conferences, fundraising, social media strategy

Trendspotting: 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference

13 Comments 10 March 2015

15ntc image

I just returned from the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) energized and excited about where nonprofit technology practitioners think the field is heading. This is my fifth NTC, and it was the most exciting NTC I’ve attended in many years.

Why? This is the year that nonprofit technology field jumped past “where are we now” to answer the question “where do we want to go next?” These are the nonprofit tech conversations and trends I spotted at #15ntc. (A list of other #15ntc blog posts may be found at the bottom of this post.)

1. We’re so past How Do We Do This Thing? and onto How Do We Use This To Do More??

Since I began attending the NTC, there have are always been a lot of communication sessions focused on “how do I use this (social media channel or app or tool) effectively?” This year, I only saw one on the agenda. The vast majority of communications sessions focused around How Do We Use This To Do More..? (fundraising, stakeholder engagement, my session on creating online engagement campaigns, etc.) Our practice is maturing, and so is the holistic way we are integrating social media into all of our work.

2. Diversity, diversity, diversity

This year’s NTC sessions covered almost every aspect of diversity in technology. Not only did the Nonprofit Technology Network proactively convene a plenary to address diversity in nonprofit technology, but there were people of color meetups and lunchtime discussions, sessions on accessibility awareness for nonprofits, engaging Latinos online, rural tech strategies, women in technology and leadership, how to amplify your message through a diverse team, and building diversity, accountability and empowerment into your organization. While there have been sessions on the tech divide at prior NTCs (there was one offered on that as well), and people of color in technology at NTC. I’ve never seen so many sessions addressing how to engage, empower, activate, and recognize diverse populations through technology or – in several cases – within the nonprofit tech sector.

3. Life/Work balance

The life/work balance theme came through as well. We all work very, very hard at our jobs, and at the 2015 NTC, there was time carved out to recognize the role of taking care of ourselves as well. Beth Kanter and Ritu Sharma led a session on Walking As Work, followed by a lunchtime walk. I joined them for the “netwalking” walk, and loved it so much that I invited others to join me the following day for a lunchtime walk. (For the record, three of us met up to walk the following day.) Megan Keene of NTEN and Margaux O’Malley led a Yoga for Geeks lunchtime session, a session on embracing the paradox of hardcore work and life, and a Geeks on Wheels lunchtime bicycle ride.


4. On trend: Giving Days, wearable tech, storytelling, multi-channel campaigns

Numerous sessions were “on trend,” so to speak: reflecting and sharing practices about what we are trying out now, iterating, and testing. There were sessions on Giving Days (and an Ignite speech on the topic), wearable tech, many on storytelling, multi-channel everything (campaigns/fundraising/storytelling), and digital advertising. These sessions were, by and large, aimed at both advanced practitioners and new nonprofit techies.

5. It’s all about the money, money, money…and measurement 

As always, there were a plethora of sessions on fundraising. This year I spotted maturity in the way that we approach digital fundraising using advanced practices, metrics, and refined approaches. I attended two stellar sessions on digital advertising: Finding Your Digital Marketing Sweet Spot with Madeline Stanionis and Jessica Getty, and Building Surround Sound Fundraising Campaigns with Brenna Holmes and Emily Stevenson. These workshops highlighted case studies on the effectiveness of a variety of digital advertising techniques, and emphasized testing and ROI. Other metrics-driven fundraising workshops included fundraising with Facebook and Twitter, online fundraising campaigns that get results, testing donation pages, a predictive model for fundraising.

6. Future of nonprofit tech/innovation

The timeliness of “future tech” objects and conversations within  NTEN membership resulted in a grouping of really interesting “future-forward” sessions that highlighted innovation, prediction, and tech trends. While this is really the year of wearable-tech-talk (I could have predicted at least one session about it), the trend itself represents a mindset shift for nonprofit technologists. It’s not about the concrete, it’s about the possible, no matter how far-fetched.

Innovation in nptech included sessions on wearable tech, media innovation, crypto-currencies, a choice of Internet futures, embrace emerging social media channels, igniting a culture of tech innovation, tech trends, net neutrality, and a preview of the 2015 Nonprofit Digital Outlook Report. I attended a knowledgeable session on emerging tech trends, with some interesting predictions about where nonprofit technology is going. Steve MacLaughlin and Donna Wilkins talked analog donor thank-yous, robot assistance, predictive analytics, and Giving Days.

