April 15, 2013

Highlights of 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference

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ntc crowd
At the NTC session on social data (Photo by JD Lasica).

And tips on how to reinforce habits for social good

This is the first of two articles on NTC 2013. Also see:
Nonprofits, online giving & secrets from the Obama campaign (the 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study)

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, educators, journalists, general public.

JD LasicaLast week’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in Minneapolis was the fourth NTC I’ve attended in the past five years. I spoke twice at last year’s event, but this year I had the freedom to roam the hallways in search of interesting people and ideas that are shaping the nonprofit sector.

NTEN’s NTC serves an invaluable role as the one central gathering spot for the nonprofit community — a place where those of us involved in the sector (I run Socialbrite, a leading social media consultancy for nonprofits) can see friends and colleagues, keep abreast of new trends and, most importantly, encounter smart, interesting, passionate people we haven’t met before.

Oh, and I took a few photos, as usual. Here’s my 70-photo set on Flickr.

Highlights from the Nonprofit Technology Conference

There were far more interesting sessions than I was able to attend, so here are just a few takeaways that I managed to scribble down:

• Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, at lunch: “Storytelling without data is just an anecdote. Asking people to donate on the basis of anecdotes – those days are long gone.”

• Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Foundation: “Make sure your data is actionable. It’s not just about creating a pretty spreadsheet.”

• More Danielle (@starfocus): “People are your supporters when they think they’re your supporters.”

• Joanne Fritz at About.com has a roundup of the DoGooder Video Award winners. In the Best Nonprofit Video category, the Rainforest Alliance won for Follow the Frog (great video — and here’s where to shop the frog). In the Change Agent Award category, the winner was Raf Bauer for 350km Message for Women with Ovarian Cancer.

• Ken Bess of CARE: “If a campaign doesn’t have an email element, it fails.”

• At “Introduction to User Centered Design,” Golli Hashemian and Lauren Hayes reminded us of Henry Ford’s classic quote about innovation: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

• At one session: “In order to have influence today, you must have networks.”

• “Charity muggers”: The term for people who accost you on the street on behalf of a charity.

• Even though Blackbaud bought it, Convio (pronounced con-VEE-o) is still operating as a brand. Convio is among the services that enables A-B testing of email messages. If you’re a small organization, a DIY solution is to split your list in half and send different emails to the two groups of recipients.

• To the gentleman who used the real name of someone whose lifetime giving to CARE.org totaled $241,500, you may want to black out those real names in your next presentation.

• Zerista, the communications platform NTEN uses year after year, continues to suck.

Using behavioral science to create habits for social good

One of the conference’s most interesting sessions was Thursday’s “Creating Habits for Social Good: Using Insights from Behavioral Science to Increase Engagement and Repeat Behavior,” with the marvelous Katya Andresen of Network for Good and Allan Burstyn of See3 Communications. Some highlights:

You can’t present an emotional argument and a factual argument in the same video

• Six main types of donors: The Repayer (someone whose life was changed through an experience, like going to a university), the Casual Giver (buy Girl Scouts cookies or plunk down a dollar at Safeway for cancer research), High Impact (we give to the Red Cross and Save the Children because they’re high-impact relief organizations), Faith-based (about a third of all giving goes to religious institutions), See the Difference (“I only give to small organizations where I feel I can make a difference”) and Personal Ties (your niece runs in a race for the cure). The two categories that attract the most donations are Repayer and Personal Ties.

• We make decisions more emotionally and justify them after the fact with facts. You can’t show an emotional argument and a factual argument at the same time – we have different pathways in the brain for reason and emotion. Words affect us more on a rational level and pictures affect us more on an emotional level. Make sure the very beginning of your video has an emotional hook. Use images, and less text, for more long-lasting impact.

• 60 percent of donors are “lost” every year by nonprofits. On the one hand, nonprofits need to do a much better job of not just cultivating new donors but maintaining existing ones. Still, as someone who gives to a wide range of nonprofits — and not the same ones every year — I wouldn’t panic about churn among donors.

