Five Tips from the NTEN Conference

Global Impact team at NTEN
Cassie Call, Global Impact’s campaign marketing director, attended the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference last month in Portland, Oregon. She shared with us her experience at the event: 
 
In March, I had the chance to attend the Nonprofit Technology Conference, or NTEN, for the first time with Global Impact’s Technology Team. The weekend was an exciting blur of panels, networking with other nonprofit professionals and learning some amazing things about how technology interacts with the nonprofit sector. Here are some key takeaways from my experience.
 
1. Fun and community are critical in fundraising.
Yes, I knew this tip before the conference: It’s hard to engage anyone with a drab idea, especially when you’re asking them to give money. But, sometimes “fun” and “community” seem counterfeit in fundraising when the cause is a serious one. 
 
However, one of the sessions I attended featured a bike event that raises money for AIDS awareness using silly themes and competitive fundraising while promoting a community of kindness. And the event has been happening for 20 years! One of the panelists encouraged us to, “create an experience for people that makes them feel connected and included.” 
 
I questioned, “How do you balance fun and community when you are trying to communicate impact for a serious cause?” A panelist responded saying that it’s important to strike a balance of community and fun with impact in every communication. However, they’ve found that if you don’t have fun and people don’t feel a part of something bigger, then they won’t come back. They won’t be repeat volunteers, repeat event attendees or repeat givers. And your success is, in part, dependent on returning participants. So communicate your impact to your constituents, but don’t forget to make your interactions fun and community-forming. 
 
2. Advertise on Facebook, but stop boosting posts. 
Organic reach continues to decline on Facebook, so spending a small amount on advertising is critical to reaching audiences on the platform. If you are already spending staff time on Facebook, then you are already spending money on it, and in order to get the return you used to get for free, you’ll have to spend a little more money in the form of advertising. 
 
One of the easier ways to advertise on Facebook is through boosting posts. However, easy is rarely synonymous with most effective, and such is the case here. Boosting posts does not mean real results, and except for rare cases, it is a waste of money according to the experts. Instead, organizations should seek to move the needle on website conversions, actions and donations (not increased engagement, which is somewhat arbitrary). Create a campaign objective (website conversion, donation, email sign-up) and then set up a targeted ad campaign with A/B testing. Monitor and adjust frequently!
 
3. Great social video doesn’t have to be a budget-buster.
By 2021, online videos are projected to account for 78 percent of all mobile traffic. Creating a video can seem very daunting, but there are a lot of resources you can use that don’t require hiring a videographer (although sometimes that is the right thing to do). If you have an opportunity for communicating a message via video, determine: 1) Why video? Who is your audience? 2) What do you want your audience to know, feel and do? 3.) How will they discover and use the video? 4.) What visuals can you use to tell the story?
 
Once you have your plan in place, explore the various options available for putting together a video – many are free, such as news clips under fair use, stock photos on Flickr Creative Commons, and audio at free-stock-music.com.  
 
4. Foster great ideas using structure, pitching and games. 
Great creativity requires structure. Start with ideation from inspiration – ask questions of lots of people and see what patterns emerge. Log all ideas without editing. Then categorize ideas by asking “Is it useful? Is it uncommon or rare? Could we start it tomorrow? Is it designed for lasting value?” When a good idea arises, pitch the idea in front of others. Ideas don’t stand on their own and they’ll fall if they can’t be pitched well. And finally, “brainstorming is the death of ideas.” So try playing to help get the creative juices going. Gamestorming, role playing and improvisation help us get into the mindset of idea generation and are great warm-up activities for meetings. 
 
5. Visit Portland, Oregon. It’s pretty great. 
Well, I might have learned this outside of the conference, but Portland, Oregon, is a pretty cool city. So much to do and see and eat. And the history of Portland is quite fascinating, as it rests on traditional village sites of many Native American tribes. If you’re looking for a weekend trip, try Portland. 

This article first appeared in Global Impact's April 2019 charity newsletter.