Through an arrangement with TechSoup, PND is pleased to offer a series of articles about the effective use of technology by nonprofits.

5 Takeaways From the 2019 NTC Conference

5 Takeaways From the 2019 NTC Conference

Each year, TechSoup staff attend the NTEN-NTC nonprofit technology conference to catch up with the newest tech trends and learn how to better provide nonprofits with the tools they need to succeed.

This year, we traveled to Portland, Oregon, for three and a half days of events, sessions, and meetups. We kicked things off by hosting a celebration of civil society (complete with a live band!) that also offered folks an opportunity to ask questions about our direct public offering (DPO). The next three days were filled with sessions, workshops, and spontaneous chats with nonprofits, tech partners, and tech users.

Below are the top five takeaways we wanted to share with you.

Visual Mapping Gets a Spotlight

Customer or supporter experience is not just for the for-profit world. The nonprofit audience also expects to receive a personalized experience when they interact with organizations, in part because of the growing use of data and automation technology. It's important that we build "customer journeys" based on what each customer needs and that we deliver them at the right time. How? Start with mapping the customer journey.

Visual mapping is an effective and powerful way to show resources and identify any gaps. "Customer Journey Mapping Demystified," presented by Anna Marshall of AdoptUSKids, explained how the organization mapped its customer journeys in order to improve their user experience on the site. Using old-fashioned sticky notes to group and analyze their data, they found that everyone benefited from the collaborative nature of the exercise. As the presenter said, "The process was more important than the outcome."

Another session, "Mapping Your Digital Ecosystem," walked members of the audience through the process of mapping a digital ecosystem. This includes the people, data, systems, processes, and products that, when used in combination, help an organization achieve its goals. Visual mapping can reveal systems that are duplicative, as well as time-consuming and inefficient manual processes. While some nonprofits use old-school sticky notes to create their visual maps, here are some cool online visual mapping tools.



The takeaway for nonprofits: It's never too late to use mapping to identify strengths within your organization as well as areas where it could use some improvement.

New Tech Needs Lasting Institutional Buy-In

Nonprofits and libraries need organizational buy-in before they introduce a specific technology solution across the organization. It's not enough to implement the new system or software, or to buy new hardware. Everyone needs to be on board for the deployment to be successful.

In the session "Building a Solid Project Management Culture at Your Organization," we learned how project management training helped the staff of True Colors United enhance their project management skills and prepare them to better train their community coalition partners nationwide. According to speaker Joe Moran, the 4 Ts of successful project management are training, technology, templates, and talking.

The takeaway for nonprofits: If you adopt a project management system at your nonprofit, you're going to need deep institutional buy-in.

Are You Prepared for a Disaster?

In the event of a disaster, would you have all the contact information you need to reach employees and service providers? Do you know who has all the license keys needed to reboot your core software?

While disaster recovery planning is an important part of any business continuity plan, 75 percent of nonprofit organizations have no disaster recovery plan in place. During the session "Preparing for the Worst: Disaster Recovery 101," presenters Chris Fink and Ramona Dopps outlined the goals for operational continuity, provided suggestions for organizational process discovery, and listed the steps for how to develop a discovery recovery plan.

Here are some tips:

  • Consider using cloud-based productivity software (Office 365, G Suite)
  • Prevent server disasters by owning and maintaining as few as possible. Consider using hosted file storage.
  • If your organization is using legacy desktop applications, look into cloud-based or hosted options from your software vendor.
  • Use two-step authentication to provide an extra layer of security.
  • Use antivirus and backup software

Takeaway for nonprofits and libraries: If you haven't already, it's time to build your disaster preparedness kit.

Digital Marketing and Fundraising Benchmarks

How does your organization's email, Web, social media, and digital advertising match up to nonprofit standards? "First Look: Peek Nonprofit Digital Metrics from M+R's Benchmarks Study" offered a preview of data points that are crucial for nonprofits to understand if they hope to improve their marketing and advertising efforts. The study is full of thought-provoking and conversation-starting data, but here are the ones that stood out for us:

Online donation revenue:

  • Showed a 23 percent growth in 2016–17.
  • Showed only a 1 percent increase in 2017–18.
  • December 2018 stock market instability appears to have impacted online giving.

Facebook Fundraisers:

  • Average gift size: $31
  • Raise 23 percent of their revenue in November

Return On Ad Spend (ROAS):

  • In search: $4.78
  • Display: $0.36
  • Social: $0.83
  • Video: $0.30

The takeaway for nonprofits: It's time to collect and analyze your ROAS data with an eye to making improvements to your program. We'll be sharing more about this session in the future.

We Are All Tech Activists

The conference began with an inspirational call to action by keynote speaker Idalin Bobé. She's the founder of TechActivist.Org, a grassroots organization that is "building a pipeline of techies to serve the people." In her remarks, Bobé shared her very personal journey of growing up in a poor Afro-Latinx community in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and how it sparked her passion for social activism. As a firsthand witness to the inequality created by education and technology, she has dedicated her work to empowering social activists through the use of technology, and her tech literacy programs expose youth and social activists to a variety of topics, from digital media tools to digital security.

Her inspirational words placed our everyday work in the broader context of how powerful technology can be when used for social good. Indeed, the 2019 NTC conference underscored the fact that we are a huge community of people who care, and our impact can be immense. Bobé captured this perfectly when she said: "When we are united, we can create so much change and bring so much impact."

We're already looking forward to next year's conference.

Daphne Laglos is an account management specialist at TechSoup.