Lessons Learned and Good Times Had at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference

The VolunteerMatch team having a great time at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology ConferenceAlmost two weeks later, the VolunteerMatch team is still processing our experience at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) in Washington, D.C. VolunteerMatch was involved as an exhibitor and partner for the Day of Service event, and VolunteerMatch team members spent as much time as possible meeting other nonprofits, schmoozing, and geeking out.

Here are reflections from two attendees about what was most valuable about this year’s NTC conference:

Lauren Wagner, Senior Manager of Engagement, VolunteerMatch

Lauren WagnerThis year was my first time at the NTC and I was definitely impressed. From the smooth logistics to the networking events and learning sessions, it was overall a great conference. In between shifts manning the VolunteerMatch booth, I was able to attend a few sessions and was able to come back to San Francisco with tangible ideas to put into action in my own work – which is, in my opinion, the sign of great speakers and sessions.

Delicious branded cupcakes courtesy of Network for Good.

Delicious branded cupcakes courtesy of Network for Good.

My favorite two sessions were the session on rethinking online engagement with Ash Shepherd of Minds On Design Lab and Farra Trompeter of Big Duck, and a self-help session for nonprofit marketers led by Sarah Durham of Big Duck, strategist, speaker and blogger, Nancy Schwartz, and marketing specialist Stephanie Bowen.

In the engagement session, Ash and Farra shared a new model for growing and developing your online engagement strategies to help you self-identify where your current online engagement lives and how to get it to the next level. This can seem like a large and daunting task, but luckily in the second session I mentioned above, we discussed tips and tricks for keeping yourself productive based on the three keys from Todd Henry’s book “Die Empty.” These three keys are: define your battles; be fiercely curious; and step out of your comfort zone.

Shari Ilsen, Director of Engagement, VolunteerMatch

Shari IlsenThis was my fourth year at NTC, and it really felt like coming home. I caught up with old friends, made some great new ones, and reinforced my feeling that all of us who deal with nonprofit technology are in a great big, exciting, growing community together. The themes that emerged for me from the conference follow along those lines:

We’re not alone! If you have an idea or a problem, reach out to others. Not only are others dealing with the same challenges, but others are probably finding great solutions! This became clear in the session I led with nonprofit consultant Lauren Girardin on impact measurement. This is a tough topic for many, but it doesn’t have to be if you grab models and examples of what others are already doing to achieve success. Tip: to find some of these great models and examples, join LinkedIn groups and local Meetups to connect directly with folks dealing with similar issues.

Technology is just a tool! Your organization doesn’t have to be a pioneer or early adopter in order to make the most of technology. Be strategic about how technology can help your mission – because that, after all, is the whole point. Here’s a tweet I sent that ended up becoming famous during the conference:


It’s important to have fun with what we do, no matter what challenges we face. Put some effort into making yourself and others laugh, and you’ll see the impact of your work skyrocket. At NTC we saw this in action not just after-hours during the parties, but during the sessions as we appreciated the humor embedded into every speaker’s agenda. It kept us alert, engaged and excited.

After all, in the end the main goal of our jobs is provide joy. So even if you work in a tough, emotionally charged field, find a reason to smile, and spread it.

Did you attend the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference? If so, what did you learn? Share it with us below!

Social Media for Nonprofits: It Just Makes Sense

Join your peers for a day focused on how to best use social media for your nonprofit organization.As winter winds down (hopefully) and the polar vortex fades away (hopefully), it’s almost time for the start of another season of the Social Media for Nonprofits conference series.

Each year we make a big deal out of these events, and there’s a good reason: They just make sense. One day dedicated to helping you learn practical, real-life strategies for making social media work for your organization, located conveniently in your own community. These conferences are designed to help you leverage social media for your volunteering program, fundraising and general outreach.

VolunteerMatch is a global partner of the Social Media for Nonprofits series – because we think this is the premier conference series dedicated to social media for social good. Each event features an impressive lineup of local and national experts and practitioners that present best practices for you to use social media in your work. Not to mention all the great networking!

Discounts for VolunteerMatch Members

Attend Social Media for Nonprofits in your area to hear from an impressive lineup of speakers.As part of our partnership, we’re offering special discounts to VolunteerMatch members for Social Media for Nonprofits conferences. Just use the code “VMatch” when registering.

(Note: this discount is for the middle and high-level registration – it unfortunately does not apply to the lowest price level.)

