Voices from the Third Sector

Nonprofit Technology Leveraged for Change


If you’ve spent any amount of time on Third Sector Today, you have seen mentions, references and shout outs to NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network. This organization is a membership of nonprofit technology professionals, guided by belief that “…technology allows nonprofits to work with greater social impact. [We] enable [our] members to strategically use technology to make the world a better, just, and equitable place.”  And, just as the import of technology within nonprofits has grown so, too, has the community since its beginnings in the late 1990’s.

Third Sector Today (3ST)  is very pleased to share an interview with NTEN’s CEO, Amy Sample Ward, in an effort to share perspectives of nonprofit leaders from whom others can learn.

Q: NTEN is currently updating its website. What was at the top of your list of “Must-Haves” for the new site? What advice do you have to share with others who are heading into this process?

A: Amy Sample Ward: Three of our biggest requirements were:

1. Responsiveness and accessibility - this is critical for us as we rely on our website for the vast majority of our contact with the community and program delivery. If it doesn’t work for them, it isn’t working for us.

2. Dynamic content - we have A LOT of content, since articles, research, recordings, and other resources are basically the output of our work every day. As such, creating a structure to display, sort, and organize content automatically based on any number of triggers or filters will help users find the resources they are after.

3. User personalization - this is certainly connected to dynamic content but is also very much tied to our membership engagement strategy. As a membership organization, we want to ensure that program participation and content access is tracked in a meaningful way to help surface and deliver the most valuable content each time someone visits the website.

I would recommend that any organization treat a website redesign as an opportunity to engage a diverse set of users from the community and to better understand their needs, wants, and goals - not just for using and interacting with your website but for all of the reasons that they come to you for either content, programs, or services. It’s an opportunity to improve your website, sure; but it is also a really great opportunity to improve your messaging, your programs, and even your strategies.

Q: We’re looking forward to the upcoming Leading Change Summit (#14LCS). Can you share with us the inspiration behind launching this—and why you feel it’s a conference that needs to exist now?

A: Both technology and the way we do our work is changing at an accelerating rate. Our intention with the Leading Change Summit is to create a space where people with diverse ideas and experiences representing all kinds and sizes of organizations can think together about what those changes mean for their organizations and this sector. It isn’t a theoretical conversation, though, as all of the workshops and the overall agenda which closes with the Idea Accelerator, aim to push participants forward and start charting the course for action.

Q: Congratulations on being named an American Express NGen Fellow by Independent Sector! What do you hope the collaboration will do for the sector?

A: I’m honored to be included in the next NGen Fellowship Cohort and really looking forward to meeting the other participants. The program launches at the Independent Sector conference which means not only will I be meeting the rest of the cohort but also networking with many different leaders in the nonprofit sector. My goal is to find opportunities, even in nontraditional spaces, to grow and expand NTEN’s impact of supporting organizations operating more effectively and efficiently and making real, lasting change.

Q: Having just celebrated your 1 year anniversary as CEO of NTEN, what was your most inspiring moment? What was your greatest challenge?

A: The most inspiring moment had to be at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference. It is such an inspiring event every year, because this is such a remarkable community: everyone is focused on sharing and learning together, and a genuine care for each other. This is certainly a community that recognizes a rising tide lifts all ships and the NTC is a place where you see, in real time, people striving to rise the tide. This year’s NTC was my first as the CEO and to see it be a success - as well as to set internal records for our registration numbers, the diversity in attendee countries, and even the number of sponsors and exhibitors - renewed my energy, my spirit, and my excitement.

I think the greatest challenge was was the same in any job: balancing an onboarding period where you’re adjusting and learning new things while against needing to keep things moving.

Q: We’ve blogged here about how Net Neutrality is an issue that should be of major concern to the general public and nonprofits. What would you like to share with our audience about this topic, how its loss could affect nonprofits, what action can be taken?

A: As nonprofits, we have a two-part interest in Net Neutrality. First, we need to maintain a free and open Web in order to successfully do our work and reach our missions - if we are having to compete in an increasingly digital world where simply visiting our website or accessing online services is more difficult than it already is today, I think many nonprofits will find our community engagement, fundraising, and program delivery all decrease. Secondly, nonprofits also serve as a critical point of contact to all those they serve and should use that relationship not only to provide programs and services but also to equip their community members with the digital skills to navigate a Web where they can find other critical services, access information, and engage as a digital citizen.

The period for replies on the Federal Communications Commission’s process is extended and you can add your voice here: https://www.dearfcc.org/

You can connect with Amy Sample Ward Twitter. Her handle is: @Amyrsward

Check out our posts featuring coverage of #14NTC

  • http://amysampleward.org/ Amy Sample Ward

    Thanks so much for inviting me for an interview and featuring NTEN!

    • Amy DeVita

      My pleasure- It’s really helpful to a lot of us out here to have your perspective and understand what NTEN has to offer. Please keep us in the loop!

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