5 min read

The Ultimate Nonprofit Conferences Guide

The Ultimate Nonprofit Conferences Guide

Picture this: You've invested in sending your nonprofit’s leadership to a conference, hoping to glean much-needed professional development and boost motivation and inspiration for the mission you are all so passionate about…

And though your leaders come back to the office after the event pumped up and full of ideas, it’s a matter of weeks (or days!) before everything is right back to the way it’s been. The same challenges are still looming, and no one seems to have absorbed or applied what was heard at the conference.

It’s a bummer, and it happens much more often than you’d think.  Often this happens because there wasn’t enough focus on the people and the processes that will best set you up for success. 

We believe whatever challenge you’re facing…humans are the solution. 

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Nonprofit conferences are like amazing pit stops where you and your leadership team can refuel your knowledge, upgrade your skills, meet other humans on a similar path as you, and get back on track to success. 

We love conferences, as they can play a major role in helping you and your team create more capacity for meaningful CHANGE. But you have to approach them with a thought-out plan before, during, and after the event.

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Setting the Scene: Networking with a Human Stack Twist

If you’ve ever stepped into a bustling conference hall, the air buzzing with excitement, and weaved through the crowd of nonprofit professionals, you realize that networking isn't just about exchanging business cards – it's about forging genuine connections that can turbocharge your career. We’ve compiled some ways to maximize your networking opportunities at nonprofit sector events.

And spoiler alert: it’s not just about delivering your elevator pitch – it's about igniting meaningful relationships and community building so you can drive your organization forward. Your nonprofit advocacy should include the following:


Be Genuine:

Authenticity is key when forging connections. Instead of focusing solely on what you can get out of a conversation, approach each interaction with a genuine interest in the other person. Ask open-ended questions, listen attentively, and find common ground that goes beyond your professional roles.

Have a Gameplan:

Before diving into the conference fray, take some time to set clear networking goals. Are you looking to meet potential partners, learn from industry experts, or simply expand your professional circle? Having a game plan will help you stay focused and make the most of your time. Depending on your goals, you may want to focus on social innovation forums, leadership workshops, or lean into nonprofit technology solutions. Need help to know which of the vital areas your organization needs to prioritize? Invest the best 4 minutes of your day right now to take our Digital Health Quiz


Break the Ice:

Starting conversations with strangers can be intimidating, but a little creativity can go a long way. Consider using icebreaker questions or initiating conversations around shared interests or conference topics. Remember, everyone is in the same boat, so don't be afraid to make the first move.

Follow Up:

The real networking magic happens after the conference is over. Be sure to follow up with the connections you've made, whether it's sending a personalized email, connecting on LinkedIn, or scheduling a follow-up call or coffee meeting. Nurture these relationships over time, and you'll find that your network becomes a valuable resource for advice, support, and collaboration.

Give Back:

Networking isn't just about what you can gain – it's also about what you can contribute. Offer your expertise, insights, or assistance to others in your network, whether it's sharing resources, making introductions, or volunteering your time. By giving back to your network, you'll strengthen your relationships and build a reputation as a trusted and generous collaborator.

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Maximizing Your Conference Experience: Before, During & After

Before the conference, set your GPS for success. You can make the most of your conference prep by researching the agenda. Take time to identify sessions, workshops, and keynotes that align with your goals. Take note of any speakers or topics that pique your interest, and prioritize them in your schedule. *Don't forget to leave room for networking and exploration – sometimes the most valuable connections are made in the hallway between sessions.

We also recommend you reach out to speakers and attendees. Many conferences offer opportunities to connect before the event even begins. Take advantage of social media channels, conference apps, or online forums to introduce yourself, ask questions, and start building relationships. Who knows – you might even line up a coffee meeting or lunch date with a thought leader in your field!

During the nonprofit sector event, you navigate the maze of sessions and workshops with ease, fueled by the knowledge that every interaction is a chance to learn, grow, and connect. Firstly, be proactive in initiating conversations. Don't wait for others to approach you – take the initiative to introduce yourself to new people and strike up conversations. 

Don't forget to leverage social events and networking breaks to your advantage. Whether it's a cocktail reception, coffee break, or networking lunch, these informal settings provide valuable opportunities to connect with others in a more relaxed and casual environment.

After the conference, debrief with your team, make a plan to roll out any changes, delegate what needs to be done by whom, and then hit the ground running.. Also, remember to follow up with your new connections after the event. Connect on social media or send a personalized follow-up email to express your appreciation for the conversation and suggest ways to stay in touch. Building on the connections you've made during the event will help you cultivate lasting relationships and continue to grow your professional network in the long term.

Now that you’re primed for success, it’s time to sign up for a nonprofit event that aligns with your goals!


Top 3 Nonprofit Fundraising Conferences:

  • AFP ICON: Explore innovative fundraising techniques and donor acquisition and retention strategies. Since this is one of the largest fundraising conferences, its sometimes overwhelming due to the size and the breadth of topics covered, so go in with a solid plan.

  • Nonprofit Fundraising Summit: Dive deep into specific fundraising strategies and donor relations, although with a narrower focus.

  • Responsive Nonprofit Summit:  Are you responsive? Virtuous puts on this summit yearly to support nonprofit's in listening to every donor, connect personally, time the right ask, and learn new ways to inspire and engage our communities.

Top 3 Nonprofit Marketing Conferences:

  • Nonprofit Marketing Summit: Discover the latest trends in nonprofit marketing, albeit with a theoretical emphasis versus practical application.

  • Cause Camp: Learn innovative marketing for nonprofits and storytelling techniques, despite its smaller scale.

  • Collaborative by Classy: Forward-thinking nonprofit professionals and social sector experts.  Together, we will uncover the ideas and strategies necessary to propel our sector forward. 

Top 3 Nonprofit Technology Conferences:

  • Tech Forward Conference: Delve into leveraging technology for impact measurement, with sessions tailored for advanced attendees.

  • Good Tech Fest: Good Tech Fest is more than an event, its a community of innovators and changemakers. There are multiple events offered online and in person throughout the year. 

Top 3 Nonprofit Leadership Conferences:

Keep Calm and Conference On

As the conference season comes to a close, you’ll be amazed by the journey you've traveled – the connections you've made, the skills you've gained, and excited about the progress your nonprofit has made. 


Ready to hit the accelerator on your nonprofit journey by having us help you create the right goals and areas of focus? Check out The Human Stack's Digital Driver's Ed course and turbocharge your tech skills today!