Bay Area Boot Camps are Back

At Nonprofit Boot Camp meet experts on multiple aspects of nonprofit operations, development and leadership.For the second year, the Social Media for Nonprofits team is adding a second day to its events in the San Francisco Bay Area, for Nonprofit Boot Camp. Boot Camp is a highly practical conference designed to connect nonprofit leaders to the resources, best practices and contacts needed to create a better world.

In other words, get ready to meet a lot of inspiring people and learn a lot of practical things. If you’re within driving distance of San Francisco and/or Silicon Valley, we highly recommend attending.

So check out upcoming dates and locations for the Social Media for Nonprofits series, and don’t forget to use your discount code when registering!

Upcoming Dates

New York City
March 17
New York, NY

Chicago
April 10
Chicago, IL

Boston
May 19
Cambridge, MA

Silicon Valley
June 10-11
Mountain View, CA

Washington, D.C.
July 14
Washington, D.C.

Austin
August 13
Austin, TX

San Francisco
October 2-3
San Francisco, CA

Where We Hope to Find You at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference

Here are some great places and events at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference - will VolunteerMatch see you there?This year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) hosted by NTEN is approaching – and I don’t know about you, but the VolunteerMatch team is fervently hoping Washington, D.C. will get it together and get rid of that snow before the event kicks off on March 13.

That’s not all that’s on our wish list for this year’s NTC, though. Here are some of the places and spaces we hope to see you this year during the conference. Can’t be there in person? Don’t worry – there are some virtual opportunities on our list, too…

Day of Service

The #14NTC Day of Service on Wednesday, March 12, is our chance to give back to the NTC’s host community of Washington, D.C. This year VolunteerMatch is sponsoring (how appropriate!) to help everyone find a volunteer opportunity that fits with your interests and time. You can join a volunteer group, or recruit a group of your own for a rewarding day of giving back.

If your nonprofit is based in D.C. and you’re interested in hosting NTC volunteers for the day, check out this page for instructions to suggest a project.

See Shari Talk in Public

VolunteerMatch’s Director of Engagement, Shari Ilsen, will be speaking at a session about designing and measuring engagement in a strategic, mission-driven way. Join Shari and expert nonprofit consultant Lauren Girardin for “You CAN capture lightening in a bottle: Motivating and measuring engagement.” For a practical, fun session that every nonprofit communications person will find valuable.

Also, be sure to see Lauren again as she speaks at “Digital Marketing That Gets Results: 30 Ideas You Can Use Monday Morning” for a thorough look at the latest strategies for ramping up digital marketing at your organization.

Some Volunteering-Related Sessions

“Handing over the keys: empowering and supporting volunteer leaders”

This session is for people with big ambitions for their volunteer programs. It will show you how to empower volunteers to take on leadership roles, and the challenges, rewards and systems that make it possible.

“The Power of Technology and the Millennial Generation”

Join new generation experts, including some of our friends from Network for Good, as they explore big ideas around how to leverage, engage, and collaborate with the Millennial Generation (13-35). Talk through big ideas around volunteer engagement, strategic fundraising practices with a new generation, and technology to build your own youth/millennial network.

“What’s Your Board’s IT IQ? Does it Matter?”

With only 1% of board members having any technology background, IT is rarely discussed at board meetings. Yet, these are the very stakeholders who have influence on whether or not technology is viewed as a strategic advantage or simply operational overhead. This talk provides tips and ideas for increasing your board’s IT IQ in order to view technology as a strategic tool to enhance your organization’s capacity. (This is a great tie-in with our upcoming webinar on “Building a Future-Friendly Nonprofit Board!”)

Pick Up Some Swag

We’ll also be manning a booth at this year’s Science Fair – so stop by Booth #617 to say hi and score some of the awesome VolunteerMatch swag we’ll have with us. (No, I won’t tell you what it is, but we’ll ALSO have candy…)

Connect Online

Can’t make it to NTC in person this year? No worries! NTEN has an Online NTC that is lower cost and commitment. This is a great way to catch the highlights of the conference from anywhere.

If you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow #14NTC to join in the conversation – you certainly don’t have to be at the conference to tweet with attendees. Connect with the VolunteerMatch folks @silsen, @lauren_lynn2 and @heyshannondavid.

Are you going to the Nonprofit Technology Conference this year? Share your must-do’s with us below!

What’s Your Organization’s Critical Mass? The Simple Genius of Good Deeds Day

Increase visibility and support by posting on VolunteerMatch.org and recruiting volunteers who want to get involved on Good Deeds Day.Here’s something you might not realize: When you post your nonprofit’s volunteer needs on VolunteerMatch.org, they’re not just seen by the people who type www.volunteermatch.org into their browsers.

