October 2009

I know I can sound like a broken record when it comes to our TechNow conference (“come to TechNow, come to TechNow!”) but it is heartfelt and not just promotional marketing.

I was a TechNow attendee before I started working at the Bayer Center.  It was my first technology conference and it opened my eyes to the fact that I wasn’t alone in my “nptech” endeavors.  I used to be the mostly one-person IT shop at my old nonprofit, and TechNow helped me to expand my support network, meet some new vendors, and to think about the possibilities.  It can be difficult to be innovative when you deal with the same grind day-in and day-out, without taking time out to sharpen the saw and to think and dream about “what could be” rather than what is.

I’m also excited about this year because our keynote speaker is Ami Dar from Idealist.org.  Ami is amazing, in my opinion, because he has been all over the world, is self-made (see below for details), and is truly innovative in his thinking.  I’ve read and watched interviews and speeches by Ami, and I know he’s going to bring us all something great to stretch our minds and challenge our paradigms.

I recently asked Ami to complete a list that I used in a promotional email.  His answers were pretty neat, so I’m going to repeat it here for anyone who hasn’t seen it:

10 Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know About TechNow 2009 Keynote Speaker, Ami Dar

  1. AmiDar_webHe was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Peru and in Mexico, and lives in New York.
  2. He dropped out of high school and didn’t go to college.
  3. He can’t drive.
  4. Thirty years ago he was a paratrooper in the Israeli army.
  5. There is a classic video game that shares his name: “Amidar,” released in the 80’s by Atari.
  6. He started Idealist in his apartment with $3,500.
  7. He loves playing backgammon.
  8. He eats everything except eggplant and spinach.
  9. He gets annoyed by conference organizers who call themselves “curators.”
  10. Many people who meet him online think he is a woman.

Fascinating guy, eh?  I personally can’t wait to hear what he has to say!  And now it’s time for one last shameless plug…

There’s still time to register and hear Ami speak at the TechNow 2009 nonprofit technology conference, which will happen at Robert Morris University’s Sewall Center on Thursday, October 29!

Visit http://technow2009.wordpress.com for more details and registration information.


Note:  The early bird registration deadline for the TechNow 2009 conference is this Thursday, October 8!  Register at http://www.rmu.edu/bayercenterregistration to take advantage of the discounted fee.

Presenting Sponsor: TowerCare Technologies

Presenting Sponsor: TowerCare Technologies

Summer draws to an end, the kids go back to school, and leaves start changing colors.  That means it’s nearly time for TechNow!

TechNow is the Bayer Center’s annual conference devoted to the new and important technology trends and resources for nonprofits.  Since TechNow affects virtually every area of a nonprofit’s mission, it is beneficial for non-techies as well as techies to attend.  We promise you’ll learn a lot, network with like-minded people, and…have fun!

For more info on the conference, including breakout session, keynote info, and scholarship/payment options, visit the conference website at http://technow2009.wordpress.com.

Here is this year’s list of the top ten reasons you should attend TechNow:

10.  Cream pies are back!!

9.  Your friends will be there.  If you don’t know anyone into nonprofit tech, you will have new friends by the time you leave…we guarantee it.

8.  The exhibitor who gave away the widescreen TV last year has hinted about bringing another fantastic give-away.  They won’t say what it is, so we’re all left to guess at it.  (The Bayer Center has a few fantastic give-aways of its own stashed and ready.)

7.  If you’re getting stimulus money (or federal funding of any kind), your website must be compliant with Section 508 web accessibility guidelines.  There will be a breakout session where you can find out what that means.

6.  USB drives are back.  Conference materials will be pre-loaded, so note-taking is optional.

5.  Our exhibitors are great local tech companies who “get” nonprofit organizations.

4.  If you don’t know about GIS, thin clients, user interface design, or green IT…you’ll learn all kinds of new stuff!


Our Keynote Speaker: Ami Dar, Founder & Executive Director of Idealist.org

3.  The conference has its own Twitter feed!  Follow it at http://twitter.com/TechNowConf. We will broadcast the feed on the main screen during the conference so you can give immediate feedback for sessions, locate friends and colleagues, tweet interesting session points, etc.

