#17NTC Recap: The Digital Age of Nonprofit
On a cold, rainy March day in Boston, I set off to meet other nonprofit technology professionals at the 17th annual NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, D.C.
It was my first time at the conference, but I didn’t need to worry about fitting in. Immediately at registration, I was greeted by several enthusiastic, friendly faces who gave me one of my now-favorite tote bags and encouraged me to check out all the buttons and flair. (I love buttons.)
After checking out the exhibit hall and the video-game alley (with retro games like Pac Man!) and connecting with a few attendees on the official conference app, I knew that I had found my people.
This 3-day conference was chock full of fabulous sessions, insightful small group roundtables, networking, connection and community fun! (Did I mention the 80s dance parties and rocking happy hours each day?)
Here are my top takeaways from the conference sessions.
Have a Plan for Your Digital Storytelling
In her great session, “Harnessing the Power of Digital Storytelling,” Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, described her personal experience leveraging stories into strong tools for advocacy, education and community building.
Reinstein recommends dividing your digital storytelling efforts into three buckets—macro messaging, micro messaging and multimedia.
• Macro messages are long-form stories, like blog posts, longer videos or news articles.
• Micro messages are bite-size stories (that may lead back to a macro message), like Facebook posts, tweets and Instagram/Snapchat videos.
• Multimedia stories are focused around video and photos, which can be edited, cut, recycled and reused on multiple platforms.
Online Tools Can Be Used for Donor Retention, Not Just Acquisition
Tactical tips were the focus of the “Increase Your Acquisition and Retention by Using Data and New Multichannel Approaches.” EveryAction’s Melissa Wyers provided an actionable, step-by-step plan to using different tools to acquire new donors and retain current ones.
Some of the techniques she covered (that your nonprofit can steal):
• Upload your email list of donors and create unique Facebook ads targeted at them, providing impact stories, thank yous and other special acknowledgements.
• Start a Lapsed Gift Prevention Program to prevent the lapse before it starts. Your organization can send out a recapture email or another piece of content to get a donor engaged again before they are about to lapse. Multichannel approaches work best in this case.
• Rethink your renewals! How can you automate your renewal email series? How can you incorporate other multichannel and multimedia approaches into encouraging your donors to renew? Think beyond the direct-mail solicitation (although that is a big piece of the renewal puzzle).
Figure Out What Your Target Audience Needs—And Give It to Them
The panel for “How (and Why) We Doubled Down on Digital Content to Protect Wild Places” was so knowledgeable that the session ended up going way over at the end of the day—and no one minded!
Loren Drummond, digital content manager for the Washington Trails Association, discussed the process that led the organization to create the community-led review site Hike Finder Map (I call it Yelp for hikers). They wanted to provide a needed service and fill a gap for their target audience, as well as invest in technology that would help them fulfill their mission. The Hike Finder Map encourages participants to leave reviews and empowers them to protect these wild places.
Kassia Randzio, marketing and grants manager for the Montana Wilderness Association, wanted to engage hard-to-reach audiences, like young professionals and parents of young children. Her organization created Wilderness Walks, a free, open-to-the-public program that showcases the “why” of their mission (protecting wildness) and recruits advocates.
As a government agency, the National Park Service is not allowed to explicitly advocate on behalf of environmental issues, such as protecting wild spaces. Film producer Sarah Gulick uses film to showcase these areas without music or narration. The lack of an obvious agenda allows people to become inspired on their own.
The main takeaway is to know exactly where your organization’s goals meet your community’s needs—and create content in this overlap.
I am already excited about #18NTC—and it’s going to be in New Orleans! Click here to learn more about the NTC.