16-ntc-finalThis March, I had the opportunity to attend the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) in San Jose. It was my fourth NTC – I attended ’12 in San Francisco, ’13 in Minneapolis, and ’15 online.

This year, I attended sessions on community engagement, technology project management, and systems design, and arranged a small (but mighty!) dinner for legal techies.

Between the plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and network discussions, it was a wonderful opportunity to get together with others facing analogous challenges, successes, and  goals in the non-profit technology space. Upon reflection of my previous experiences at NTC, I was particularly impressed by two things at this year’s conference:

1) The level of sophistication and creativity with which non-profits with limited resources are approaching technology projects

Sessions this year went beyond introducing tools and general approaches/best practices, into in-depth into case studies of non-profit technology projects.  It’s no longer just about learning about the latest technology trends. It’s about sharing with each other how we are implementing A/B testing, tag managers, change management plans and more. It’s about putting our heads together to come up with creative solutions to common challenges in the non-profit sector.

2) The level of sophistication and nuance with which non-profits approach technology and technology projects, more broadly speaking

Working with technology, it can be easy to get lost in the tools and to treat technology development as the end goal. Many of the plenary speakers this year, however, refocused on how technology is shaped and amplified by the forces and values that develop and utilize them. In other words, if you are part of a community that is centered on access to justice, serving the underprivileged, environmental conservation, etc. –  your technology work will reflect this. With mission-driven ethos, nonprofits can be influencers in how we conceptualize and engage with technology.

Perhaps this experience is just a proxy for the shift of my own thinking on non-profit technology development, innovation and engagement. I often hear about how we have so much to learn from other industries, but I’m beginning to think – maybe it’s the other way around?


The Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) is the nonprofit sector’s signature technology event. They assemble over 2,000 of the best and brightest nonprofit professionals from around the world. Together, they collaborate, innovate, and discover new ways to spark change with technology. The NTC is produced by NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network, the membership organization of nonprofit technology professionals. 

 

  • Megan Keane

    Hi Jillian, thanks for the terrific post. I agree – I am always impressed by the creativity and tech ingenuity on display at NTC every year. There are some really inspiring folks not only for the social change work they are doing, but for how they are using technology in smart ways without a lot of resources. Thanks for coming and hope to catch you at a future NTC.