3 Reasons to Attend The Nonprofit Technology Conference in DC

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3 Reasons to Attend The Nonprofit Technology Conference in DC

Mar 5, 2014

Apollo Gonzales

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Working in the digital space inside a nonprofit can be a lonely and frustrating place. I’ve been there, not just with my clients, but personally. Back when I joined the non-profit world, I started to explore the possibilities around tech and advocacy work and felt totally alone and lost.

The first event I attended was the Nonprofit Technology Conference. NTC is an annual conference that is organized by NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network. As a noob to the field, I was absolutely floored by the collective wisdom of the speakers and attendees at the event, and was thrilled to discover that the challenges I was facing (wearing multiple hats, selling the idea of social, being strategic about resource investment) were the same problems others in the community had faced as well. Even more enheartening was the discovery that many had found ways to overcome those challenges.

I’ve been going back for years. I’ve been a speaker at the event a couple of times since then, too. When you’ve been doing this advocacy/digital work for more than a few years, a funny thing starts to happen. You forget about being new. Whether a resource is a digital tool, or a listserv, or even a conference like NTC, there comes a point where you don’t even think to tell people about it because surely everyone knows already. I’m always shocked when I mention NTC to a new client, or colleague in the field and they look at me blankly, but it happened three times in the last week alone.

So, I’m going to change my assumptions here and tell you a few reasons why you should go to NTC. For those of you who need to get approval to go, these reasons should help convince your boss that it’s worth it too.

  1. You are not alone – When you are in the trenches doing this work inside an organization, it often feels like you are the only one in the world who speaks the language. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are hundreds if not thousands of people out there struggling with institutional structure and paralysis, or budget woes, or wearing multiple hats, or identifying effective strategies and tools. Some of these people are still figuring things out, but a good number of them have come up with some solutions. Some of these people are on panels, some of them are just milling about in the lobby. The conference gives you a community you’ll be a part of for years.
  2. Tens of thousands of dollars of consulting, for the price of admission – As a consultant, I probably shouldn’t admit this, but NTC is a great place to get some really great ideas and even solutions for your campaigns for the cost of getting in the door. Now, no one is going to build your website for free, but there are plenty of people who are going to talk to you about what is right and what is wrong about your approach to building a new website/community/campaign. I workshopped many a campaign at NTC with some of the best strategic minds in the nonprofit world. But even still, sometimes just sitting and listening to a case study panel will make a hundred light bulbs (LEDs?) flicker to life in your head.
  3. Serendipity – By definition you can’t plan for it, but you can certainly increase the chances of a serendipitous moment wherein you discover that the 3 other organizations working on your issue are each planning a major campaign launch next month. Chances are pretty good you’ve never even met your counterparts at these organizations; much less know what their strategic campaign plan is for the next 6 months. When you break out of the institutional walls, bridge the chasm that can exist between two organization’s teams, and finally meet face to face, all sorts of amazing things happen. All the issue work we do is connected in one way or another, so NTC is a great opportunity to discover where everyone can help each other support the work in which you’ve invested so much.

Finally, a protip: when you attend a session, sit up front. The speakers will love you for it, and you'll get more out of it (and less likely to be distracted).

As always and especially because it is in our own back yard, we’ll be there this year. Our own Jesse Littlewood will be presenting on a panel called Navigating the World of Data. Michelle Edwards and I will be making the rounds to hear who is working on what amazing campaign, and where we might be of service, if even just to connect good people. We’re also co-hosting (with our friends Freerange and Advomatic) a happy hour on Thursday night, so hit me up at apollo@echoditto.com if you are interested in an invite to come hang out with us.

Looking forward to seeing you there and collaborating on ideas!

Photo Credit: eyespywithmy