• Great advice from Katya: Step out from the role of communicator and look at the fundraising experience from the POV of a donor for a good reality check.

• One genius aspect of mobile giving: $10 text donations are effective because they eliminate the barrier of entering billing information.

• Katya: “A lot of fundraising is bad because it’s about how big and bad the problem is. You need to juxtapose that with a way to take corrective action.”

• More Katya: “You blow people’s minds by thanking them.” So, do it. Send a hand-written thank-you or even an email.

• Check out childrensmn.org for a good example of an interactive infographic on impact.

• If you missed this from Katya 10 days ago, it’s worth a read: How to make your donors twice as generous.

A whirlwind of connections

I was in Minneapolis for less than three days. Here are some of the new and old friends I spent a little time with:

John Haydon, Beth Kanter, Brian Juntti, Matt Haugen, Danielle Brigida, Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, Caroline Avakian, Debra Askanase, Kivi Leroux Miller, Lori Jacobwith, Casey Golden, Frank Barry, Melanie Mathos, Taylor Corrado, Cassie Bair, Amy Sample Ward, Fara Trompeter, David Krumlauf, Mark Horvath, Sue Anne Reed, Janna Chan, Emilie Valentine, Corinne Rusch-Drutz, Julie Ha Truong, Rebecca Saar, Christina Johns, Kelly Rand, Austen Levihn-Coon, Christine Egger, Annie Lynsen, Jason Vance, Jasmin Cruz, James Rooney, Elisa Willman, Lauren Girardin, Marah Rosenbert, Deborah Elizabeth Finn, Michael Smolens, Julielyn Gibbons, Susan Tenby, Marc A. Pitman, Patrick Duggan. Mark Pothier, Michael Spear, Layla Zaidane, Kara Fujita, Michael Bento, Scot Chisholm, Andrea Roy, Karen Graham, Cary Walski, Amanda Bingham, Johanna Olivas, Rebecca Einstein, Steve and Becca Heye, Jenna Sauber, Allyson Burns, Dave Boyce, Laura Norvig, Jeanette Russell, Maddie Grant, Michael DeLong, Susan Chavez, Shanon Doolittle, Lindsay Bealko ‏and too many others’ names I didn’t have time to jot down.

And here are some of my friends I didn’t spot (and I’m not 100 percent sure they all attended):

Geoff Livingston, Kami Watson Huyse, Nancy Schwartz, Annaliese Hoehling, Gregory Foster, Kami Griffiths, Manny Hernandez, Vince Stehl, Randy Paynter, Claire Kerr, Peter Deitz, Shai Coggins, Allyson Kapin, Rachel Weidinger, Andrea Berry, Laura Quinn, Jereme Bivins, Rob Cottingham.

Mark your calendars: Next year’s NTC will be held March 13-15, 2014, in Washington, DC.


We love social data, but what do we do with it? (Slideshare presentation)

• Highlights from the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference (Socialbrite)

• Calendar of 2013 nonprofit & social change conferences (Socialbrite)JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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7 thoughts on “Highlights of 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference

  1. Thanks for the link to the “We <3 Social Data, But What Do We Do With It?” presentation! It was great to finally meet you.

  2. I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to meet at #13ntc. But I hear you were wearing a blazer :)

    • @npshana Next time! Yes, I only wore a blazer because I have too much crap to carry and I’m not fond of man bags. :~)

  3. I wasn’t at NTC this year, JD. But thanks to you, at least I am able to read about the amazing lessons you guys took home with you!

    • @askmanny Sorry you couldn’t make it, Manny, it was one of the best NTCs. Not sure how many people turned out but it seemed a little cozier than last year’s event in SF.

  4. Incredible recap, JD. After spending so much time behind the scenes, I’m grateful to experience the magic through your notes — and I love the photos! Now I’m off to read Katya’s “generous donors” post…after I peruse your recap of the eNonprofit Benchmarks study/session, that is.