Earlier this month I attended the Nonprofit Technology Network’s (NTEN) Nonprofit Technology Conference (14NTC) in Washington, DC. NTEN is this energetic community of tech people who use their skills to improve nonprofits rather than running off to the private sector. Everyone genuinely wants to hear about each other’s work. Everyone shares tips freely because they’re trying to make the world a better place rather than trying to sell their book. It’s an amazing, inspiring environment.

Today I’m sharing a few highlights from my conference experience. You can also view more photos on NTEN’s Flickr photostream or by searching Twitter for the #14NTC hashtag.

14NTC by the Numbers

The conference focused on all aspects of nonprofit technology: social media, data, fundraising, communications, and marketing.

Wordle made from 14NTC Conference Agenda



And a little-known fact is that NTC-ers wear the best glasses of any professional society I’m in.


Opportunities to connect with colleagues

The best part of any conference is the opportunity to connect with colleagues, both new and old. I kicked off the conference with Stephen Blyth who travelled to DC all the way from New Zealand! We sought out food he couldn’t get as easily back home–Jamaican food! Read Stephen’s conference recap on his storify.  

Photo credit: Stephen Blyth

Photo credit: Stephen Blyth


One of the biggest treats of the conference was unexpectedly running into Lauren Hasey Maher, my philanthropy friend from DC.

I recently joined the NTEN Research Committee and enjoyed a kick-off lunch with Debra Askanese, Joseph Klem, Russell Feldman, Martin Dooley, and Sue Anne Reed.


Last year at 13NTC in Minneapolis, I presented a 5-minute Ignite session about bar charts. This year, I presented a 90-minute workshop with Johanna Morariu and Andrew Means titled “DataViz! Tips, Tools, and How-Tos for Visualizing Your Data.”

We welcomed people into the session by sharing  a real-life dataviz parade:


Photo credit: Broken Banjo Photography via Flickr


What do I love most about the NTEN community? People are so eager to learn new skills that they’ll sit on the floor during your session.

We shared case studies from our own experiences, discussed best practices in chart design, and showed a few chart remakes. Here are the full slides. You can also download our resource handout that describes our favorite tech tools for analyzing and visualizing data.

A few of my favorite sessions

I went to a great session about improving reports by creating video-based reports, clickable PDFs, and online reports. Yasmin Nguyen demonstrated how nonprofits can capture and upload videos within minutes.

And of course I sought out evaluation-focused sessions! Sheri Chaney Jones explained the difference between outputs and outcomes by comparing McDonald’s and Five Guys. McDonald’s may sell more burgers (outputs) but Five Guys’ gourmet burgers are tastier (outcomes). Great explanation!

Sheri Chaney Jones also shared this list of 12 types of outcomes that nonprofits might be working towards. I might post this next to my desk as a reminder of outcomes to consider when building logic models with nonprofits.



Technology technology everywhere

NTEN livestreams a few sessions, and makes those recordings available to attendees afterwards, and speakers freely share their session materials, and attendees take notes during each session. This collaborative notetaking is entirely attendee-led and allows the conference to spread well beyond the hotel walls (aka to nonprofits in other countries, and to nonprofits whose budget limitations didn’t allow them to send more than one or two staff members).

Attendees shared insights through the #14NTC hashtag. There were 18,000+ Twitter conversations during the 3-day conference! Trish Forant wrote this post summarizing findings from her hashtag analysis. NTEN even set up computer monitors in hallways that displayed the live feed:

And each session had its own hashtag. I made these quickie social network maps for a couple of sessions based on data that was available through NodeXL. The density of each network map is remarkable.


What a great conference! NTEN is even expanding by holding a second annual conference. San Francisco this September, anyone?

P.S. It’s my second blog-o-versary!

I published my first post in March 2012. Over the past two years, I’ve published 113 posts on my blog plus about 999 posts, papers, and presentations through other blogs and professional associations (you can view my full Portfolio here).

Blogging has been one of the best things I could do for myself both professionally and personally. I enjoy teaching others about evaluation, data analysis, and data visualization. I can’t describe the satisfaction I get when readers tell me they’ve applied something I’ve taught them to their own work. (Have you used one of my tips in your everyday work? Let me know! It makes my day.)

What’s next? I’m working towards two goals: 1) becoming a rockstar public speaker and trainer (check out upcoming speaking engagements in my Event Calendar) and 2) leading the evaluation and dataviz fields forward (e.g., leadership roles within the Data Visualization and Reporting TIG, Washington Evaluators, and other professional organizations). So, less frequent writing and more speaking and leading. Stay tuned, and thanks for a great two years!