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NTC Wrap-up: 3 Takeaways From the Annual Conference

Send one hundred people to the same conference and they’ll probably have one hundred different experiences. With so many keynote speeches, sessions, and booths there’s usually a path for everyone, no matter what they’re looking for. Last week’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) in New Orleans was no different.

Our Firefly team members were looking to learn different things, but not surprisingly, we came away with some similar themes after our three days. Our biggest takeaways:

Start Small to Go Big

One of the highlight events of NTC was the day one keynote speech by Luvvie Ajayi. Ajayi began her career in marketing and digital strategy, started blogging, and has leveraged that to become an award-winning writer, digital strategist, and speaker who’s been thriving at the intersection of comedy, technology, and activism. Like any project, from personal branding to achieving your organizational mission to a website redesign, success doesn’t happen overnight. Preparing, executing, and communicating each step of the process allows organizations to take things slow and learn from failure, which is part of any big project.

The practical application of “start small to go big”, was emphasized in the Lemonade Stand Approach session we attended about planning and executing technology projects. Attendees were reminded to prioritize low-hanging fruit and prepare budgets and best practices as some of the first steps in large undertakings.

The Big Takeaway: Be patient. Change is incremental so make sure you have a plan for where you want to be, by when, and how you’re going to get there.

Come with a Problem, Not a Solution

Firefly is no stranger to the challenge of bringing a CRM, website, and email strategy together. So, it was exciting to hear our approach reflected by Isaac Shalev, president of Sage70, and Thomas Stewart, Director of Analytics at the Center for Biological Diversity, in their session about solving this complicated equation. Their message: First focus on the problem your organization is facing. All too often nonprofits will begin a process by declaring that they need a new CRM, a new email tool, or a redesigned website. The expert panelists at NTC were clear: Stop and ask yourself, “What’s the problem I need to solve? How will a new tool help improve operations, raise more money, or help accomplish our mission?”

A common problem we hear from clients is that they collect email addresses from several different sources (email signups, lead acquisition ads, and signup forms at events), and then don’t hold up their end of the process by sending welcome emails to introduce these new audiences to their mission and work. The solution might be new email marketing tools that support robust journey campaigns or a way to capture source codes more accurately in existing tools.

If it’s a website that’s giving you headaches, you should first determine if it’s the design that is outdated and needs a refresh or if, based on analytics and user data, visitors are not engaging in the actions you want them to take. Depending on the problem a different type of project and approach could be the solution.

The Big Takeaway: Define your problem, identify your stakeholders, and map out your process. Then tap the right experts to help you come to a decision and guide you there. Which brings us to our third takeaway:

Use Your Community as a Resource

The challenges you face at your organization can be daunting, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to solutions. Conferences like NTC show the strength of the nonprofit community. Do you want your website to be more accessible to the aging population? Do you want your thank you pages to encourage donors to take additional action? Do you want to choose the right vendors and products for your organization? NTC sessions highlighted these topics and more, showing nonprofit leaders that many of their questions have been answered by peers.

The Big Takeaway: Use conferences to crowdsource for resources, case studies, and possible solutions before you try to solve your problem from scratch.

Whether you attended NTC or not, these lessons can resonate with nonprofit professionals. And if you’re ready to identify your problem and want to create a plan to solve it, Firefly can help. Get in touch with us today.

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