Moving on to a bigger pond
Back in 1994 when I started Big Duck it was just me and an enormous computer with the same processing power most pencil sharpeners probably have today. Our first office was my living room, and my only employee was a black Labrador Retreiver puppy named Trout. When Trout wasn’t busy chewing up my shoes, she gave me someone to talk to and entertained visiting clients. In the early 90s, nonprofits didn’t think much about the web, and the work I did was largely print-based. I sometimes used pencils when working, and very few of my clients had email or a fax.
Not including that living room, Big Duck has had 4 other offices over the past seventeen years. We’ve grown to over a dozen people on staff, even more laptops, and a bucket full of cloud-based technology. Just about everything we do these days exists predominantly online, and I suspect I haven’t owned a pencil in years.
In 2006, when we moved into the space we’re vacating, the communications landscape looked very different for nonprofits. Many small and mid-sized orgs were still trying to build a servicable website, and most of them relied on proprietary systems, Dreamweaver, or hard-coded HTML sites. Print was still a critical way to reach donors, and secure, online donation processing wasn’t that common. Unless you’re a real techie, you probably didn’t know what ‘open source’ was back in 2006, much less Facebook. If you did, neither was factored seriously into your nonprofit’s communications strategy.
As bittersweet as leaving this office might feel after 5 terrific years, I’m exhilarated by what’s to come. Our new office will be considerably larger, with a training room we’ll use to give workshops and do other communications-related capacity-building work. Our staff is growing as we help nonprofits raise more and more money and increase their ability to communicate effectively.
It’s even more exciting to think of the change that’s likely coming in the work we all do. In another 5 years, where will the nonprofit sector be? Will we still largely communicate online or will everything be mobile and PDA-based? Will we even talk about ‘the cloud’ or will it be like talking about breathing air? I’m not good at making predications, and I suspect it’s anyone’s guess what the winds of technology will bring. But I’m definitely excited to dive in and ready for the future.