This annual event was sponsored by the Non-Profit Technology Network and was attended by 1400 non-profit technology, communications, fundraising workers and consultants. The conference included a full-range of sessions on leadership, staffing, media, technology products, communications, fundraising, among others. Representatives from a large number of non-profits and community organizations were there – energy policy, health services, food banks, education services, advocacy groups, disaster relief and services, child and women’s services. Consultants from a number of technology companies were present – web hosting, software development, content management systems (CMS), constituent relations management (CRM), public relations, and fundraising.
I attended sessions on how a non-profit organization can explore social media technology like blogging, CMS systems, video and audio podcasting.
Keynote speakers included Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and professor at New York University. He talked about how Internet media can be a site for coordinated action. Many organizations and political campaigns are slow to adopt the new media because they are afraid of losing control of communications. He stated the “loss of control you are afraid of is already in the past.” He advocated for the expanded use of social media to allow people to communicate with each other, not necessarily through the organization’s channels. He encouraged organizations to try a few smaller approaches to new media, not fearing if these fail. He cited several examples of Internet campaigns – both large and small – that have succeeded, for example, a college student group ran a successful Facebook campaign to combat a HBSC bank ripoff, forcing the bank to retract its’ regressive bank fee policy.
Eben Moglen was the other keynote speaker, he is a lawyer with the Software Freedom Law Center. SFLC provides free legal services for open source vendors and organizations, such as Drupal, Joomla, and Plone. He gave an eye-opening talk about how the open sharing of information – for example, software and knowledge – improves and enhances the information. He noted that ownership of information is now a moral question since the easy dissemination could solve the important problems of our day. He is an advocate of using technology and information to help educate people.
For-profit organizations typically do not collaborate with competitors; the goal is to adopt platforms instead of collaboration. Moglen stated we should "unlearn" platforms as these systems prevent sharing, force groups to adopt proprietary information and technology. He urged people to measure development by how it makes life better, not by how much profit.
Moglen is a proponent of open source software, making a claim that open source software will always be better than what the major software vendors, like Microsoft, produce. He claimed that by nature an open source software product will improve over time because of the number of people involved in supporting the product. He is also a critic of Google because of their dependence on advertisements on their web sites. The advertisements gather information from web site visitors, thus compromising privacy and free speech principles.
Corey Pudhorodsky, host of 501c3cast podcast and Chad Norman, host of Baudcast and employee of Blackbaud, presented a workshop titled "Nonprofit Radio - How to Make Podcasts That Promote Your Brand and Engage Supporters." The session focused on the tools needed to create a quality podcast, including how to promote the podcast. They encouraged attendees to promote podcasts using a range of social media -- blogs, social networks, YouTube, Digg, to name a few. They also encouraged people to run cross-channel promotion of the podcast by linking on your web site, integrated into newsletters, press releases, advertisements, etc. They demonstrated two case studies -- Volunteer San Diego (http://www.volunteersandiego.org) and Nature Stories from the Nature Conservancy (http://support.nature.org/site/PageServer?pagename=podcast). They also cited sources for building a podcast, like free music (http://music.podshow.com) and sound effects (http://www.freesound.org)
Katya Andresen, president of Network for Good and author of the best-selling book Robin Hood Marketing: Stealing Corporate Savvy to Sell Just Causes, and Mark Rovner with Sea Change Strategies led a workshop titled "ePhilanthropy Unplugged". They presented six components of effective communication and story-telling. Andresen noted that some web content or communication that we like may not be what readers like. She also suggested turning good content into "conversation," emphasizing communicators should "go from broadcast to conversation." She referenced the book The Conversation by Brian Solis.
Rovner suggested conveying a humbling vision with constituents. Put supporters at the center by using stories. The session hosts shared the March of Dimes "Share Your Story" site (http://www.shareyourstory.org/webx/Share%20Home/Share%20Your%20Story/). Also, Ali's Story about fundraising using widgets on the Six Degrees web site - http://sixdegreesdotorg.blogspot.com/2007/04/alis-story.html
During a "Writing for Emotional Impact" segment in this workshop, the presenters urged people to use imagery to convey emotions, like on the Malaria No More web site - http://www.malarianomore.org/ , the Monterrey Aquarium web site - http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/, and International Rescue Committee site - http://www.theirc.org/
Britt Bravo with http://changeblogger.ning.com/ facilitated a session labeled "Changeblogging" the attendees discussed their strenths and weaknesses related to blogging for their organization. Several moderately successful blogging efforts included Care2.org with 60-70 bloggers who write on a range of topics. Amazee (http://www.amazee.org), a site based out of Switzerland, took a different approach by creating a space for people to come together to work on projects; they have developed "micro communities" on their site.
Session attendees discussed ways to build traffic on blogs. One way was to use Twitter to direct traffic to blogs. Photos should be labeled and tagged to help search optimization. URL's should match what people are searching for. Blog comments provide link backs to increase traffic. Editors should integrate the blog link in email newsletters. A small, but valuable use of twitter, was tweetsgiving.org, which was a group that raised $10,000 in 48 hours for a school in Tanzania on Thanksgiving 2008. The http://www.theuptake.org is a grassroots news site that documented the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis in 2008. They were successful in allowing dozens of people to post videos during the convention.