Who are NetSquared’s members? Why do they attend? What topics do they want? For the longest time we didn’t have an answer to these questions, which was frustrating. So last year we surveyed our event participants in Canada and the USA and learned that our members had needs surprisingly similar to the core TechSoup audience. But NetSquared is global so this year we’ve expanded the survey to include almost all of our groups (with the exception of those that don’t use English as their working language or groups that are very small or new.)
As of January 1, 2015 we have received 568 responses to the survey, drawing from the 23,025 meetup.com members making up more than 50 groups. We’ll use the 2013 (FY14) survey responses as a baseline for this year’s answers where appropriate, while acknowledging that we can’t make exact comparisons because we’re surveying the global community this year. The full survey results will be published in the organizer’s handbook.
NetSquared groups serve a diverse mix of individuals serving and interested in the social benefit sector. Survey respondents tend to work for small organizations with limited training budgets, but are usually a technology decision-maker.
Group attendees are very happy with the quality of events and attend both because they want to network with their peers and because they want to understand the latest technology so that they can be more effective in their work.
Event attendees are surprisingly unfamiliar with TechSoup and its services.
The NetSquared Audience
This section explores the organizations and roles that make up the NetSquared membership.
What is Your Primary Role?
The top three roles are “Marketing/Communications/Social Media” (19%), “Executive Director/CEO/Board Member” (14%), and “IT Staff or Manager” (14%).
The “Other” category also collected 14% of responses. When we break this down we see frequent mentions of “design” “software developer” and “volunteer manager”. We may want to modify the categories next year to include these roles.
NetSquared attendees aren’t technical. Just 14% are in IT, with the rest holding down various other roles. I suspect the “other” category holds software developers and web designers, but most attendees are people who use technology in support of accomplishing their everyday work. They aren’t highly skilled technology practitioners and come to NetSquared events looking for practical tools and tips to help them be more productive.
The pleasant surprise from these results is that almost one in five attendees are a senior decision-maker at their organization. The high percentage of board members and executive directors shows that organizational leadership is hungry to learn how they can become more effective by using technology to deliver on their mission.
For comparison here’s the top three categories from 2013. As you can see they’re almost identical.
The top three roles are marketing/communications/social media (20%); executive director, CEO or board member (18%); and IT staff or manager (15%).
What Best Describes Your Organization?
We asked people to share what kind of organization they represented at their NetSquared meetup. The top results were “Charity/Nonprofit/NGO” (47%); “For-Profit Organization” (16%), and “Consultant” (16%).
Ten percent of respondents reported their organization as “other”. When we look at the word frequency there’s a preponderance of schools and universities. This is definitely a category to add for next year’s survey.
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 in other sectors, so it’s good to see strong representation from key sector players like nonprofit tech consultants and education. I’m surprised to see very few libraries participating, but that may be because there is a strong alternative network of dedicated #edtech meetups.
Again the 2014 results closely mirror our results from 2013. The top results were:
nonprofit, charity or NGO (45%); for-profit organization (19%); and consultant (18%).
What Is Your Organization’s Annual Operating Budget?
We asked people to report their organization’s budget size because it’s a good proxy measure for number of staff. Additionally, eligibility for the TechSoup donation program is sometimes determined by an organization’s total budget. 68% of organizations report having a budget of less than US$1 million.
The majority of NetSquared attendees have an organizational budget of less than one million dollars. This matches with what NetSquared organizers have been telling me: we are serving small organizations who don’t necessarily have a large professional development budget for staff or the ability to hire consultants. They turn to NetSquared to keep abreast of emerging #nptechtrends.
The percentage of organizations with a budget under US$1 million jumped 11% compared to 2013. I assume that it’s because this year’s survey included more non-USA organizations, which tend to be smaller.
Are You Responsible for Making Technology Purchasing or Investment Decisions at Your Organization?
72% of attendees have some responsibility for making technology purchasing or investment decisions at their organization. We are reaching people who are the technology influencers and trendsetters in their workplace.
The next set of questions are focused on the respondent’s participation in their local group.
How Frequently Do You Participate In This Meetup?
A core 40% of respondents attend events at least once a quarter. However, an equal percentage of members are inactive or have never attended an event.
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. This wordle captures trends from responses to “why don’t you attend 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 40% 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. We need to continue to explore formats like the social media surgery that make it easy for NetSquared organizers to hold frequent events.
Why Do You Participate In This Meetup?
We asked people to select three choices from a list. The top options were “Learn about a specific topic”, “Be part of a community”, and “Learn to use technology for my work”.
Last year I was surprised that networking/community was a top choice, but the results are consistent: people attend NetSquared events for the people. The top three choices remain the same year-over-year. Here’s the comparison to the 2013 results:
The top three responses are to network with like-minded people (29%); to learn how they can apply technology to my cause or organization (29%); and to learn about specific topics of interest (18%).
Which Event Topics Are You Most Interested In?
We asked people to select five event topics from a list. The top choices were “Social Media” (321 responses), “Website & Design” (307 responses), “General Technology & Planning” (273 responses), “Email & Newsletters” (197 responses), and “Fundraising & Grant writing”(189 responses).
NetSquared organizers have been asking me “what do people want to learn about?” Finally I have an answer! The only surprise on the list is “Fundraising & Grant writing” because it’s not an obvious “technology” topic.
So we’ve learned that NetSquared is all about the formation of relationships, but what’s the tangible impact of our events? We’ve identified some proxy questions that point to our impact.
