Amy Sample Ward is the CEO of NTEN, a nonprofit organization that serves as a resource for other nonprofits seeking to use technology more efficiently. NTEN offers a variety of services, including online training, conferences, and online groups to facilitate discussion among nonprofit technology professionals.

Sample Ward seems to be the perfect fit for the organization. Looking back over her professional experience, she now sees that her work has always focused on empowering a community and encouraging that community to act. She has a passion for using technology to connect others and empower them, as evidenced by the book she co-authored in 2013: Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to Implement Online Multichannel Strategies to Spark Advocacy, Raise Money, and Engage Your Community.

Before Sample Ward became a published author and NTEN’s CEO, she started her own blog in 2007, which opened opportunities like the ones she has today. The blogs centered around topics she was learning about, specifically related to utilizing technology for social impact.

“[I] didn’t wait for anyone to brand me a ‘thought leader,’” Sample Ward says. “I was a practitioner just like everyone else, and I just started to contribute.” She was already learning, but the blog made her process visible. This visibility paved the way for speaking engagements and her current recognition as a thought leader. After only two years at NTEN, Sample Ward became the organization’s CEO in 2013.

“[I] didn’t wait for anyone to brand me a ‘thought leader…I was a practitioner just like everyone else, and I just started to contribute.” – Amy Sample Ward

“Our mission is to make sure that nonprofits know how to use technology to meet their mission and meet community needs,” Sample Ward says. Rather than training nonprofits in the use of particular technologies, NTEN gives nonprofits the proper framework for thinking about, budgeting for, and implementing various technologies. When these nonprofits are presented with a problem, NTEN’s resources are meant to provide the foundation to solve it.

According to Sample Ward, the nonprofit sector was faced with many difficulties in 2017, but rose to meet the challenge. Looking forward to the rest of 2018, Sample Ward is excited to see nonprofits that are entering a more experienced stage. The hard work of these organizations in the previous year yielded important results, allowing them to survive into the new year. For organizations that began crowdfunding and other campaigns in 2017, they can now move toward being proactive rather than reactive.

After a particularly difficult year, Sample Ward saw that burnout became a major topic of conversation in the nonprofit community. She affirms the need for that discussion to take place. The nonprofit sector is important to our communities and economy, and if those keeping it running feel as though they can’t anymore, Sample Ward sees finding solutions to that burnout as a critical issue.

“People can often blame technology for burnout,” Sample Ward reflects. With a constant stream of emails and social media alerts, people often feel pressured to respond immediately. Yet Sample Ward points out that, we can make the decision to form a more balanced work and life schedule. Technology should be our ally rather than antagonist.

To continue helping nonprofits use technology in positive ways, NTEN is bringing new courses to their online selection. In response to members asking for documentation of the skills they’ve been developing through courses, last year NTEN introduced their Nonprofit Technology Professional Certificate. With NTEN’s new classes in 2018, members can also receive training and a subsequent certification in a specific set of skills, which is especially beneficial for those switching to new positions. These upgrades to NTEN’s offerings move the organization further toward their mission of helping nonprofits meet their communities’ needs.

While NTEN’s and Sample Ward’s work affects the nonprofit sector for the better through technology, Sample Ward still sees room for growth in the sector in other ways as well.

“I would change the power and representation balance so that communities saw themselves reflected in the leadership and the staff serving them,” she says. “[T]his was just the standard way that organizations were set up.” She hopes to see this shift take place, especially in regards to gender disparity in leadership.

To enact positive change in the nonprofit sector, passionate members of the community like Sample Ward start important conversations. This creates spaces for others to engage with one another, and provides resources to act on the changes proposed, transforming ideas into realities. Sample Ward’s work at NTEN is a prime example of the power of these initiatives. Considering all that NTEN has done and has planned to do in the coming year, the organization is definitely one to check out.