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) The 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference

Date: March 13 to March 15 in Portland, OR

Whether you’re automating marketing, streamlining donor data workflows, or building online fundraising campaigns, technology can help nonprofits run more efficiently and make a bigger impact. As such, The 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), hosted by NTEN, brings thousands of nonprofit professionals together to work together to show how different technologies can help spark new ideas and change across the social sector.

What to Expect

Attendees get access to over 200 sessions that span topics like technology management, program and service delivery, fundraising and development, operations, and communications and marketing. NTEN will also host six featured sessions that represent some of the most critical topics or challenging issues facing the social sector.

The 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference will also have a career center and various community events over the course of the conference. And if you’re feeling ambitious, you can pay $20 to arrive a day earlier, on March 12, to attend the pre-conference day. Those who do get special content sessions that offer best practices designed to help them with Drupal, WordPress, ActBlue, and IT Security.

2) International Fundraising Conference

Date: March 31 to April 2 in San Antonio, TX

The International Fundraising Conference, hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is designed specifically 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 56th 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—Spencer West and Soledad O’Brien—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.

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 five other cities in 2019. Catch them in Denver, CO; Newport News, VA; Madison, WI; Las Vegas, NV; and New York City.

4) Social Innovation Summit

Date: June 4 to 5 in Los Angeles, 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 11 to 13 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. Check out the insights and highlights from 2018.

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6) AFP Conference

Date: October 20 to 23 in Boston, MA

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.

7) Nonprofit Storytelling Conference

Date: October 28 to 30 in San Diego, CA

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.

8) Dreamforce

Date: November 19 to 22 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, and customer service, and best practices for using the CRM.

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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