Survey Results: The State of the NetSquared Community in 2016

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Who are NetSquared's members? Why do they attend? What are their technology struggles? NetSquared's annual survey of all meetup members answers these questions and more. Plus, the results help our local organizers and partners build stronger groups with better events.

As of December 1, 2016 we have received 469 responses to the survey, drawing from the 38,000 members making up more than 75 groups. The full survey results will be published in the organizer's handbook.

Executive Summary

  • Most NetSquared participants come from small "startup" nonprofits with no budget and no staff. They come to us looking for practical tips and a supportive community.
  • The top three technology challenges for respondents are building websites, managing data, and fundraising.
  • Participants find NetSquared valuable because it helps them make connections that help them do their job better, make better IT decisions, and increase their productivity.
  • Event attendees are surprisingly unfamiliar with TechSoup's services.

NetSquared Attendees

In this section we explore the profile of the typical NetSquared meetup member.

Organization Type

What best describes your organization ROUGH

We asked people to share what kind of organization they represented. The top results were "Nonprofit, NGO, or religious organization" (49%); "Consultancy" (19%), and "No affiliation" (11%).

Nonprofits are our core audience, so it's awesome to see that almost half of attendees are people working in the sector. But NetSquared groups seek to create connections between NGOs and their allies, so it's good to see strong representation from key sector players like nonprofit tech consultants and business.

What Is Your Organization's Approximate Annual Budget? (US$)

What is your organizations budget

64% of respondents have a budget under US$1,000,000. And of that 38% are working with less than $100,000.

The majority of NetSquared participants are small, scrappy, "startup" nonprofits just starting to grow. We are serving the section of civil society that doesn't yet have the ability to bring in paid consultants or dedicated technology staff.

How Many Paid Full-Time Employees Work For Your Organization?

Number of Staff Members

63% of respondents have less than ten staff. 23% are entirely community-driven and have no staff.

NetSquared is serving the "accidental" techie, not the dedicated IT professional or programmer. Attendees are serving multiple roles in their organization.

Who Is Primarily Responsible For Technology Decisions At Your Organization?

Who is primarily responsible for technology decisions at your organization ROUGH

37% have someone helping with a formal IT background.

A lucky 37% have experienced internal IT help. The rest are making do with volunteers or "accidental techies". Very few organizations are leveraging consultants or external IT staff, probably because they are too small to afford any external assistance.

What Is Your Functional Role At Your Organization?

Functional Role at Your Organization

We asked respondents to select up to three roles they play in their organization. The top responses were marketing/communications (31%), technology (30%), and Executive Director/management (29%).

Our attendees are from small organizations, so we have a lot of dual Communications/Executive Director members. But it's a fabulous sign that we're getting the senior leadership engaged with technology adoption.

What Is Your Mission Area?

What is your mission area

NetSquared serves everyone!

What Are The Top Technology Challenges For You Or Your Organization?

Top 10 Tech Challenges

In previous surveys we asked attendees what topics they wanted, but this year we reframed the question to focus on their challenges.

The top five issues for NetSquared attendees are:

  1. Website building and design (36%)
  2. Managing data (36%)
  3. Fundraising (32%)
  4. Using social media (32%)
  5. Staff adoption of technology (25%)

The top responses are similar to the previous survey responses. The biggest change is the large drop in the "Email and Newsletters" topic, which went from the top five to the bottom five.


The next series of questions focus on the respondent's knowledge of NetSquared's parent charity, TechSoup.

Which Techsoup Resources Do You Use?

Which TechSoup resources do you use ROUGH

Besides the NetSquared meetups the most popular TechSoup resources are our articles (24%), webinars (23%), and blog (19%).

A surprisingly small number of respondents are familiar with TechSoup's production donation pages and forum. We will work to integrate these resources more deeply into NetSquared.

Is Your Nonprofit, Charity, Foundation, Or Library Registered For Techsoup Software Donations?

dont have a TechSoup account

48% of nonprofit respondents report that they have a TechSoup account (and you all should! It's free and it'll save you money!)

The numbers are similar to last year's response, but this year we added the "I don't know" option, which was selected by 19%. This reflects the unfortunate reality that many organizations are already registered with TechSoup but most staff aren't familiar with the value the membership brings.

NetSquared Meetups

The next set of questions are focused on the respondent's participation in their local meetup groups.

How Did You Discover NetSquared?

Discover NetSquared

Meetup is the most important tool for NetSquared discovery, with 56% of respondents citing it as their entry point to the community. Referrals from a friend are also important, with 27% reporting that it's a personal contact that brought them to NetSquared.

