranding yourself on a technological island is so unnecessary, especially given how accessible learning resources are these days. This is the beauty of the modern technology communities.

Specifically, the Drupal community. It’s everywhere, it’s friendly, and it’s full of helpful people excited to share their expertise and bring new talent into the fold. I spent the last four months preparing for Drupal Day, a Drupal-centric, day-long workshop that ThinkShout coordinates as part of NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC).  I didn’t quite understand the scope of this community until those months finally culminated in the big day.

The process was an interesting one for me especially, as it was not only my very first Drupal Day but also my first experience at the NTC. How do you create a one-size-fits-all day for a large group of people, both nonprofit professionals and technologists, with a wide range of technical competency levels?

It may not be a perfect fit, but so long as there are options, your attendees remain in control and are able to choose the sessions relevant to their interests. With the collaborative efforts of our sponsors and nonprofit feedback, we were able to put together a day jam-packed with content.

My experience with Drupal Day left me with a few key takeaways for those looking to dive into Drupal:

1. The Drupal community really is awesome.


Drupal.org is only the beginning, but it’s a fantastic beginning full of answers. There are forums, an archive of resources, and even a live chat if that’s more your speed. There’s a wealth of information available to you online, all of it curated by the people that know and love Drupal best. This community isn’t purely digital, either. If you live in a large city, chances are there’s a Drupal meetup near you. If you’d prefer to meet face to face, you can, whether it’s through a local event, full-blown DrupalCon, or nonprofit summits at NYC Camp, and BADCamp.  You can also access paid training on BuildAModule, but the best part is that you can meet Christ Shattuck, the BuildAModule instructor, in person at a ton of these events. You’re going to start recognizing people quickly, and it’s going to be more helpful than you might think.

2. Learn from others’ stories and share your own.

One of the draws of Drupal Day is that it’s a great opportunity to hear from nonprofit decision makers about their experiences with Drupal. This year, every single one of our speakers represented a nonprofit with a successful Drupal story and each came from different technological backgrounds. We chose speakers that we believed had great, impactful stories that Drupal Day attendees could learn from. This year, Erin Harrington from The Salmon Project, Jess Snyder from WETA, Porter Mason from UNICEF, Milo Sybrant from the International Rescue Committee, and Tony Kopetchny from Pew Charitable Trusts joined us to share their experiences. You can learn more about their projects by clicking through to their websites.

3. Every question is a good question.

There really aren’t any dumb questions, especially when it comes to Drupal. The community embraces newcomers and fosters a great environment for learning. No matter your technical competency level, they’ve got an answer for you. This is why we structured Drupal Day 2014 the way we did: nonprofit speakers in the morning talking about their personal accounts of their organization’s experience with Drupal, followed by an afternoon of twelve breakout sessions covering a variety of topics, where guests could move from classroom to classroom easily. We collaborated with our developer sponsors and nonprofit attendees to determine what information was most relevant to nonprofits. We crafted a day around the topics they wanted to learn about. Everything from Google Analytics to content creation had a place at Drupal Day.

The Drupal community is one that needs to be experienced to truly understand its value. It’s a wonderful stage for nonprofits, no matter where their organization is at technology-wise. Drupal Day is a prime example of that, but there are many more events on the horizon, which I highly recommend if you’re on the fence about diving into Drupal. Of course, I also encourage everyone to come out to Drupal Day at the next NTC and see just what exactly it feels like to be part of this fantastic community.

A huge conference like the NTC always fills me with tons of ideas and a renewed determination to work smarter, fail faster, and build stronger professional relationships. And then…I get back to my desk. Monday comes. News headlines distract me, my to-do list grows, and I have to work hard to sustain the energy that was so palpable just days before.

Sound familiar? If you haven’t digested or implemented all of your takeaways from the conference—or if you couldn’t make it, and are itching to connect with fellow nonprofit techies—you may want to check out the NTEN Communities of Practice (CoPs).

The 9 different CoPs are made up of people who meet here on our site to discuss shared interests all year round. Each operates a little differently, according to the needs and preferences of their members. For example, Ivan Boothe and Johanna Bates, the moderators of the Drupal CoP, host a monthly Q&A phone call about all things Drupal for practitioners at all skill levels. (Intrigued? The next one is May 30.)

Meanwhile, the many devoted organizers of the CoP known as CommBuild have found weekly tweet chats most useful. If you’re a community organizer, online community manager, or interested in breaking into a similar field, log onto Twitter next Tuesday at 10am Pacific and search for the hashtag #CommBuild – a rich, welcoming discussion will await you.

And those are just two examples. Want to dip your toes in the water?

  • Peruse the list of CoPs and join the ones that resonate with you. Note that most of the groups are open to the public, but some do have specific membership guidelines and we ask that you honor those.

  • Set your community.nten.org notifications to receive email updates so you don’t miss any group activity. Some people opt for daily or weekly digests, but I find the activity level to be manageable, and the conversation most useful, when I receive them in real time.

  • Imagine you’re meeting the group members in person. What would you hope to discuss? Share an article that fired you up or a blog post you wrote. Ask questions. Chime in with solutions, success or failure stories, ideas. These groups are what you make them.

Why wait until the next annual conference to get help, learn something, or make new friends in your field? You’ve got a vibrant community of nonprofit tech champions right at your fingertips.

Attention Drupal aficionados! Whether you’re a Drupal user or considering using the Drupal platform for your site, you’ll want to register for the free Drupal Day at NTC. This free pre-conference event is packed with information on the latest tips and tools for Drupal and is a great opportunity to make connections with other nonprofit Drupal users.

The full-day event on the first day of #13NTC is a hands-on opportunity for Drupal professionals in the NTEN community to learn about the latest techniques, tools, and trends in Drupal development and site management. Topics include:

  • Getting Started with Drupal
  • Sustainable Code
  • CRM Best Practices
  • Building Secure Community Communication and Engagement
  • Successful Nonprofit Redesign
  • DIY Support and Managed Support

and much more.

Participation in this event is free, but registration is limited to 150 participants, so be sure to sign up right away!

13NTC Drupal Day is brought to you through the generous support of: