CTEP members and their supervisors were offered the opportunity to attend the NonProfit Technology Conference, a three day affair being held in Minneapolis, for free if they would volunteer a minimum of 3 hours throughout the conference. Needless to say, we jumped at the chance.
Many of the CTEPs did their volunteer hours prior to the start of the conference, stuffing conference bags with goodies and programs, etc. I acted as room monitor for several sessions on both Thursday and Friday. I’m glad I had the chance to participate, but after seeing what was on offer, it became obvious that this conference was mostly geared towards IT people and fundraisers. There were also tracks dedicated to leadership, communication and connection (whatever that means…here it appeared to refer to consultation and networking). And, there was a fair bit of stuff that made the privacy lovers among us shudder uncontrollably…but we’ll get to that.
Fittingly, the first session I attended was the First Timer session—an introduction to NTC. They told us about the website (to which I never did manage to connect) and the collaborative note-taking that was taking place via the web (also not fully realized due to lack of bandwidth). They spent a good deal of time explaining the tech end, explaining that the program had been printed mid-month and that much of it had been changed. The only accurate program listing was online. And only a few of the truly tech savvy (or those blessed with much better equipment than the rest of us) were able to access it. Needless to say, mistakes were made, sessions were missed, and a certain amount of frustration that should have been avoided became the norm for this conference.
I then took part in the Social Media Police session, which was a lively look back at the hits and misses in marketing and advertising over the last year. The session was well done and well attended. The presenters chose to emulate one of their favorite TV shows, Fashion Police, in order to present the best and worst of marketing in 2012. One of the highlights mentioned was the way certain companies reacted swiftly to the blackout during the Superbowl. One of the worst cases cited was the NRA’s response to Sandy Hook. Here’s the link to their slide deck:
The rest of the afternoon was spent touring the exhibits (what they referred to as the Science Fair), getting a look at some interesting new titles coming out soon and talking to some vendors who have created some truly awesome volunteer management software.
Friday, the Plenary speaker was Dan Pallotta, a name that was much in the news in the early part of this decade. His group, Pallotta TeamWorks, was responsible for making the Susan G Komen 3 day walk and others such a resounding success in their early years. His group was also very publicly fired when it came out that their “overhead” costs amounted to almost 40% of the money brought in on those walks. His contention (in a nutshell) is that if you don’t put the money into overhead, funding will never increase past a certain point and growth is effectively stymied by the rules that govern non-profits. He is starting up a new group which would act as a legal defense fund for charitable organizations. Interesting, but suspect as to his motivations…given his past history. If you’re interested, here is a transcript of his talk:
and for a good critique of his newest title “ Uncharitable”, which gives a rather cogent and well reasoned response to his ideas:
The next session I attended was “Secrets of Content Marketing Sorcerers”, an intriguing mix of how to attract volunteers and engage them with how to hook contributors with relevant content in your publications (i.e. newsletters, circulars, ads, etc.)
One of the marketers for “VolunteerMatch”, a website which connects volunteers to opportunities, while getting its funding from corporate America told of the dichotomy which comes from trying to find the right fit for the volunteer with enticing the corporations to foot the bill for this service. Their answer was to do niche marketing and tailor their content to each of their contributing corporations, while keeping their public website segmented to the volunteers only. Seems to be working for them…they are, hands down, one of the best volunteer match firms out there. NTEN’s advertising guru brought up the old broccoli (what we want them to know) and cheese (what they want to know) idea. How do you slip the broccoli in? By knowing what your readers consider to be cheese---look to analytics…which tell you what people are looking at and what subjects are causing people to click through to another page for more information. Once you know that, you know where you can put just enough broccoli to engage people with your cause. What becomes rather problematic for us as librarians is the way they collect their information. By using analytics that track what you are doing on your computer, these marketers are getting an amazing (and somewhat scary) totality of information about their website visitors! But the best part of this session came with Kivi Leroux Miller who has a new book out on this subject. Her contention is that you should be paying close attention to your website and marketing. Break your content into evergreen, annual and perennial content:Evergreen Content: that’s broccoli or cheese that you don’t have to update often. Directories, how-to’s, etc. Maybe you change twice a year. Perennial Content: Appears year after year based on cycles like seasons. Often appears in e-newsletters. You will probably repurpose. Annual Color: Appears mostly in social media. Has a very short life-span but can create a lot of interest in your work.
Her contention is that you need to find core topics that you want to be known for, and then strategize to figure out how to fill in different types of content related to these core areas. Basically, this 90 minutes was a crash course in effective (if intrusive) marketing technique on the web.
Unfortunately, the next session I attended “Is Success just in the Numbers?” on quantitative vs qualitative measurement of impact was far less successful. Let’s just say that the best line I took away from this session was “ If you can't draw a direct line from your metric to your mission, then you're measuring the wrong thing”.
The last session of the day for me was called “The New Normal: Shifting Organization Resources to Thrive and Survive”, which turned out to be a primer for (in these cases) IT professionals within a charitable organization to learn to see what changes needed to be made and how to go about creating those changes. The panel members were young, enthusiastic and not very well organized. Notes from other attendees are here: