Nonprofit Technology Conference

Rally’s 5 Lessons Learned at NTC

Rally Recap of NTC took part in this years 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference and interviewed the speakers from the most prominent and innovative sessions. Hear about the latest trends in nonprofit technologies as some of NTC’s keynote speakers answer some of our questions and recap different conference sessions.


Shoutout to the North Pacific String Band for their wonderful music, as well as Ian Micklewright for editing.


What does innovation mean in the nonprofit sector?

Dana Frasz is the Founder & Executive Director of Food Shift, an Earth Island Institute sponsored project working build a more just and sustainable food system by connecting the dots between food waste and hunger.  Prior to founding Food Shift, Dana spent three years working at Ashoka to find and support social entrepreneurs.

What does innovation mean in the nonprofit sector?  This question kicked off the last day at the Nonprofit Technology Conference and I was energized by the ways in which the panelists passionately highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses within the nonprofit community.  We are bold, we are brave, we are working together and taking on every challenge possible to create a better world.  We are collaborating with the for profit sector, embracing technology and expanding our reach in new ways.  Yet, as Brian Reich said, “we still don’t have a culture, systems or funding for radical innovation” and we are having the same conversations year after year.

Why is hunger increasing if we have “innovative” hunger organizations? Are we really challenging the status quo and radically changing the system?  If we are really solving the problem, shouldn’t we be putting ourselves out of business?  The issues are complex but we do need to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to take more risks, shake up the system and push against the status quo to make more impactful change.

We are living in urgent times and the list of problems we are facing is never ending.  As a young social entrepreneur working to create systemic change in the food sector by connecting the dots between food waste and hunger, I am eager to put my vision into action and see results fast.  I’m deeply inspired by Annie Leonard’s series of videos including the Story of Stuff and am encouraged to hear about the 20+ year journey it took for Annie to get to this place of having such a powerful, inspiring, effective message.  Change takes time and our own development as leaders and organizations takes time too.  Have patience and don’t give up.

Lights, Camera, Action: How to Succeed on YouTube

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Ramya Raghavan and Hunter Walk from YouTube stressed the importance of the people behind YouTube videos during their NTC session yesterday. YouTube viewers want to connect with these people to see what they have to say on trending topics and explore what they are creating in innovative spaces. With 4 billion views a day and 60 hours of video uploaded every minute, YouTube has become one of the most powerful ways for organizations to connect with an audience- if you know how to do it well.

Here’s a quick look at Ramya and Hunter’s 4 tips for YouTube success:

1. Content is king. Develop a thought-out channel strategy with serial and episodic content in order to build an audience that is just waiting to tune in. Peg your story to current and relevant events, and set up a calendar to help you plan your content in advance.

2. Leverage YouTube search. When posting your videos, always include a killer title, concise and helpful description, and a link to find out more about your organization. Also- don’t be scared to tag away! We want your video to bubble up in as many searches as possible so that you can reach more people and share your story.

3. Activate your audience. Involve your community by posting videos that empower your supporters to respond- either with strong calls to action (e.g. to volunteer or to donate) or to create their own video and share it.

4. Think BIG with YouTube. Use channels to own a topic and become a trendsetter in your space. Think beyond creation to curation.

Lights, Camera, Action: How to Succeed on YouTube 
Ramya Raghavan and Hunter Walk, YouTube
Thu April 5th 3:30-5:00pm

How to “Funnify” Your Cause & Open the Door to a Massive Audience

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How do you attract new people to your website and reach more supporters? Evan Bailyn shared his top tricks to lure potential supporters to your website through social media channels as well as face-to-face conversations.

Here are some of Evan’s pro-tips for engaging new supporters:

  • When chatting with potential donors, encourage them do the talking instead of hogging the spotlight yourself. Find things that you both have in common, and make personal connections to dive deep beyond surface conversations and build real relationships.
  • Attract new people to your website by creating stellar content and systematically sharing it with friends, family, social networks, and tastemakers in your space.
  • Be gutsy! Think outside of the box to find innovative ways to interact with new people.

How to Funnify Your Nonprofit & Open the Door to a Massive Audience
Evan Bailyn- SEO and Social Media Expert
Thu April 5th 1:30-3:30

You Need a Strategy, Dammit, Not a Twitter Account

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J.D. Lasica opened the session with an insightful (and reassuring!) statement: Social media is about people. Not about blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. It’s overwhelming to think about using all these channels, and J.D. argued that we don’t have to – in fact we shouldn’t – use them all.

Instead, said Carla Schlemminger, we must step back and look at the big picture. Why are we doing this? Who is our audience? How can we gain support in our organization for this? How do we roll out our plan? Social media is a series of stages: crawl, walk, run, fly.

J.D. and Carla proceeded to walk through the elements of a strategic plan and take lots of questions from the audience. They also shared an amazing resource of guides, statistics, and templates for social media on the Socialbrite website.

You Need a Strategy Dammit, Not a Twitter Account
JD Lasica, Carla Schlemminger – both from
Thu April 5rd 10:30-12:00
#12NTCDammit  – the most profane hashtag at NTC ;-)
Slides and resources available at

What Does Innovation Mean for Nonprofits?

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 Beth Kanter kicked off Day #3 of NTC with a session characteristically full of zingers and tweetable one-liners (e.g. “Is innovation like porn – we know it when we see it?”). But the session wasn’t just about soundbites; it was full of insight too. Here are some takeaways to supplement the poster above:

  • Innovation doesn’t come from organizations. It comes from individuals with ideas. However, one person cannot create innovation if s/he isn’t part of a team that’s willing and ready.
  • It’s hard to find funders who will fund a risky idea – they usually want case studies an proven techniques. So philanthropists have a huge responsibility to rethink and innovate around their relationship with nonprofits, no matter what their gift-size is.
  •  The stakes for failure in the nonprofit community are so much higher in the nonprofit community than in the for-profit community. If people fail in marketing a product, a few people lose their jobs. If people fail in an intervention model, you can destabilize a society.
  • Innovation is driven by iteration.
  • Sometimes great innovation comes from not knowing any better and being unaware of the status quo. It frees you to think differently and pull ideas from new places.


Plenary: Innovation & Nonprofits
Brian Reich, Laura Arrillaga-Andreesen, Meg Garlinghouse, Greg Baldwin
Moderated by Beth Kanter
Thu April 5rd 8:30-10:00

Engaging Donors with Storytelling-Beyond the Personal Story

storytelling graphic note

Is your cause caught in the personal story trap? How do you tell stories that don’t just explain, but compel your supporters to donate? How do you tell a story so your audience’s participation (whether donating, writing a letter, or spreading the word) is required to determine the outcome of the story?

This session discussed the key factors of how to tell your cause’s stories to drive donations and truly engage your audience so they feel and are part of the solution. A perfect combination of theory, research, and Sue Citro sharing her amazing experiences at the Nature Conervancy—bringing storytelling into her organizations culture from the ground up.

It’s Not You, It’s Your Stories: Why Fundraisers are Failing at Storytelling – and What They Need to Change #12NTCNPStory
3:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Wednesday, April 4
Sue Citro, Nature Conservancy
Steve Daigneault, M+R Strategic Services

PDF of presentation

How to Engage with your Community—Online

Community Engagement graphic note

Engage > (Create)Trust > (Motivate) Action.
Amy, Debra, and Vanessa explained what community engagement really is–online and offline and how to ensure online engagement stays authentic and turns just casual “likers” into cause evangelists.

A combination of straight up “this is how it works” to breakout sessions to help focus goals, develop strategy, decide on social tools and harness resources.

Bonus! Fun shout out to Teal Cats as an example! Meow.

Designing Online Engagement to Collaborate With Your Community
1:30 PM – 3:00 PM
Wednesday, April 4

Amy Sample Ward
Debra Askanase
Vanessa Rhinesmith

A limited number of prints of this poster can be found at the table outside of Grand Ballroom A at the Union Square Hilton. Check back often! Follow us on Twitter stay updated.

Data Visualization for Social Change

Visualizing Data graphic notes

Another brilliant 90 minutes, and what better way to document a presentation on presentations than by having it graphically recorded! Beth Kanter started off the session wearing a Darth Vader mask to express her first perceptions about talking data. She showed us the light by explaining the “five stages of measurement acceptance” and inspired us with the “stages of the data informed.” I especially appreciated the mini-interactive audience participation sessions, complete with chocolate candy rewards! But in all seriousness, gold nuggets of knowledge at every turn of phrase.

Johanna Morariu presented the audience with a practical toolbox of how to present data in ways that people can understand and even enjoy looking at. She also reminded us to use the methods that tell the story and avoid just assuming that powerpoint or other commonly used applications are the want to convey information. Data visualization can be as effective as laying some paper on a table and drawing with marker between salt and pepper shakers to map out relationships.

Brian Kennedy shared his experience helping Children Now parse, hone, and then express vast quantities of data gathered to evaluate the state of children in California. Distill your story down to its essential elements and then explore how simple visualization of relevant data can amplify or clarify that key point.

This session was not to be missed. Definitely check out the slides and wiki in the links below. Any organization, no matter what your size can use data to help the world understand your cause.

Picturing Your Data is Better Than 1,000 Numbers: Data Visualization Techniques for Social Change (12NTCviz)

10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Wednesday, April 4
Beth Kanter
Johanna Morariu
Brian Kennedy


Slides from the talk
Wiki with slides and list of resources

A limited number of prints of this poster can be found at the table outside of Grand Ballroom A at the Union Square Hilton. Check back often! Follow us on Twitter stay updated.

Dan Roam Believes You Can Draw—for Good

Graphic Note of Dan Roam Talk

“I have a simple proposition. We can solve our problems with pictures. We can clarify our ideas with pictures.” – Dan Roam


Here’s a way for over 600 people in one room to start your day! Contemplate how a Boeing 757 airplane is built in 17 different countries and assembled into one final plane—that flies!

Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin and Blah Blah Blah: What to Do When Words Don’t Work kicked off the first plenary at NTC today talking about the power of images to communicate. Now more than ever there is an imperative to communicate complexity. Using visual means to solve problems and bring clarity to ideas is accessible to all of us. Dan broke it down into manageable steps no matter what size your organization is or what your challenge.

The live stream is over but you can read a transcript of the talk here.

NTC Plenary: Dan Roam, author of Blah, Blah, Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work
Wed April 4th, 8:30-10:00am

A limited number of prints of this poster can be found today and tomorrow at the table outside of Grand Ballroom A at the Union Square Hilton. Check back often! We’ll be displaying the actual large format posters soon after each session that we cover! Follow us on Twitter stay updated during the conference.