A Bird’s Eye View of the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference

2011 Nonprofit Technology ConferenceAfter 3 days and just about 5,000 miles of traveling, our experience at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference hosted by NTEN still mainly resembles a huge swirling mass of business cards, sessions, tweets, and receptions.

Over the next few days we’ll be reflecting on the lessons we learned, the issues that were raised, and the things we think are most critical for our nonprofit community in terms of volunteering. For now, I thought I’d give you an overview of the conference through my eyes and the eyes of other nonprofit staffers, consultants, bloggers and gurus who were there. This way, you’ll also be able to explore and benefit from the masses of information and resources coming out of the conference – to help your organization utilize critical technologies to accomplish your mission.

Social Media was King

By far the most pervading element of the NTC this year was the presence of social media – whether as session topics, inevitable questions after each talk, or the underlying live-tweeting infrastructure that accompanied any event throughout the 72 hours.

I had a great time tweeting and connecting with other conference attendees. Twitter served some pretty important functions at the conference.

It helped inform people about session information:
Tweeting at the 2011 NTC

It sparked and maintained interesting side conversations related to session topics:

Tweeting at the 2011 NTC

And it helped connect people who might otherwise never find each other amid 2000+ other people that were flooding the hotel:

Tweeting at the 2011 NTC

Social media also enabled people who were unable to make it to the NTC in person to participate, via the new Online NTC. Did you take advantage of this new virtual event? If so, let us all know how it was by posting in the comments below.

A Plethora of Learning

With over 150 excellent opportunities to learn and share, it would be tough to go through them all. So the three VolunteerMatch staff members who went to the conference each chose our favorite session and explained why:

Robert Rosenthal, Director of Communications

“My favorite was the NTEN Digital Strategy Session. Like VolunteerMatch, NTEN is itself a nonprofit organization, and this session provided a way for the NTEN team to pull its biggest fans together for a briefing on what NTEN is doing to meet its mission and to suggest new ideas to help them do it better. I appreciated the opportunity to be involved, both to give insight to NTEN and get insight on how they are dealing with similar technology issues as VolunteerMatch.”

Zeph Harben, Director of Application Architecture

“My favorite session was the panel I participated in – ‘What Does the Data Say? Converting Analytics to Action.’ The audience came from many different types of nonprofits – large, small and in-between – which provided great material for a number of conversations about how to change the role of data in decision-making.  The dialogue provided specific tactics, inspiring narratives and useful metaphors that gave us all a lot to take home and put in our ‘IT ToolBox.'”

Shari Ilsen, Online Marketing Manager

“My favorite session was ‘A Scientist in Your Communications Department: Segmenting Messages, Customizing Content, and Delivering Results,’ led by Jeff Shuck of Event 360. It was inspiring, practical, funny and well-prepared, and it urged us all to step out of our comfort zones in terms of using technology tools to improve our communications. I’m still itching to begin data mining our contact lists!”

You Can’t Keep a Good Blogger Down

While Engaging Volunteers is certainly the best place to get the lowdown on volunteer-related NTC information, many great posts have popped up since Saturday night that provide a recap of the conference through other lenses. We encourage you to take a look at these, and let us know if you find other great ones: