Thoughts from the NTC

Yes, I changed the title of this post from ‘Notes from the NTC’ to Thoughts from the NTC. I am adding the collaboratively taken notes  in another post and prefer that takes the title ‘Notes from NTC’

Its the second day of the NTEN Non-profit technology conference (NTC) and my third in Washington DC.

Even though the 2nd day of three is justing getting to its end, I am already feeling a loss – a loss of the physical community I have come to know in the last two days.
Loss of the rush of looking for meeting rooms where issues of interest to me and the organization that paid for my trip here and hopping between two/three meeting rooms trying to get the best of two/three worlds – sincerely, I think NTC should be spread over two weeks and sessions repeated in order to allow all of us benefit from the many good choices of workshops and discussions.

Yesterday, I immersed myself in several of the product highlights/exibition sessions. Two of particular interests were (a) NPOWER’s demystification of Microsoft Dynamix (Microsoft’s answer to the question of CRM) aptly tagged by the presenters as xRM (x can be: constituents, customers, citizens or simply x) and (b) The session by Google’s Public Data team describing DSPL which enables visualization of ‘public data’. I am able to immediately see the advantages and possibilities of deploying Microsoft’s Dynamix viz: similar interface as all MS tools (easing rate of adoption and reducing drastically cost of training) multiple deployment scenarios (on premise and cloud based) + flexibility to adapt to specific and varying organizational needs feature rich MS’ after sales service and for non-profits, low cost of ownership (all 501c NGOs can get free/subsidized licenses from TechSoup and those NGOs outside the US can enjoy similar benefits from a TechSoup partner like SANGONet in South Africa) Perhaps the only downside to Dynamix is the high cost of hiring a consultant to manage its deployment. Google perhaps has the most to offer non-profits.

I will get to the Public Data session in a second.

It has simplified the application process for its offerings for non-profits by putting all in a basket accessible via a single application and better still cut the wait time for knowing the status of your application from forever to 30 days (but I am certain we are not far from that reducing drastically to only a few days and perhaps just a couple of hours). Google Apps for non-profits I hear now supports non-profits with up to three thousand users and includes access to enterprise grade cloud resources including: gMail, google docs and several others (ok, you caught me there, these are my two fags!). Google map and earth have also become amazing.
With capacities to enable story telling and much more, pro version of Google earth are also now available to interested non-profits.
In her bid to empower organizations and individuals to create visuals from their data as well as create visuals of search results – graphs, charts, layers etc. – google developed a version of XML, DSPL and a platform to enable members of the public visualize publicly available data. I hope to find immediate application for this, given the enormous data gathered and analyzed by CIVICUS’ research team every year in its bid to map the state and health of civil society globally, a result of which are annual country level reports christened the Civil Society Index and the new but actively used online resource for tracking threats to civil society and citizens effort to motivate this – this tool is
I also attended the ‘We are Media Session’ on blogging and enjoyed the discussion and appreciate the general/mutual appreciation that WordPress has come of age as a web publishing/presence management solution – it can be used today to create whole websites for individuals and organizations without complex online presence needs. The Science fair – don’t know why NTEN called it that, as it was more of product exhibitions than a fair – brought to the fore many solutions for no-profit CRM. I identified a few which I have either evaluated, currently use or have read about.
These include Constant Contact, Network for Good, Convio etc.
There were also a couple I am hearing of for the first time () and a one whose cubicle was manned a sales person either too tired to answer my questions or simply didn’t know how the tool is designed to work. The evening ended with my hope of getting a free iPad dashed as all 5 up for grabs went to others and none to me 🙁

Day two saw me reach an ecstatic high on the possibilities of online fund raising when Balckbaud’s Director of Internet Solutions presented a workshop on 5 trends of online giving and in the style of Steve Jobs of Apple computers added a 6th trend: Moilbe. Insert screenshots of tweets from this session.

Earlier, I was in a workshop where Analytics was discussed. Ideas around best practices were discussed and major take away for me from this session is ‘to increasingly allow my colleagues access to the organization’s analytic records. Treesaver was touted as well a savior for trees – an open source mobile publishing platform that allows cross platform mobile apps compatibility without the hassles of coding for each platform, or redirecting your audience first to one of the many apps stores before it can be deployed. This is another solution I like to look more into. and there were all those happy hours I missed because I had to put my jet lagged body to sleep!



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