Sigh. Climbing a steep hill.

A recent posting to the state presidents’ list gave me pause. At first I thought it was the archaic memo format. Yes, I complain, when e-mail comes out and it’s not clear who the addressees are, but still that


repeated in the body of the message just seems s-o-o-o-o 1980’s…

But then I realized it was the content that really bothered me. When I tried to forward the message to others, I realized there was almost nothing in the memo that would make sense to anyone who wasn’t already immersed in the busyness of the national organization. This was a call for volunteers to give their time and talent to national committees and there was a reference to Robert’s Rules of Order about term lengths, for goodness sakes, but not a word about what these committees actually did or how they worked.

If you compare my version to their version and have suggestions for improving mine, please let me know.

But I guess my point is that I’m increasingly frustrated with a culture that’s so inward looking I fear that it won’t be able to connect to the outside world even to save itself.

Web 2.0 and NCCWCSL

From Nancy to contacts involved in state student advisory councils and NCCWCSL, 5/16:

Audrey, Lynn – have the topics of SecondLife, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. come up with any of the student advisory council folks?

Terri – is this something that’s going to be touched upon at NCCWSL (I know in 2005 there was a blogroll developed but things have moved pretty far beyond that).

From Andrea Minkow, 5/17:

For this years conference we have utilized facebook as a tool for organizing and outreach.  It has been successful for the SAC students and their cohort to communicate about the conference.  It is going to be my recommendation that we expand this type of communication/outreach effort for next years conference.

We are also planning on having a cyber cafe on site at the conference.  We want students to be able to blog, etc.  I like the idea of posting tweets, but I am not sure how to work this from the back end – maybe you can help me set this up?  Any additional recommendations on how to enhance this part of the programming are more than welcome!

Other ideas:

  • Encourage attendees to tag conference related web info with “nccwcsl” (or whatever the current style guide says) in They could tag their blogs with this if they’re comfortable with making those addresses public to those who know about the nccwcsl tag.
  • Setup accounts (and perhaps a special board) at for the attendees — so that those who don’t have their own blog would have somewhere to put comments/questions and connect with each other after the conference.
  • Podcasting short interviews (or longer sessions) with the attendees. Would require someone with facility as an “interviewer”.

All of these  are hypothetical at this point — and the attendees themselves may have better ways to use the ‘net to share what’s happening at the conference, to both build community among the attendees, share the excitement with those who may wish to attend next year, and make the whole thing “real” to the AAUW members who may be convinced to increase their support.

If any of these ideas “work” for NCCWCSL, perhaps there’s still time to apply the best of them to the AAUW Convention in Phoenix. See, in particular, the podcasts from the STC (Society for Technical Communications) conference:

Wake up call?

On the Information_Systems_Forum@yahoogroups there was this exchange as part of a longer thread on Management Approaches to Non-Profit Technology:

Dave Pentecost

I’m sure that there are non-profits which are inefficient and wasteful, endangering their mission. But I would weigh in on the idea that many non-profits also run on intangibles – an inspiring leader, a savvy development person. From bitter experience I can say that when the business experts (often on the board of directors) decide that it is time to make the organization more serious and efficient, that organization runs a great risk of losing its way.

This seems to happen around the 10-year mark in an organization’s history. Board members who previously thought “what a lovely little organization I’m part of” suddenly decide they know more about non-profit management and service than the people who created it.

Having survived a year in which the efficiency experts and their proxies failed to raise any funds (you must have good ideas and know your constituents and funders, things the business people may lack) and exhausted reserves. Only the nerve and dedication of the founders pulled things back on track.

Deborah Elizabeth Finn

To that I would add, “and pick your battles carefully.”

I dislike being a defeatist, but sometimes an organization is so badly broken that it can’t be fixed by one nonprofit techie. In that case, it’s a heartbreaking waste of time, effort, and talent to hang in there hoping you can realize your vision for the organization.

Unfortunately, the same virtues that draw people into mission-based organizations can the ones that impel them stay in dysfunctional situations rather than moving on.

As the poet said (in a very different context), it’s an “expense of spirit in a waste of shame.”

Are my ears burning?

Notes from NTEN – changes to our convention

I’ve often referred to Eric Raymond‘s, “Conventions at Light Speed: What Hackers Can Learn From SF Fandom” as having several suggestions that could enliven our conventions and make member-to-member connections easier. [The itch I’m particularly scratching is the memory of 2001 when I had breakfast with someone I hadn’t met before. It was weeks later when I found out that she had also been appointed to the Association Program Development Committee. We both new of our own appointments, but the member-member communication was so shaky we weren’t able to take advantage of that “once every two years” face-to-face meeting. Yeah, there were other governance reasons for protecting that info, but it screams for better solutions.]

In any event, I’m attending the Nonprofit Technology Conferences — — back at the Omni Shoreham where we met in 2005. There are a number of similarities (just about the same number of attendees), but as for the differences –

  • Vendor exhibit compressed into one time period: 3-8 the first evening. Buffet food provided. Seemed much better attended and allowed folks to connect with the vendors and set up more in depth meetings during the rest of the conference.
  • Their version of Convention Daily was slipped under the attendees’ doors about 7:30 am. It was more simply printed – black and white, stapled.
  • “Affinity Group” meetings – cf. our SIGS and caucuses – were scheduled the first day in regular breakout session time slots. I believe we could use this kind of organization much better, and having the face-to-face would help.
  • An award ceremony recognized about two dozen individuals. Could we steal time from that 21st century recognition program (or use its time in 2009 and beyond) and recognize our *members* for their work, particularly at the local level? A few categories, a collection of names, a few pictures — the slide show to back up the funny-hat recoginition is done.
  • It’s only 3 days! Day 1 is focused on networking, there’s a 4th day that’s a geekout (and not quite connected). But conference that requires 5 night stays is madness.

There are differences of course –

  • Almost everyone attending has a professional interest in the topic – revamps the funding. [Though I think we can do a better job of getting the message out to new members on why attendance at convention is so important. Particularly this year, it appears that the governance is so important, I’ve bumped into a branch president who thinks that branches support someone’s attendance primarily so that person can be a delegate. With so much information waiting to get taken back to the branches, I think that’s a shame.
  • It’s an annual conference.
  • There might be a board meeting tucked away somewhere, but though I’ve been a “member” of the organization for a few years, I’ve no idea how they are governed and there’s certainly no “business meeting” on the agenda.

It’s only day 2 of the 3 day conference. I’ll post more …