No big surprises here. NetSquared's growth comes from the local chapters, not central TechSoup marketing campaigns. But these numbers also highlight that the TechSoup website is more important to growth than the NetSquared website.

How Frequently Do You Participate In This Meetup?

How frequently do you participate
A core 45% of respondents attend events at least once a quarter. However, an equal percentage are inactive or infrequent attendees.

When we ask people why they aren't an active member the most common reasons are because they've moved, the topics aren't of interest or the group isn't holding events anymore.

A major goal of NetSquared is to build a self-sustaining community of practice for the nonprofit technology community. However the fact that only 45% of attendees are going every quarter means that there is a limited opportunity to build relationships because people aren't seeing each other on a recurring basis. However, the percentage of frequent participants has increased from 40% in the last survey, so we're slowly making some progress.

What Are The Top Three Reasons You Participate In This Meetup?

Reasons for Participation

We asked people to select three choices from a list. The top options were:

  • To be a part of a larger nonprofit community/networking
  • To learn how I can apply technology to my cause or organization
  • To learn about specific topics of interest

Once again networking/community is the top choice. People attend NetSquared events for the people.

NetSquared Impact and Testimonials

So we've learned that NetSquared is all about the formation of relationships, but what's the tangible impact of our events? We created proxy questions that point to the value NetSquared creates in local communities.

Attending Netsquared Events Has Helped Me Or My Organization...

NetSquared Impact Slide 2016

The top answers were:

  • Make connections that help me do my job better (72%)
  • Make better IT decisions (63%)
  • Reach more people” (60%)
  • Increase our efficiency and productivity" (53%)

The top choices were similar to the 2015 results, but we saw a large increase in most categories.

The top answers were "Make Connections That Help Me Do My Job Better" (63%), "Make Smarter IT Decisions" (35%), and "Improve Services to Our Constituents" (35%).

Measuring the impact of community-building work can be difficult. Sometimes the very best measure of impact is the very fact that people show up, because what's more valuable than your time? However, I'm thrilled to see that people are finding tangible personal and professional benefit from their local NetSquared group.

How Has Attending Netsquared Meetups Helped Your Organization?

wordcloud How has attending NetSquared meetups helped your organization

This image was generated from responses to the question "how has NetSquared helped your organization" and shows the frequency of words. The more a word is used the bigger it appears. You'll see that the most frequently cited words include “connected", “learn", “help", and “skills" -- this is a good overview of what NetSquared is all about!


Avoid feeling isolated horizontal
Finally, the last section of the survey analysis features quotes from some of the text replies to the questions "How has attending NetSquared meetups helped your organization?" and "What do you like best about NetSquared?" We have edited some entries for brevity or clarity.

Check out our wiki for more testimonials from NetSquared members.

"NetSquared give me the opportunity to master technology at my own pace."
M J Scarpelli, Senior Friendship Health Center

"There is nothing else like it! NetSquared's speakers and topics are very timely and insightful. The connections you make at the events are invaluable."
Lori Elder, PR4Good and Youth4Good

"I love how NetSquared gives me the opportunity to meet with like-minded local professionals and to hear from experts on tech topics of interest."
Laura McPherson, Stirling Carers Centre

"The people are friendly and helpful and nobody treats me like I'm a rookie. NetSquared's community inspires me to learn technology."
Catherine Latimer, Teddy Bears for the Troops, Inc

"I love the collaborative culture of NetSquared and the focus on positive social outcomes."
Andrew Paul, CLT Associates

<img src="" width="386" height="500” align=“right” alt="Events are timely and insightful">

"It's good to hear from people in same field at different organizations about how they are engaging in the current digital world."
Ronnie Whiteside, Ceartas

"NetSquared helps me avoid feeling isolated. It is very important to hear peer organization's experiences with tech challenges and solutions."
Rick Birmingham, Community Involvement Programs

"NetSquared allows us to keep up with new technology and apply it to our nonprofit."
Martin Cohn, Naples Music Club

"NetSquared helped us learn about more affordable software that has improved the quality of technology in our office."
Irina Pelc, WRASAC

"NetSquared offers me a face-to-face space where I can connect with like-minded peers, help build my skills and creates a community where I can turn to for support on a variety of projects. I feel less alone and more connected because of NetSquared events."
Chad Leaman, Neil Squire Society

"NetSquared gives me access to knowledgeable individuals and resources. I feel as though I could contact the group with any question and they would find me an answer. "
Suzanne Bader, Mosaic Consulting

The people are friendly and helpful

The full survey results and respondent comments are published in the organizer's handbook.