8 Nonprofit Conferences You Need to Attend This Year

5 min
nonprofit conference presentation
William Schmidt
Will Schmidt

A cursory Google search of the term “nonprofit conferences” pulls up a ton of options, which can make it difficult to choose the ones that are most pertinent to your line of work. Not to mention, conferences can be expensive, so it’s important to pick the right ones.

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To help narrow down your search, we rounded up eight nonprofit conferences that can benefit you whether you’re in fundraising, marketing, or another department.

1) International Fundraising Conference

Date: April 15 to 17 in New Orleans, LA

The International Fundraising Conference, hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is designed for fundraising professionals. The AFP recognizes that just as gifts grow in size, fundraisers in the social sector must also grow in order to solve complex issues in our world.

In its 55th year, the International Fundraising Conference will bring together more than 4,000 professionals to discuss, teach, and learn about new strategies for social innovation and community impact.

What to Expect

In total, the conference offers more than 90 sessions and two high-profile keynotes over three days that cover various aspects of professional fundraising and nonprofit management. While the focus is on fundraising and philanthropy, the doors are open for anyone involved in the social sector from newer recruits all the way up to experienced board members. Also, word on the street is that their After-Dark Party is the social event of the year.

2) National Community Relations & Development/Emergency Disaster Services (NCRD/EDS) Conference

Date: April 30 to May 3 in Indianapolis, IN

Natural disasters pose an immense threat and unfortunately, they aren’t going to stop happening anytime soon. The Salvation Army hosts the annual NCRD/EDS Conference to educate those interested in learning more about how they can support their communities in preparation for the unplannable. This conference is designed for nonprofit professionals, fundraisers, first responders, and anyone involved or interested in an industry that involves emergency preparedness.

What to Expect

Notable speakers include Una Osili, Ph.D., the Associate Dean for Research and International Programs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The day before the conference officially begins (May 1) each Salvation Army territory (Western, Central, Southern, and Eastern) will host Kindred Sessions that will focus on territory-specific topics. These smaller stand-alone sessions will provide an opportunity for attendees to network with others in their region.

3) Nonprofit Learning Lab Institute

Date: May 9 in Phoenix, AZ

The Nonprofit Learning Lab showcases its conferences all across the U.S., focusing on fundraising, donor relations, board and volunteer management, marketing, event planning, communications, and social media. What makes these events special is that they’re more interactive workshops than sit-and-listen type sessions.

If your organization has a small operating budget, but you want to gain experience and insight from a conference, The Nonprofit Learning Lab is a great option as they offer partial scholarships to their events.

What to Expect

The Nonprofit Learning Lab creates a space to strengthen professional relationships among colleagues in the nonprofit community. Through workshops, you’ll learn practical strategies to be more effective in your day-to-day role while also inspiring you to act on what you learn.

If you miss the conference in Phoenix, they’ll be traveling to eight other cities. Catch them in Denver, Virginia, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Dallas, Nashville, and Oakland.

4) Social Innovation Summit

Date: June 4 to 6 in San Francisco, CA

Every year the Social Innovation Summit convenes so that members of our society can learn how to leverage technology and bold ideas to directly affect social change in our world. Everything from current philanthropic trends to building lasting partnerships in the sector is fair game for discussion.

What to Expect

According to their website, if the Social Innovation Summit is obsessed with anything it’s great people. “We convene the world’s most potent leaders, thinkers, and practitioners with an unwavering bias towards action.” And the cohort of big names from the realms of tech, investment, philanthropy, international development, and business listed to be there are impressive.

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5) The Collaborative

Date: June 12 to 14 in Boston, MA

Hosted by Classy, the Collaborative is a three-day experience where today’s changemakers unite and co-create the future of social entrepreneurship. Nonprofit leaders and peers will share creative solutions and ideas to solve the world’s toughest problems.

Complete with a variety of session types and networking opportunities, the event provides the energy, takeaways and strategies you need to accelerate change. And what the Collaborative won’t provide is also important; there will be no boring lectures or stuffy conference rooms. The open, museum-like experience rouses your curiosity and encourages networking with the other problem-solvers around you.

What to Expect

The Collaborative includes keynotes from the industry’s top professionals, panel discussions with notable influencers, fireside chats and TED-style talks with thought leaders, and networking opportunities with peers in and out of your sector. In general, attendees will spend about 60 percent of their time in sessions and the remaining 40 percent dedicated to purposeful, intentional networking.

6) AFP Conference

Date: November 4 to 7 in Chicago, IL

Year over year, 65 percent of attendees return to the Association of Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference. Part of that retention rate is tied to the bountiful networking opportunities, but also because of the sessions, keynotes, and panels.

Every year over 6,500 corporate finance professionals attend more than 125 educational sessions so that they might get inspired, learn, and transform their career and organization. In total there are eight content tracks covering: Treasury Management, Financial Planning and Analysis, Payments, Risk Management/Capital Markets and Investments, Global Treasury and Finance, Corporate Finance, Pension and Benefits, and Career Development.

What to Expect

The AFP Conference doesn’t mess around when it comes to networking. With more than 10 networking events you’re bound to come away with a few valuable new contacts. They’ll also have other opportunities for professional development, like earning Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) recertification credits and extended sessions with select speakers. On top of everything, the AFP Pinnacle Awards are taking place during the conference week. AFP will also present the grand prize winner with a $10,000 check to go to the charity of the winner’s choice, so check to see if your organization is eligible to apply here.

7) Dreamforce

Date: September 25 to 28 in San Francisco, CA

It doesn’t matter if you’re an organization of five or 500: Dreamforce is for all walks of social sector life. Hosted by Salesforce, there are over 2,000 sessions and thousands of live solutions on display from the world’s largest cloud ecosystem.

Further, Dreamforce has tailored content specific to attendees’ industries, roles, and sizes. The end goal of their programming is for people to walk away with the knowledge, connections, and memories that will serve them well in their careers.

What to Expect

The 2018 event will take place in downtown San Francisco and is designed to be a one-stop shop for success with the latest advances in cloud computing. There will be breakout sessions that provide a chance to meet with Salesforce product teams, learn from expert users at top companies, and get strategies for handling business issues. Attendees will get help with sales, marketing, customer service, and the CRM.

8) Nonprofit Storytelling Conference

Date: October 15 to 17 in Orlando, FL

It can be hard to tell stories, which is why the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference exists. This conference will teach attendees how to tell better stories across the many different areas of fundraising and donor communications. You’ll learn how to tap into your donors’ emotions; how to execute successful digital media storytelling, major donor storytelling, and visual storytelling; and how to tell a good story at a special event.

Attendees come from small and large organizations alike, from the healthcare and education sectors all the way to environmental and social services. If you want to learn to connect with donors through powerful stories, then this conference is for you.

What to Expect

Learn about the fundamentals of storytelling, how to find new donors using your stories, and how to use stories to retain donors. The conference will also focus on how to do this through special events, major giving, direct response, online, social media, and advocacy. If you can use stories for a specific part of fundraising, this conference has it covered.

No matter your level of experience or role at a nonprofit, conferences are an important part of staying on top of best practices and industry trends. Make sure you choose the right ones to attend that will provide the strongest ROI for you and your organization, personally and professionally. If we missed any must-attend conferences, let us know in the comments below.


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