Your opportunities are also seen by 3.5 million employees who volunteer through companies that work with VolunteerMatch Solutions. Your volunteer opportunities are also found via our partner websites – and this gets your organization added exposure to millions more people.

For example, on March 9, 2014 the world will celebrate Good Deeds Day. This is quite simply an annual celebration of good deeds – and a way to inspire and incite action to create even more impact. You can watch this video to get an idea of how big this movement has become:

This idea is so simple, yet so inspirational. And that’s why it’s so successful. Focusing on thinking, speaking, and doing good is something everyone can do in some way. Good Deeds Day founder Shari Arison believes that if we mobilize enough people to act, we can reach a critical mass, and change the world.

So what is your organization’s critical mass? What support do you need in order to make a real difference for your community and fulfill your mission?

Good Deeds Day is helping its millions of participants to get involved using VolunteerMatch’s network. You can harness the energy created on Good Deeds Day by making sure your volunteer opportunities are posted and updated on VolunteerMatch.org. And get your existing community of supporters excited to join in on March 9 to change the world.

What’s your critical mass? Make the most of Good Deeds Day by posting and updating your volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch.org.

How to Do Good Well at SXSW This Year

This post also appears on Volunteering is CSR.

Heading to SXSW Interactive this year? You won’t be alone. Attendance at the year’s coolest tech conference – where digital creatives, techies, do-gooders and marketers come together to figure out the future — tracks the tech bubble. And with apps these days selling for this many zeros, you can bet SXSW will see more than the 30,000 people who showed up last year.

A round-up of technology for social good sessions at SXSW Interactive 2014.

In years past, SXSW was trumpeted as a great place to launch new products. That’s changed recently, as fewer apps have kept their mojo after getting lots of attention during SXSW. These days, what’s keeping SXSW hotter than ever is an increased awareness of the power of SXSW conversations and ideas to have an impact in society.

That’s great news if you work in technology for social good. When everyone is focused on the hot new app, it’s hard to get in a word edgewise about things like online organizing, new forms of digital activism, digital cause marketing, or microvolunteering. But with the focus on the change that can be wrought with all this new technology, we nonprofits and social do-gooders can finally seize the day.

So without further ado, here’s my roundup of what I think are the important sessions, lounges, and events that will focus on social good this year at SXSW.

The Beacon Lounge

The Beacon Lounge will be back at Austin Convention Center for its sixth year, and it remains as vital as ever, with four days of meet ups, expert-led discussions, beer, live music, food, and casual hanging out. This year the Beacon debuts the Do Good Dialogues, where pretty much everyone is invited to grab the mic and share how you are using design, technology, and communication to lean in to solutions for us all.

SXSW Social Good Hub

The action moves offsite from the convention center to two nearby locations for this series of talks and sessions on social good. The awesome teams at Change.org, Participant Media, and the UN Foundation have put together an amazing agenda of counter-programming on topics like design strategy, innovation, conscious consumption, and more. Plus, a party…of course. (It’s SXSW, after all.)

Why Clicktavisim Is Not a Dirty Word

After a decade of Facebook helping billions on the Web learn about issues, it’s amazing that people still doubt the power of social media. But we see time and again how sharing stories about important issues, filling out petitions, and even just liking organizations can be incredible ways to support an organization. Come hear folks like Tumblr’s Liba Rubenstein set the record straight.

Ethics & Future of Crowdfunding for Communities

There’s so much hype about the awesome power of crowdfunding that the ethical questions – like what makes for a good social impact investment, and what happens to the money – often get ignored. This session with social good tech ombudsman David Neff is definitely ahead of the trend.

Multiplatform Strategies for Making Good Happen

Tons of conversations at SXSW this year will be about multiplatform planning – that is, using all kinds of media formats to keep a story going and influence people to get involved. Nonprofit folks can definitely learn a bunch in this session with some of the best minds in the business like Caitlin Burns and Lina Srivastava.

How Tech Companies Can Renew Capitalism

Over the years I’ve seen dozens of web services get launched purporting to have a business model that will change the world. Most fell flat. That’s why I think tech founders with truly innovative approaches like Ben Rattray from Change.org are worth a listen.

Hackathons for Social Good

With so many smart folks around, it’s hard not to be inspired by the possibilities. The idea of getting down to business to make the future come to life is why hackathons are so incredibly popular at SXSW.

The list above just scratches the surface. Here’s a big hot tip: Follow #sxgood to keep up with events and real-time memes during and round the conference.

How about you? Are you headed to SXSW this year? Let us know what’s inspiring you about technology for social good.