5 (Rad) Takeaways from 12NTC

Hundreds of nonprofit professionals descended on San Francisco last week for the Nonprofit Technology Conference. 12NTC was jam packed with a ton of generous, collaborative, and smart people, interesting sessions, connecting, and learning. Here are my biggest takeaways.

1. The Future of Social CRM is Now

I've had my eye on social CRM solutions for a while and my favorite NTC session this year, The Hills are Alive...With Social Data, with Casey Golden from Small Act, Amy Bastian from Nature Conservancy, and Kristin Johnson from NWF confirmed for me that social CRM has arrived and is only going to improve. Connecting your donor database, email subscribers, and social media relationships is powerful. Major gift fundraisers on your development staff can see which of their prospects have interacted with your organization through social media and better understand what donors know about your work already. At the same time, social media managers can understand the existing relationship that the Twitter users they engage with have to your organzation. The session did focus on Small Act's Profile Builder, since the presenters all work with that product, but it's clear that the entire field of social CRM is maturing fast.


2. Data Calls for a New Etiquette

We know an increasing amount of information about our donors and community members. Obviously you'd never want to violate people's privacy, but you can still set off alarms with information that's technically public. Just because your CRM solution helps you recognize that the person who just replied to you on Twitter is an active volunteer and an annual donor doesn't mean you should remind them to renew their membership over Twitter. The data is powerful, but it can also freak people out when they realize just how much you know about them. Personolization is important and no one wants to be treated like a number, but if you take this too far you can wind up looking smarmy. If you're not careful people feel mugged.

3. Clarity and Word Choice Are Key

This lesson came out of the #12NTCjews Connect Track session, Tribe: Jewish Communal Organizations and Networks. Lisa Colton shared her frustration with the way "community" is overused. In the same way that the Eskimo have dozens of words referring to snow, Lisa suggested that we need more ways of talking about subtle variations in how we talk about community. The word community used in a ton of context and can have implications for geography, group, religion, commerce, ecological species and interdependence, shared interests, identity, feelings of fellowship, shared owndership, organizing, service, and other ideas. It can get confusing quickly and we don't always have the same thing in mind as those we're talking to.

In the same session, Miriam Brosseau from the Jewish education project also brought home the importance of word choice for me in the way she used language to illustrate her points. Knowing her audience, Miriam borrowed examples from Jewish tradition. In discussing the importance of transparency and authenticity, she related the concept of "Tocho k'boro", “one whose inside is like his outside”. In explaining the importance of experimenting and diving in without overly researching every technology choice she shared the refrain of the Children of Israel at Sinai, "Naaseh V'nishmah", "we will do and then we will listen".


4. We Think Visually

"Whoever best describes the problem is the one most likely to solve it." In his opening plenary, Dan Roam shared the power of pictures to clarify and argument. He took the audience through some interactive exercises to visualize specific challenges they face and shared some high profile examples of the ways pictures have helped people sort out big problems in government, healthecare, construction, and aviation. The visual panel notes from Rally are awesome.


5. NPTechies love to party

  1. Between #NTCbeer, Care2's party boat cruise, the progressive party, and the bars that seemed to emerge from nowhere in the hotel ballroom each afternoon, the schmoozing and party continued.

See you in Minneapolis in 2013!

photo credit: @ntenhross

Check out this Storify for some of my favorite 12NTC moments.

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