Nonprofit Technology Conference: Smart phones, networking, and generosity

Last week, Jason Vance (Small Act's resident pathfinder, AKA sales guy) and I headed down to Atlanta for NTEN's Nonprofit Technology Conference. Three days of learning and networking later, we have a lot to talk about! Here are a few observations about the event. (Oh, and if you weren't able to attend, you can check out lots of awesome presentations from NTC online.)

Nonprofit leaders are moving up in the world

I was really impressed and, admittedly, surprised by the number of smart phones I saw at the event. It seemed nearly everyone had an iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. One guy casually left his brand-new iPad out on the hotel bar, presumably so people would come up and ask him about it (a great networking strategy!). And several vendors in the exhibit hall were giving away iPads, too. I think it would be interesting to do a survey of the distribution of smart phones among nonprofit leaders, and how many of those smart phones are paid for by the nonprofit versus the individual.

NTC makes networking fun

One thing that really tickled me were the ways in which the conference encouraged people to network. In every registration packet, people received three packs of NTEN-themed stickers and a slip of paper with a QR code on it. You were encouraged to trade stickers until you had ten different ones to trade in for a prize, and you also could scan ten different QR codes to unlock a secret phrase that would earn you a prize. While waiting in line or waiting for meals to start, it was amazing to see how quickly these little networking games came into play - they were perfect icebreakers, and I wish all conferences would incorporate something similar.

NTEN members are generous with their time

On Thursday morning, famed nonprofit-tech blogger Beth Kanter led a volunteering opportunity where Atlanta-based nonprofit professionals were paired up with NTC attendees for a couple hours of free consulting. The really impressive thing is that there were many more volunteers than there were people in need of consulting - most people were paired up with two or three consultants! A big group even took a bus to go install a wifi network at a local nonprofit. It was really cool to see people giving so generously of their time when they could have been sitting in learning sessions.

Did you attend the event? What struck you the most?