Sunday, April 13, 2008

Report from NTC

For those of you not familiar with NTC, this is the annual conference organised by the US nonprofit Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). It is held in a different city each year and brings together some 1100 delegates, vendors and sponsors and is the premier nonprofit technology event in the US. I attended the conferences in Chicago in 2005 and Seattle in 2006. I missed last year in Washington DC because we were just getting DonorTec off the ground at the time.
The program on Day 1 consists of the Day of Service program (where visiting delegates volunteer to assist local projects with their technology needs e.g. building a network, website etc), Affinity Group meetings (i.e. orgs working on similar issues getting together), the Science Fair (i.e. booths from vendors and sponsors – over 80 of them), and the Welcome Reception.
It also includes an NTEN members lunch, at which I was presented with an Official NTEN Superstar Award (known as an Ntenny, complete with headband with stars on springs) as the delegate Most Likely To have Crossed the Most Time Zones in my time in the NTEN community. I was deeply moved and thanked my Mum and everyone at CISA before descending into a weeping mess. Truly.
Days 2 and 3 commence with a plenary session and then three 90 minute breakout sessions, providing literally dozens of options for presentations and workshops.
There is no formal dinner as such (delegates are encouraged to organise small dinner groups spontaneously) but there is large a party gathering at a local venue on the evening of Day 2.
2. What I did at the conference
Day 1 – attended the NTEN members lunch. So exhausted after all that had to go out for jambalaya and blackened catfish with the UK delegation (who said they enjoyed the chips). Serious references to the Science Fair below.
Day 2 – The opening plenary was provided by David Pogue, technology columnist for the NY Times, an extremely entertaining as well as insightful presenter.
He listed the three technologies to watch as:
• The continuing convergence of phones and the internet into multi-function single devices
• Mobiles that operate via VoIP (i.e. wireless internet)
• The (and similar technologies)

He also talked about the rise of Google in the phone space, though programs like:
- Grand Central, where you have one number and it calls all your phones at the same time.
- Google text search – text them with a personal name, organisation etc and get their addresses, weblinks, local weather, driving directions etc. Can get currency conversions, movie show times etc. Can’t text? Google 800 will do the same via voice recognition. And no ads in sight (yet).
Other phenomena to watch
• Voice-to-text e.g. Spinvox
and Call Wave
• Free TV online (with 15 sec ads)
e.g. Hulu
• Audience-created video, where video makers are paid by the number of views of their video e.g.
o Metacafe
o Revver
• Will downloads kill DVD’s? No, because:
o No-one wants to watch movies on a monitor
o Only 50% of US homes have broadband
o Limited selection of movies available
o Poor quality downloads because of compression issues

So what’s the key to Web 2.0, according to David Pogue? Information sharing! e.g. community sharing of loans micro finance for developing countries;guest sharing transport free online petitions
Who Is Sick tracking illness in your area

So what are the Web 2.0 Challenges, according to David Pogue:
- The interface challenge for mobile devices – big fingers and small screens i.e. where will all the features go?
- Copyright
- How to teach about ethics and privacy and to be constantly aware that what you put on the web is permanent.

Finally, he moved to the piano and entertained us with ditties like this one:

Day 2 and 3 Breakout Sessions
I won’t go through these in detail but I will dotpoint the key take-homes for me later in this post.

Day 3 Plenary
This was an extremely illuminating and moving panel presentation by three women involved in the rebuilding program following Hurricane Katrina – Laura Crochet, Deborah Cotton and Patricia Jones. Patricia’s home was in the Lower 9th ward, where all but 5 homes were destroyed when the levee bank burst and they were inundated with 23 feet of water in 25 minutes. Patricia moved back into her partially rebuilt home last week, some two and a half years after Katrina. She also runs NENA
They talked about the role of technology and communications in the painfully slow rebuilding program, especially the role of their website
Just some dot points:
- It was 10 months before they were even allowed to enter the affected area to inspect the damage and even then it was a ‘look and leave’ policy with everyone out by sunset.
- When the Road Home project eventually got under way, their site became the registration site and call centre.
- When Katrina hit only 60% of residents had email addresses and only 70% had mobile phones.
- Most residents are poorly educated so they set a 7th grade reading standard for the site and a maximum of 3 clicks to core information.

Some Key Vendors/Organisations at the Science Fair worth checking out
Ammado – global internet platform for charities, based in Ireland
Care2 – the largest online social network based on civic action and recruiting new members to your cause . Headed up by Joe Baker, former CEO of NTEN, who spoke at CU 06.
Foresee – using online customer surveys and the American Customer Satisfaction Index to improve web site satisfaction, loyalty and value
Idealware – provides consumer reports on nonprofit software – great little outfit headed up by Laura Quinn, who is keen to work with us on presenting low cost ‘webinars’ for our clients. Still trying to persuade her to visit here one day.
Nice Touch Communications – a telco where 5% of your bill can be re-directed to the charity of your choice
Salesforce – commercially developed CRM system that now sits under many nonprofit applications
See3 – create visual media and internet marketing initiatives – very impressive and hope to get Michael Hoffman here next year
This is a mere handful of the 90 booths but they are the ones I stopped to chat with the longest. There are now literally dozens of CRM, fundraising software and consulting companies displaying their wares, which is great news for the nonprfit sector.

So, What were the Take Home Messages for me?
1. We operate a national conference , Connecting Up, that like for like population-wise matches NTC for organisation, breadth and delegate sources and we should be very proud of that. However I’m green with envy at the spread of products and services available to US nonprofits and wish our compatriots would get off their backsides to match it.
2. We in Australia have barely scratched the surface of Web 2.0 when it is the fastest growing aspect of connectedness. If we don’t move soon we risk losing an entire generation of potential supporters.
3. We should expect to increasingly deliver into mobile contexts..
4. We need to keep in mind these principles from Brian Reich and Dan Solomon’s Book ‘Media Rules’
- Everything is fragmented and blurred
- Small can be big
- We are all connected


Media is the information, the experiences, the stuff that we consume and share - it is not the technology

5. Key Indicators that It’s Time to Change
You wake up one day and find yourself competing with groups you've never heard of before.
You are under increasing pressure to lower/waive your fees
Your audience asks for changes you cannot or do not want to make
Your competitors are leaving the market

6. Challenges in Personalising the Messages and Making the Connections

The average person is exposed to 5,000 messages a day
1.4 blogs are created every second,
YouTube uploads 65,000 videos every day
There are 55,000 possible drink combinations at Starbucks

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