2014 NTEN Conference Report

2014 NTEN Conference Report

By ginaschmeling   /     Apr 11, 2014  /     Conference Report, Fundraising, Nonprofits, Social Media Series  /     , ,

Listening & Pull:  A synthesis of the social listening thread from the Nonprofit Technology Network Conference, March 13-15 Washington, DC.

The annual gathering of NTEN (#14NTC) brought the focus on donor experience to a fine point. For fundraisers, the message was clear. Listening is a vital development skill.

Social listening rarely evolves organically. For most of us, there’s a scramble just to get in the game. If your organization was an early adopter of social media there are solid ways to refine listening. The challenge is to keep our sea legs while preparing for what’s ahead.

Social fluency may seem overwhelming.

A quick, honest look at at your organization’s social, digital, and print should tell us something. Do you:

  • Invite response and conversation, beyond gifts and actions
  • Let constituents know what you offer, and where to find you (web, social, offline)
  • Give voice to different members of your community (board, staff, participants, donors)

If not, you are directing your messaging out. One-way blasting can be a pitfall. Worse, it can seriously hamstring future goals and fundraising.

Let’s agree. Social media is not a straight-up marketing tool. Social listening is not a luxury.

The amazing and wise Danielle Brigida (@starfocus) of National Wildlife Federation nailed it: “Social is not a check box. No more pushing!”

If you are listening, you will have pull.

Pull means a host of engagement data, or what constituents offer: donations, comments, posts, shares, stories, photos, sign ups, etc. If your crowd gives, you have pull for real.

Here are channel-by-channel ways to enhance social listening. Many from @AlecStern (Constant Contact) and his session, Grow Your Nonprofit with Social Media and Email, #14NTCctct, and Bridging the Gap Between Social Media and CRM, #14NTCSocialCRM with Danielle and two Heller Consulting teammates, Jenn Smith @jennlunalucy and @BryanGiese.


Ideally, your site is the starting point. It feeds your email list, brings in donations, ties in social media.

  • Easy Email list sign up. The best way to build your numbers.
  • Prominent Donate button. Attractive, fun, mission accurate.
  • Clear Social buttons. Not tacked on.
  • “Commonality” (Alec’s term) between web and emails in look and messaging.
  • Mobile is changing everything. Prepare for mobile optimization, or know that you will need to.

Email (Alec’s tips for Email genius)

Email for story-telling and engagement. Both? Yup!

  • New fun thing: Cliffhangers or installment emails.
  • Keep emails short, simple, easy to read on mobile.
  • Key action “above the fold,” instantly readable on mobile.
  • One action per email.
  • Include Social buttons.
  • Add Join Email list link to staff signatures.
  • Make Welcome or Thank you email fresh and personal. Change it, review it, own it.
  • Pro tip: Write subject line after composing email, and include your org’s name or acronym.


Social media is a gathering place. If nothing is being exchanged, it’s not working. I found Jenn Smith’s 5 rules re: Social Media incredibly useful, worth citing verbatim. (Thank you Jenn! I like her voice here.)

  1. You don’t have to be everywhere. Really, you don’t.
  2. Know where you can find your audience.
  3. Two-way engagement – it’s not just a stupid marketing term.
  4. Know what you are trying to answer or solve through you social media strategy.
  5. Think beyond growth.

Great orgs also:

  • Put social engagement data on par with donation data, measuring and analyzing. Even loaded into your CRM.  The result is a stronger profile of your people.
  • Review social media “voices.” No reposting the same info across platforms.
  • Ask – yes! – for posts and shares, MTs and QTs.
  • Pro tip for Facebook (from Alec): Video increases engagement 100%, a single photo 120%.  Wildly, photo albums bring a 180% uptick. Perhaps they tell a fuller story still with a quick look?

Legitimizing listening unlocks forward thinking. These are a few ways into that future. You don’t have to go it alone.

Please share what works for you. I would love to hear! If you are not an NTEN member, consider joining. Many cities have NTEN 501 Tech Clubs, where you will learn tons and have a ball. Connecting with the techies might even make the hard work seem like fun. The way it should. 

For more conference takeaways, check out Connected Cause’s Social Snapshot.

Related to this post

Andrea Learned (@andrealearned) who lives up to her name with every post, on why Social skills = Leadership skills.

Heather Mansfield on the mobile future for nonprofit social media.  It’s coming! Are we ready? (@nonprofitorgsMobile for Good.



One Comment

  1. Pingback: Storytelling with Intimacy and Impact, #15NTC | gina schmeling

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