Have I mentioned that I just returned from sunny California? It was a huge sacrifice to leave Wyoming in March for the Bay Area but one must make sacrifices for one’s professional development. Call me the sacrificial lamb. Baaa. I headed to the land of fruits and nuts (or vineyards and palm trees) to attend my second Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) and once again, it did not disappoint.
NTC is nearly three full days of learning with eighteen, count ‘em, eighteen breakout sessions every two hours. I concluded after last year’s conference that I probably represent the smallest nonprofit with the smallest budget from the smallest town of the smallest state (yes, I realize that Yoder and many other towns have us beat but I’m comparing Sheridan to the other cities represented). So while there are a lot of sessions that don’t apply to me, several actually do.
The CVC website is a direct result of the 2015 NTC. You can’t believe the great stuff I learned about writing for the web, optimizing for phones and tablets as well as ideal layout and design tips. I was whining to someone during a break that I was worried that when we actually got our website up, we would forget it existed. That would make the CVC website one more thing I could feel guilty about ignoring. Much like dust on my furniture and the disaster inside my garage.
The nice guy I was talking to said something that has stayed with me and really influenced our work. He said you have to think of your website as your marketing employee. If you don’t update it, i.e. feed it information, it’s like paying an employee who’s not doing their job to the best of their ability because you didn’t give him what he needed. Jeriann and I took that to heart. We named our website Clarence and he has his own book where we can list what we need to update, add, etc. Knowing that if Clarence is left unattended, he’s up to no good, we feed Clarence often. I think he’s become a very valued employee.
At this year’s NTEN, I wanted to focus on social media and finding additional resources for our local nonprofits. Bullseye! What was especially interesting and fruitful were not the breakout sessions, although those had value. The real gems of information were found at breaks on the sunny deck of the convention center, soaking up rays and chatting with other people who are doing amazing work both in the U.S. and around the world.
For those of you who haven’t met me or can’t sense my personality through this column, let me give it to you straight: I’ve never met a stranger. I can go up to almost anyone and chat them up, interrogate them (an inherited trait from my dear, departed mother) and know what they do and how they do it in no time. This is super helpful on occasions like this because I knew nearly no one and there were approximately 3,000 people in attendance.
Here’s just a brief snapshot of what I learned during some of these conversations: the director of a homeless shelter in Findlay, Ohio is part of a group of nonprofits who all share office space in a converted grocery store and it becomes a one stop resource center for those seeking services; a tiny start up in Austin, Texas, has made deals with major retailers all over the country to offer incredible deals (including shipping) to nonprofits for nearly everything from tents to towels to tables; you can get a Canva Pro subscription free as a nonprofit just for applying. Are you kidding me? Instant design work for free? That’s just a sampling of the juicy info I gleaned.
Yes, it was brutal to be in California but sacrifices must be made. It’s one of the CVC’s goals – supporting our nonprofits. Is it my fault I had to be supportive in 75 degree weather?