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What Makes a Stellar Nonprofit Technology Conference?

You ask 100 nonprofit professionals, you’ll get 100 answers.  Aside from one thing, working WIFI 😉

This week’s Inaugural AFP International TechKnow Conference did nail that one.
They also nailed the headliner closing session -Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak.  More on him in a bit.

But did AFP’s REWIRE TO INSPIRE hit the mark this week in Orlando?

Depends on who you ask.  Certainly I know attendance was less than hoped, but given this was a first-time event & our economy is less than stellar, not all that shocking.

Truth: You can never please everyone.
Another truth? We’re not all in the same boat.

Can you imagine if conferences added stipulations like, ‘Only nonprofits with budgets between 5 and 10 million should attend” or “Educational institutions will gain the most from this conference” – absolute craziness.   We can’t expect one conference to be the holy grail of learning, particularly with technology, where drastic changes are happening quarterly, if not faster.

Given these challenges, establishing an ideal balance of content and depth is no easy feat.  Tech conferences today need a mash-up of tactical and conceptual.  Some attendees need to understand the WHY as well as the HOW.  They need to understand how drastically our world is changing and why technology must be adopted to survive as a nonprofit moving forward.

Cisco’s Carlos Dominguez laid it down straight:
“I don’t care what business your in – you’re being re-booted”.

In other words, what once worked no longer applies.  The old rules of having a decent website and a big mailing list to solicit to simply don’t cut it.  Cisco is having conferences with hologram’s – showing people onstage in India having full conversations with folks “LIVE” –  when they’re actually in the US.  While extreme and irrelevant to most nonprofits – my point is – the flip MUST be switched.

Here’s what I’d like to know:

Can we somehow use technology to port board members & executive directors (those pesky buggers who hold the purse-strings but don’t know it’s time to get on the train before it leaves the station) – to these conferences?

I heard a lot of fear  and downright frustration about this fact from nonprofit leaders this week.

One woman from a Florida nonprofit who will go un-named said:
“I’m learning so many amazing things here, but it’s discouraging to go back and not be able to implement anything innovative.” 

This problem is not the Association of Fundraising Professional’s job to fix.  Or is it?  In my estimation, AFP did a good job of covering today’s technology and how to engage, manage and reach donors more effectively as the world goes whizzing by.    Perhaps a bit heavy on the social media side since social media channels don’t directly raise large amounts of money. Unless I missed it, I didn’t see a session listed on selling technology investments to leadership and boards. (I sense a piece from me on that soon) THAT would have been a packed house, don’t you think?

But hey, the good news is, it’s the first one and only has room for improvement.  The important thing is that AFP sees the need to offer a conference to it’s members that is exclusively dedicated to technology and it’s impact on fundraising and engagement.

You’re On The Air!

A great event enhancement  was the live radio shows,  reaching those unable to attend TechKnow.  I enjoyed talking about nonprofit mobile strategy as a guest with Jonah Halper & Brian Reich on Charity Radio Show  (who by the way have an amazing & FREE show next week with Guy Kawasaki) along with Laura Howe of American Red Cross and Carlos Dominguez of Cisco.   This and Ted Hart’s Radio Show added to the atmosphere and brought learning outside of Orlando’s Gaylord Palm Resort.

Back To The Woz

The co-founder of Apple Computers had some great one liners & quotes.  I clipped a short video of The Woz talking about his start with Apple and uncanny ability to poke fun at himself.   Enjoy!

Finally, I met some amazing and genuine people who made my conference experience fantastic including, Josh from the Palm Beach School for Autism, Ashley Hansen of Care2 a fantastic organization helping nonprofits generate online leads, Ghazal Vaghedi with Engaging Networks Justin Ware with nonprofit strategic consulting firm Bentz Whaley Flessner – just to name a few.  Thanks!

I’d love to hear constructive feedback on what others thought of the conference.  Are you ready to tele-port your board to the next one?  I’m inspired to create a toolkit calling “Sell Mobile Technology to Non-techie Leadership”   Who’s In?

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