AWS Public Sector Blog

Highlights from the Nonprofit Technology Conference

A guest post by Victoria Anania, Communications and Development Coordinator, 501cTECH

From March 23rd-25th, the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) held the Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Jose, California. It’s THE technology event of the year for the nonprofit sector. With over 2,000 nonprofit attendees and supporting technology exhibitors, it’s a once a year opportunity to bring together nonprofit staff from all over the country – and some as far away as the UK and China – to connect with one another, to learn from each other, and to discover new ways to use technology to impact social change.

With the generous support of Amazon Web Services, my colleague Marc Noel and I were fortunate enough to attend. We owe a huge thanks to them for their demonstrated commitment to supporting nonprofits and driving social change.

Up and Coming Trends

Following the conference, Marc and I caught up with Ash Shepherd, NTEN’s Education Director, who shared his insight on what was different at NTC this year and what direction the nonprofit sector seems to be going. Here are two big trends he noticed:

Shift in Data Focus: From a Big Push for Collecting Data to an Emphasis on Using Data

Over the last few years, organizations have focused on collecting as much data as possible. Data is great, but it needs to be evaluated and used in context. This year, there was an emphasis on:

  • Data-driven storytelling
  • Data-driven decision making
  • Prioritizing what data is collected

What does this mean in an age when organizations can collect data on almost anything? I spoke with Chris Tuttle, a well-known thought leader in the “nonprofit tech” world and presenter at 16NTC, who had some helpful advice:

  • Start with measurement, don’t collect data as an afterthought.
  • Goals are vital, use analytics funnels to measure: how people find your content, how they engage, what actions people take and how you know those actions are completed.
  • Vanity metrics, like registered users, downloads, and raw pageviews, don’t denote success, but they aren’t throwaway metrics – they help spot trends and understand how we might change our work in the moment.

Educational Presentations are Incorporating More Activities

This year, more than ever before, many sessions included hands-on activities. Recent professional programming is designed around the understanding that professionals don’t want to be spoon-fed information; they want to be practical. They are looking for ways to solve problems and become better at their jobs.

Activities during breakout sessions allowed attendees to:

  • Share challenges they face at their jobs
  • Immediately apply new knowledge they gained from the speakers
  • Collaborate with peers to do strategic problem solving

This approach to professional development links back to the overarching goal of NTEN: to inspire nonprofit professionals to learn, connect, and impact change.

Great Resources

Want to keep learning about nonprofit technology? You can!

Social Media – Follow #16NTC on Twitter. This hashtag is still buzzing on Twitter weeks later. Full of lessons learned at breakout sessions, links to collaborative notes, and pictures of different events, it’s absolutely worth checking out.

Collaborative Notes – Every breakout session had a ready-to-go collaborative notes page where attendees could write down big takeaways to review later. They’re now available online!

Nonprofit Tech Clubs – Cities all over the US and Canada have tech clubs that are free, informal, volunteer-run groups of nonprofit professionals passionate about using technology to further their missions. They host regular events where professionals can get together to network and learn about the latest technology tools and trends. Sound interesting? Find your local tech club today! Marc and I are the organizers for the DC Tech Club and we’d love for you to attend one of our events if you’re in the DMV area! They’re usually held at the Amazon Web Services Washington, DC office near Union Station.

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the AWS Public Sector blog team writes for the government, education, and nonprofit sector around the globe. Learn more about AWS for the public sector by visiting our website (, or following us on Twitter (@AWS_gov, @AWS_edu, and @AWS_Nonprofits).