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!

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