7. The NTC trend that must be mentioned: #15ntcgreenscreen

The serendipitous colliding of digital geeks and a very green screen at the plenaries provided our nonprofit techies with the opportunity and enjoyable pleasure of “green screening” beloved NTEN CEO Amy Sample Ward — many times over. Stacy Dyer captured all of these in her #15ntcgreenscreen Storify. I hope the green screen returns again in 2016.

Footnote: Thank you to NTEN and the NTEN community for your incredible support of my #15ntcIgnite story on Day 3. I was moved by the tweets and in-person conversations that you shared with me. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this community.

2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference Blog Posts (tweet me @askdebra to add yours here)

Peter Campbell’s Highlights of the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference
Compiled listing of all the #15ntc session collaborative notes
Beth Kanter’s Reflections from #15ntc Session Walking As Work and 80/20/5 Rule
Wiebke Herding’s Revue: Pathways to Change at #15ntc
Kivi Leroux Miller’s Work-Life Balance at #15ntc
Elaine Mulligan’s 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference Storify summary
Andi Argast’s Technology and Tacos: Thoughts on the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference (with a big data slant)
Liz Vargas’ Three Strategies from #15ntc that can Accelerate the Pace of Change
Deborah Elizabeth Finn’s NPTech Labor Alert: The Big Job Title of 2015 Will Be “Data Analyst”

  • Hey Debra, really appreciate your rundown of the highlights for people like me who couldn’t make it.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Thanks, Susan. I wish you had been able to attend. Would have been great to connect IRL, as we both know that IRL does (gasp) actually trump digital connectedness. Next year at #16ntc, I hope!


  • karvetski

    Thanks for the wrap-up, Debra. As someone who could not go, I find these posts incredibly helpful.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Thanks to you, Kerri, who always shares your knowledge. Wish you had been able to make it — and do hope to connect with you IRL at #16ntc.


  • Demetrio Cardona-Maguigad

    Nice work my friend 🙂 Thanks for pulling this together for everyone!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Thank you for being a fantastic co-pilot for our Designing Online Engagement Campaigns workshop. I am expecting you to write up our session, Demetrio 🙂


    Julia Smith Reply:

    I look forward to that write-up no matter who writes it! (Great post, Debra, and thank you again for sharing your story onstage.)


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Julia, you’re welcome. Demetrio or I will get on that – can’t disappoint you!

  • Megan Keane

    Debra, this was a fantastic recap. One of the highlights and inspiring moments of 15NTC for me was your Ignite presentation. Thank you for taking your inspiration from last year’s Ignites to the stage yourself with your moving and personal talk.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Megan, one of the things I remember most about the morning of the Ignite was walking off stage and into a huge hug from you. Thank you for your support before, during and after.

    Thanks, also, for that fantastic NTENer Center. Loved having a space to chill with folks on the couch, or catch your smile and support.


  • Per your tweet, this does sound like it was a great event. Thanks for sharing!

    Regarding the tech innovation portion of your recap. Was there any talk about what is being done or could be done in the area of organizations creating their own web or mobile applications (small and large) to provide resources, engage, or support their constituents?

    Curious as seeing things like being created for example suggests as I feel a trend in getting more sophisticated in creating what is essence are “products” of some form or fashion.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    I didn’t attend any sessions about what is being done (or could be done) for orgs creating their own mobile apps for stakeholders. I feel like that was a trend several years ago, but I really didn’t see much on that this year. I don’t see any after a quick look at the agenda, either. I did hear a big push not just for “mobile responsive” but “mobile first” in several sessions, which is not about app development in the sense you are inquiring.

    Interesting to hear your take on this, and I do feel that product sophistication is both a result of user demand and what one needs too be competitive.


  • Pingback: Missed It? Best Takeaways from #15NTC | Nonprofit Marketing | Getting Attention()


Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

Follow Debra

Subscribe via email




© 2020 Social Media Strategy for Mission-Driven Organizations.

Site by Arrow Root Media