Thoughts on NTC 2012

The 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference is well in our rearview mirror now, and we’re already hard at work on a number of exciting projects over the next few months. But each of us wanted to take a few moments to share some of what we observed and learned at the conference, and how it will influence our work moving forward. 

I wrote a bit about my impressions of the conference while I was still there, where I spent a fair amount of time manning the Idealware display table with Kyle Andrei, our research analyst, and a rotating coterie of board members and friends of Idealware. For me, as editorial and communications director, it was great to meet the people we work with—our network is enormous and growing, and it was nice to have a face-to-face chance to speak to so many of the people who lead the sector and who make use of our resources.

“We’re accustomed to the usual sorts of explanations about our work (“Yes, we’re a nonprofit. No, we’re not consultants. No, we’re not a vendor. Yes, we really are a nonprofit.”), but I was amazed at how little we actually had to explain ourselves,” Kyle said. “People are really starting to learn who we are, and remember at least a little about what we do.”
 
Laura Quinn, our executive director, had similar thoughts. 
 
“This was my eighth NTC in a row. My first was the Philadelphia conference, before I founded Idealware. I made one of my very first conference presentations that year—Websites on a Shoestring, I believe, and I remember being incredibly nervous. Fast forward to today. The conference and Idealware have both grown to the point where they're completely different beasts. Over the years, Idealware has moved from being a small, niche player in the nonprofit tech space to one some people had heard of, to being known by a good number of the type of folks who attend NTC. Last year, a lot of people had heard of us, but I feel like this was the first year that people were seeking us out in substantial numbers—for us, the conference was not so much about getting the word out about what we do as much as meeting the people we work with, the experts we rely on, and all the people whose important work makes what we do worthwhile.”
 
In some ways, the conference is a microcosm of the field of nonprofit technology in general. I asked Laura about the topics she felt were generating a lot of buzz this year.
 
“’Mobile’ seemed to be the theme that most struck me,” she said. “Email for mobile devices, mobile websites, using mobile texting in compelling ways for program delivery... More than 80 percent of all adults in the U.S. have cell phones, and some large percent of all emails are checked on a phone. At Idealware, we've dedicated a lot of thought to using mobile devices for program delivery, but perhaps not as much as we should have to basic marketing and communications topics—like how to adapt websites or emails for phones. We'll be looking into that for future articles and reports.”
 
Andrea Berry, our director of partnerships and learning, noticed another topic getting a lot of attention.
 
“Social media policy is the next big thing—or, I guess, the current big thing based on how fast we handed out our new Nonprofit Social Media Policy Workbook at the conference,” she said. “There seems to be a progression in the maturity of how organizations think about social media, moving from the concept that it is “cool” and “the thing we need to be doing” to a more nuanced perspective that “social media is great if done right and within the appropriate boundaries.
 
“That transformation was abundantly clear based on the content of sessions (including our own Creating a Social Media Policy, and many others) and the substance of conversations at NTC—I talked about the intersection of personal and professional social media activity with almost everyone I met. And let me tell you, all this is really exciting to a social media buff like myself, who gets to move from the constant conversation about whether an organization needs a Facebook page at all to conversations about how to use the page more smartly and effectively. In my opinion, the sector as a whole is certainly moving in the right direction.” 
 
Were you at NTC this year? What topics struck you, and what do you think we'll be talking about next year? 
 
 --Chris