As a first time attendee of NTC (NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference & Science Fair), I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from this well-attended conference that caters to the more technical and geeky side of the nonprofit industry. NTC 2013 certainly didn’t disappoint as technology leaders from across the country, including several nonprofit software, email, online fundraising, web design, and other technology providers, were in attendance at the popular Science Fair portion of the show. Similarly, the breakout sessions were packed with attendees eager to hear about the latest technology trends in the nonprofit sector from industry experts from all over the world. One session in particular occupied the majority of Day 1 and concentrated specifically on all things Drupal. “Drupal Day” provided several breakout sessions related to what may arguably be the most popular website content management system (CMS) currently available for organizations looking for a robust, flexible and highly configurable open source solution.
As a geeky web professional, I was particularly interested in these discussions for both professional and personal reasons. From a professional standpoint, I am always curious about the latest trends or developments in every facet of the web. Although, as with any busy professional, it’s often difficult to find time to read every industry article or blog that we run across, so having a chance to listen to several Drupal experts in one place was especially exciting. Discussions included everything from a basic introduction to Drupal 7 (Drupal 8 is scheduled to release this summer) to more in-depth technical discussions regarding integration of contact relationship management (CRM) systems into your Drupal platform. That particular session maxed-out my understanding of both types of systems, but was a fantastic learning experience as I’m sure it was for many others in attendance, as well.
From a personal point of view, I had selfish reasons for attending “Drupal Day” since our organization will be developing its new website utilizing the Drupal 7 CMS platform. I’ve had the good fortune to work with many types of content management systems, but admittedly haven’t had the opportunity to work with Drupal since v5. From everything that I’ve read and learned about Drupal 7 at this conference, it is light years ahead of previous versions, so I may have a bit of a learning curve, but it should prove to be exciting nonetheless. One key aspect about Drupal that was emphasized throughout these discussions was the extremely involved and helpful online Drupal community. Since Drupal is an open source solution, it has hundreds of contributors and developers that are continually refining and improving the system, modules, plug-ins, etc.
In addition to the online community, there are regional groups of Drupal users, contributors, developers, and supporters that meet on a regular basis to share learnings, hash-out issues, or discuss recent successes. Drupal MeetUps, as they are commonly called, are located all over the world, and there is probably one in a city near you. If you are interested in locating a Drupal MeetUp group or just learning more about Drupal, I would encourage you to visit www.drupal.org to find out if this popular, well-supported content management system is right for your organization.
If diving head first into Drupal and developing your own cutting edge, highly responsive website sounds like a bit too much for you, not to worry. There are many reputable firms that specialize in building Drupal sites that will work with you, no matter what your budget, to help build a website that meets your organization’s needs as online users and donors continue to become more social, interactive and highly mobile.
I’m already looking forward to attending NTC next year to see where the latest technology trends will lead us. Advances in technology are occurring every day and the nonprofit sector will undoubtedly need to evolve and grow with these changes in order to meet the needs of its constituents. Conferences, such as NTC, provide a unique opportunity for nonprofit organizations to get a glimpse into the latest technology trends to help them achieve their goals.