2.  We have scholarships available and a “Budget Impasse Payment Plan” – visit the conference website for details:  http://technow2009.wordpress.com.

1.  Ami Dar, Ami Dar, Ami Dar!  ‘Nuff said!

Register today by calling 412-397-6000 or online at:  http://www.rmu.edu/BCNMregistration. We hope to see you there!

Along with 500 of my closest colleagues, I attended the Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania‘s Nonprofit Summit last Thursday.  As usual, the event was a great chance to see old friends and hear what’s new.  The fact that it occurred in early October this year made it feel even more like homecoming; if it’s in October again next year, maybe we can have a nonprofit football game to round out the day’s events.

I wanted to share a few things that I took away from the event:

  • Robert Egger of DC Central Kitchen reframed nonprofit collaboration.  I’d always thought of nonprofit collaboration – and Egger obviously thinks most of us have – as being focused on organizations coming together around mission.  Egger said we have reasons other than mission for coming together; owning our status as members of a sectore with shared strengths and issues has value in itself.  For example, he said that we never get any mainstream media coverage except for scandal and fluff.
  • Scott Hudson of the Alcoa Foundation said he has three questions when it comes to grants, speaking in social venture capitalist terms:
    • What are we buying?
    • What are the chances that we’ll get it?
    • Is this the best use of the money?
  • Larry Berger of the Saturday Light Brigade made a distinction that I have made before and one that I hold dear: the distinction between data and information.  One can’t have information without data, but it is possible to collect data and not turn it into information.
  • Janera Solomon talked about how she had to make the hard decision to choose quality over quantity at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.  This is a bold decision because quality is harder to evaluate objectively than is quantity, but she felt like she had to do it because the attribute her audience complained about was inconsistency.  If the Theater books fewer acts but they’re higher quality, the strategic thinking goes, the audience will build in future years.
  • During the Wishart Awards ceremony, I noticed that two of the three finalists used stories as the center of their videos.  They picked a client and gave a thumbnail of their lives before and after they’d found their way to the agency’s programs.  I remember those two videos a lot more than the other one, which was no less visually appealing but lacked a story to hold it together.

When my husband Brad and I got married 7 years ago, we decided to make it priority to squirrel money away every year and make sure that our 2 weeks’ vacation is used for exactly that – vacation.  Each year since then, those two weeks have consisted of:


1.  A week long road trip teemed with sleeping in unusually shaped hotel rooms, seeing “the world’s largest” something, and taking pictures of our stuffed alligator Terrence with as many national landmarks as possible.

2.  Going to Disney World.
Brad and I are complete nerds for Disney World.  We ride the rides, get our pictures taken with characters – the whole nine yards.  As a matter of fact, you can ask me on any given day how many days until Disney World (today – 64) and I will be able to tell you.  In January of this year, we decided on a whim to drive down and camp in the Disney campgrounds so we could take advantage of their “get in free on your birthday” offer.  Curious to find out if they were doing that again this year, I did an internet search for “free Disney World ticket 2010” and found something pretty great.

In 2010, instead of offering free tickets to folks on their birthday, Disney World has decided to offer 1 million free tickets to anyone over the age of 6 who performs one full day of volunteer service for a nonprofit.  By partnering with the Hands On Network (which helps potential volunteers find volunteer projects and programs that align their passions within their community), Disney is making it possible for nonprofits to pay back their volunteers with something tangible – and your organization can participate!

Aside from the fact that this program gives nonprofits the opportunity to give their volunteers a tangible thank you gift that they may have never been able to afford, it also will encourage a whole new group of individuals and families who may have never done volunteer work before to serve in their community.   While we hope that people would choose to serve out of the goodness of their hearts, a free ticket to Disneyworld might be just the push some people need to open their eyes to the importance of volunteerism for the first time.   Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to recruit new volunteers!   Visit the Hands On Network’s “Give a Day, Get a Day” page to become involved.
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