Attending NetSquared Events Has Helped Me…
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%).
14% answered “Other” but when we do a textual analysis we don’t see any clear trends. However, these pull quotes capture the spirit of the replies:
NetSquared has helped me:
“Meet interesting people who do interesting things and learn about how technology is embraced at local organizations”
"Keep up-to-date with SEO and social media practice*
“Learn about non-profit fundraising”
“Grow my confidence to have a go using technology, knowing support from the group is available”
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.
The next series of questions focus on event participant’s knowledge of NetSquared’s parent organization TechSoup Global, which supports the growth and stability of social benefit organzations worldwide through the intelligent use of information and communication technologies.
How Frequently Do You Visit Techsoup For Educational Articles, Blogs And/Or Forums?
45% of NetSquared attendees have never never used the educational material on TechSoup.org or one of our local partners.
That’s not the most inspiring number ever, but it’s an improvement from 2013 when 50% of respondents had never visited the website. So, we’re making progress!
How Frequently Do You Participate In Techsoup’s Educational Webinars?
73% of NetSquared attendees have never participated in a TechSoup.org webinar, or similar service provided by one of our local partners.
We continue to see low webinar participation, but once again the percentage is crawling up, since in 2013 the percentage of attendees was 77%. I suspect that the percentage of NetSquared participants using TechSoup’s online resources will always be low because NetSquared attracts people who prefer to learn in live group settings, rather than online. But there is still an opportunity to connect more of our participants with TechSoup’s deeply valuable (and free!) resources.
Is Your Nonprofit, Charity, Foundation, or Library Registered With TechSoup?
70% of global meetup attendees are not registered with TechSoup or its local partner.
However, because only nonprofits, charities, churches, libraries and foundations are eligible for TechSoup services half of our attendees are ineligible anyways.
To get a better measure I’ve filtered the results to only include eligible attendees in the USA and Canada (long-established territories where 90% of respondents live). Now we get a different picture.
51% of eligible respondents are registered with TechSoup or TechSoup Canada.
TechSoup offers free and deeply discounted hardware, software and services to civil society organizations with the support of our corporate partners. Every time an eligible organization pays list price for their software they’re throwing money away! I will collaborate with the TechSoup marketing team to help communicate our services more effectively with the help of the NetSquared organizers.
We may want to add an “I don’t know” option for next year. I find that often attendee’s organizations are already registered with TechSoup, but not all staff are aware because only the IT manager is making orders for software and services.
Share How NetSquared Has Made a Difference in Your Professional or Personal Life
This image was generated from responses to “share how NetSquared has made a difference in your professional or personal life” and shows the frequency of words. The more a word is used the bigger it appears. I LOVE that “people” is at the center of these wordles for the second year in a row! That’s what we’re all about.
Made it this far? You’re the best ever. Let’s celebrate!
Why People Attend NetSquared events
The last section of the survey analysis features quotes from some of the text replies to the question “share how NetSquared has made a difference in your professional or personal life”. We have edited some entries for brevity or clarity.
“My organisation has a higher profile and our charity has recruited a new trustee as a direct result of setting up a Facebook page following training from NetSquared.”
-Julia Hammond, NetSquared Cambridge
“NetSquared has helped me connect with my local technology and nonprofit communities and develop relationships that have turned into opportunities for collaborative fundraising and programming over the years.”
-Grace Rodriguez, NetSquared Houston
“I’ve learned tips and tricks about social media marketing and fundraising resulting in more money raised on a giving day.”
-Anonymous, NetSquared Twin Cities
“Through NetSquared Kenya I have developed my leadership and IT skills.”
-Chrispine Ochieng Okumu, NetSquared Kenya
“TechSoup should be on every librarian’s radar. As a librarian that teaches aspiring and new librarians about online reference and information services, I make it an instructional requirement to highlight TechSoup.”
-Paul Chasen, NetSquared Baltimore
“My participation in NetSquared events helped me make connections with others who were experts in a field I knew nothing about. Every one has been very supportive since we’re all in the same field.”
“NetSquared has helped me learn to make effective IT decisions”
-Satheesh Kumar S, NetSquared Chennai
“Technology is constantly changing so it is valuable to have those who are willing share and educate as we go through the wild world of the web together.”
-Barrie Conley, NetSquared Naples
“I learned how to create and write a blog for use as a fundraising tool for my nonprofit”
-Catherine Nabwami, NetSquared Uganda
"I have made a number of amazing personal and professional relationships thanks to NetSquared, learned a great deal from fellow members, and feel like a part of the evergrowing tech movement in my town.
-Adele Tiblier, NetSquared New Orleans
“I am continually amazed by the people I meet and their passion for the nonprofit sector. These people are colleagues, but we have grown to be close friends. My work is forever changed because I have a strong network of people that I can count on to help when needed. I am able to better interact with clients when I learn more about the technologies available to them.”
-Paula Jones, NCtech4Good
I have been inspired by the NetSquared speakers and events that I have attended. The high level of talent and skill present at these meetings really motivates me professionally.
-John Connors, NetSquared Burlington
“Being part of this community has brought me professional opportunities, enhanced my skill sets, and best yet, brought me good friends.”
-Trish Perkins, NCtech4Good
“Attending a NetSquared event clued me in to better video production for my nonprofit. We were apply to apply the information we learned into making an educational video for our target audience of students”