Note: This post refers to an archived publication! Visit for the most recent versions of all our Benchmarks Studies.

Sarah, Steve, Megan and I were the lucky M+R staffers who got to attend this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco earlier this week.

Some personal highlights were the release of our 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study (couldn’t make it to NTC but still want the scoop? RSVP here for our upcoming benchmarks webinar!) and these awesome illustrated notes the folks at Rally took during my colleague Steve’s session on using storytelling in nonprofit fundraising (based on the super-popular Storytelling and the Art of Email Writing).

We also LOVED having a chance to take a step back and think about the big picture with friends and colleagues we don’t see every day.

Here are some of our top take-aways from this year’s conference. What would you add?

  1. Visuals matter. When faced with a problem, try drawing out the solution. Literally. Dan Roam, who’s well known for his back-of-the-napkin explanation of health care has got us thinking about how we can think visually.
  2. One size does not fit all. Organizations attending the conference varied widely in terms of their online program’s size and capacity. While there were a lot of great ideas for how organizations could improve their online programs, each group should think through whether a tactic is appropriate for them, given their current reality and goals.
  3. Focus your email strategy on producing great content. There is still a lot of concern over how to message your email list in a way that minimizes unsubscribes. While that’s certainly an important thing to consider, we think people are approaching this from the wrong angle. The focus should really be on writing and producing amazing emails that engage your readers (check our storytelling whitepaper for ideas).
  4. Failures can be an opportunity to learn. A lot of people at the conference were eager to learn from mistakes. We should be willing to talk about our failures openly and learn from them.
  5. We need innovation, not just iteration. At the conference, Holly from NTEN made a great point that organizations and the non-profit tech industry need to move forward through innovation, rather than iteration. However, in the sessions we went to, we found that most of what people were talking about were iterations of what we already know. Admittedly, even our own sessions were more about small changes than big. As online programs have advanced and matured, organizations are looking for more sophisticated sessions and ideas. Something for all of us to think about in the next year!