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Allyson Kapin 12 min read

Panels for the NTC Conference are Heating Up

Year after year the annual NTC conference produced by NTEN has been the "go to" conference for nonprofit campaigners to get the latest best practices in nonprofit technology, online advocacy, online fundraising and social media. Over 400 session ideas were submitted this year -- a 75% increase over last year -- and the competition to get voted into the top final 100 sessions is heating up. Which sessions will make the cut? Here are my top five picks.


1. Beyond English - Remove the Language Barrier to Relieve Poverty and Save Lives

Editors Note: Great topic about truly understanding your target audiences and how to communicate with them on their level, not upper management.

Access to information and knowledge in your language is a fundamental human right. It can make the difference between prosperity and poverty, freedom and captivity, life and death. Today, access to information is severely restricted for millions of people who live in developing regions of the world, speak so called minority languages, or do not have the economic means to pay for information they require.

Information poverty can ultimately be as lethal as other types of poverty. It has long been established – though not widely realized – that tens of thousands of people are dying every day because they do not have access to information – in their language – that could save their lives.

This session will present strategies that enable nonprofits to communicate with constituencies in their language. It will present case studies demonstrating how nonprofits translated their material effectively into the languages of the people they are helping. It will introduce and demonstrate strategies for effective language translation into dozens of languages supported by effective technologies.

Session Takeaways

  • Why you need to communicate in languages other than English

  • What nonprofits have done to communicate their message in different languages

  • How to access nonprofit translation solutions


2.  To Diversity and Beyond! Engagement, Accountability and Nonprofits

Editors Note: This panel builds off last years session at NTC on Diversifying Your Teach and Online Communications Teams. I was part of the group who submitted this panel along with Jocelyn Harmon of Care2, Ivan Boothe of Root Work and Shireen Mitchell of Digital Sistas.

Online advocacy, nonprofit communications and fundraising are usually aimed at a larger goal: Righting an injustice, empowering a community, or effecting social change. Yet leaders in online advocacy, like nonprofits in general and many industries, are overwhelmingly white, male and college-educated.

Do nonprofits have an interest in actively confronting this disparity? Do organizations with a narrow demographic background limit their ability to create change, transform communities and meet long-term mission goals?

Join us for a discussion of this issue that explores what opportunities organizations might be able to realize when they diversify their technology, communication and development teams beyond the usual suspects. An honest assessment of the gaps in an organization’s collective experiences can lead to deeper, more accountable work with communities of varying backgrounds, and more success in fulfilling one’s mission.

Session Takeaways

  • How to determine where your nonprofit’s background might be limiting its potential for success in communications, fundraising and organizing.

  • Specific tools to help you diversify leadership in your organization with the support of executive directors and board members.

  • Approaches to organizational strategy that strengthens your engagement, accountability and success with a communities of varying backgrounds.


3. Workshop: Using Community Organizing for Effective Online Campaigns

Editors Note:  Timely topic. Offline/online integration is key to building movements.

 This participatory workshop will help you answer the question: What does old-school community organizing have to teach the wired activist?

We believe traditional community organizing helps to inform an effective online campaign for social change, and will lay the groundwork for a sustainable, long-term movement. We'll present some specific tools you can use, drawn from community organizing, that will help you identify targets, hone your strategy and engage activists to prevent burnout.

Some of the most successful online campaigns in the past few years -- such as Tweetsgiving, opposition to mountaintop removal, government transparency activism in Canada, and the campaign for the Jena Six in Louisiana -- have employed principles of community organizing to create effective online actions that helped activists win.

Participants in this workshop will get their hands dirty planning an online campaign for social change that integrates traditional organizing theory and practice. We'll invite three participants to serve as case studies, break up into small groups and collectively map out an online strategy. Each group will present its campaign strategy and tactics to the entire workshop, and facilitators will offer feedback and additional ideas.

The facilitators each have extensive experience both in traditional organizing and online campaigns, and have used strategic planning to move beyond feel-good activism ("slacktivism") that doesn't advance toward real social change. We invite both individual activists and staffers in organizations to take part in this workshop.

Session Takeaways

  • Learn principles and tools from community organizing that will help make your online campaign more effective

  • Discover the REAL killer app: Strategy! Apply movement planning and campaign mapping for successful social change

  • Map out a real online campaign based on community organizing principles, and get feedback from facilitators and fellow participants


4. Open Source CMS Roundtable

Editors Note: Who wouldn't enjoy listening to the good old Drupal Vs Joomla debate? On a more serious note, there has been a huge surge in nonprofits migrating to open source content management systems. Get the low down before you invest in a new platform.

Drupal vs. Wordpress vs. Joolma

How do you choose your organization's next Content Management System? What questions do you need to ask? Does the technology really matter? What about the size of the CMS community? Is the most popular one really the best option? Will my CMS still be the most suitable option in a year from now?

This panel discussion and Q&A session will include experts from companies supporting all three systems to help you learn what you need to know.

Session Takeaways

  • What are the advantages & disadvantages of each CMS

  • Learn the right questions to ask before you make a decision

  • Discover the current status of the top 3 CMS communities


5. Fundraiser’s Confidential: A Heart to Heart about the Missing Soul of Our Work

Editors Note: Be honest, is your fundraising team writing passionate fundraising appeals? Is your team filled with story tellers? This session will be an eye opener with lots of useful strategies that your nonprofit can start using right after the conference.

Is your online fundraising falling flat? This is a session for those of us who feel like we’re missing something – specifically, missing gifts. First, there are the obvious missing gifts: the donations that aren’t pouring in as fast as we wish. But second, we may be lacking a more crucial gift – a talent for connecting with our work and our supporters in a passionate, profound and lasting way at a time when donors expect more than ever from their giving experiences. Learn 10 things that urgently need to change about fundraising – and memorable ways to transform each, making your fundraising efforts vastly more psychologically rewarding for your donors, financially rewarding for your organization, and emotionally rewarding for yourself. Fundraising should not only work well – it should feel good for the giver and the fundraiser. A warning from Mark and Katya: this session might get mushy. And that’s not a bad thing.

Session Takeaways

  • Learn 10 things that urgently need to change about fundraising

  • Leave with important ways to transform each

  • Get inspired about your work

What are your picks for the 11th annual NTC conference?


Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.