13NTC Cloudy with a Chance of Awesome

By: Elisa Willman, Senior Marketing Communications Manager in Microsoft Citizenship

This week I attended the Nonprofit Technology Conference, otherwise known as #13NTC to all the nonprofit techies. Microsoft has sponsored NTEN and NTC from the beginning, but this was my first opportunity to join this group of nonprofit professionals from around the world who are passionate about using technology to advance their missions and bring about change.


Microsoft Program Manager James Rooney with the 13NTC accordion player.

There were many valuable sessions, inspiring speakers and learning opportunities, but I’ve summarized my top five takeaways from the conference below:

1. Nonprofits rock. There are a lot of amazing organizations using Microsoft technology to do incredible work for the communities they serve. I loved getting to meet so many of them during the five hour Science Fair/Expo. It was gratifying to hear stories of how our products have helped organizations do more to fulfill their missions. Of course, it was also interesting to hear how many organizations were functioning on, shall we say, “less than current” systems. It takes ingenuity to work within the constraints some of these organizations are dealing with. So inspiring!

2. Software donations. It was surprising to me how many organizations hadn’t heard about Microsoft’s software donation program. I felt a little bit like Santa getting to share the news! While our program reaches more than 60,000 nonprofits around the world each year, there are thousands more who qualify and may not know it. If you know a nonprofit that would benefit from a software donation from Microsoft, send them to www.microsoft.com/nonprofit.

3. Dan Pallotta. Many of you have probably already seen his Ted Talk, where he said: “the way we think about charity is dead wrong.” Dan delivered a similar presentation to a packed room of 1000+ nonprofit professionals and had Twitter abuzz with fans (I’m one of them!) and critics who mostly pointed to thisRootwork post. As a former nonprofit executive director who was often frustrated with many of the issues Dan addressed, his speech really resonated with me. I loved the “I’m overhead” mock ad campaign he presented in making the argument that donors and funders should consider the limitations of overhead to services ratio that makes an organization “fiscally responsible.”


It’s down to standing room in the packed Dan Pallotta session.

4. Cloudy with a chance of awesome. Working at Microsoft, we talk a lot about the cloud. So, it was good to see that the cloud was also top of mind for many at the conference. And, when I say top of mind, I mean there were even people wearing really large cloud shaped hats. Though I’m admittedly biased, one of my favorite sessions was “Office 365: Cloudy with a chance for awesome.” My colleague James Rooney, together with Sam Chenkin, Melanie Meyer and Tom Moen delivered a really compelling presentation. The demos were cool, but the best part was hearing from Melanie Meyer from BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Ohio. Her real-life IT director’s worst nightmare story (servers down for 3 days) that prompted her organization to move to Office 365, is one I’ll always remember.

5. Minneapolis is so cool. I’m not just talking about the weather (though we did have snow, sleet and freezing rain during the conference). The people are friendly and the city is very walkable with a series of SkyBridges that connect the downtown area. There are excellent restaurants and bars and, of course, there is the Mall of America!


Microsoft 13NTC team – Gretchen Deo, James Rooney, and me – at the Microsoft store at the Mall of America.

If you attended NTC, I’d love to hear your highlights, too. Leave your top five highlights in the comments section or tweet us at @msftcitizenship or me @elisamwill.