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4 Ways to Succeed at Your Next Nonprofit Conference

Do you feel like you and your nonprofit are stuck in a rut? Are you looking for new ideas and can’t seem to find them anywhere?

I’ve got the perfect solution for you! Attend one of the many upcoming conferences next year.

Conferences are a great way for your nonprofit team to get out of the office and gain a fresh perspective on some of the toughest issues and problems that you face on a daily basis.

However, you can’t just waltz through the venue doors and expect opportunities to fall into your lap. You have to properly prepare and strategize to get the most out of your conference experience.

Take a look at these top four ways to succeed at your next nonprofit conference.

1. Register early

Many conferences have different price levels depending on when you register. If you just walk up and register the day of the conference, you’re going to pay a lot more than if you registered a few months in advance.

Of course, all conference deadlines are different and the pricing across events varies.

But, registering early gives you the benefit of deciding which events you need to attend. Many conferences will have à la carte pricing as well which can help you decide which type of package you should purchase.

Registering early can save you both money and a headache. Make sure you start researching conference deadlines in advance so you don’t miss out!

2. Do research beforehand

Need a lot of help with donor acquisition but not so much with fundraising metrics? Take note of which sessions will be held during the conference and make a point to attend the ones that will provide you with the most information.

Conference hosts will usually post schedules and events on their websites prior to the big day. After you’ve registered (hopefully, early!), take a look at the schedule and see what captures your interest.

But don’t just plan for the sessions you want to attend. Map out your networking opportunities as well. Sometimes, conference hosts will publicize a list of confirmed attendees. If you need to bounce ideas off another nonprofit professional, make it a point to network with them during the conference.

Don’t feel like you have to follow your networking plan to the letter, however. Give yourself room for spontaneous interactions. You never know who you might bump into!

3. Network before, during, and after

You might be asking, “How can I network at a conference before it even starts?”

It’s simple! Many conferences have a Facebook page and a Twitter account with a corresponding hashtag that conference participants can use before and during the conference to connect with one another. You can ask questions, get advice, and get to know your fellow conference attendees before you even meet them face to face.

During the conference, do more than just hand out your business cards. Engage in meaningful conversations with your peers and colleagues.

You might end up making a meaningful and lasting connection!

Afterwards, make sure that follow up with the people that you met and had positive interactions with. If a fundraiser at another nonprofit had some really great fundraising ideas, follow up with him or her to get a new perspective for your next fundraising event.

Making the most of your nonprofit conference networking events is crucial to your success.

4. Be engaged

The above point spoke to your duty as a nonprofit professional to effectively network at your next conference.

But networking is just one part of the “Be Engaged!” puzzle.

Effective engagement at a nonprofit includes a combination of the following:

  • Showing up early to sessions. Nothing says “I don’t really care” like wandering into a room after a session has already started. Get an early start so that you can talk to other attendees before the speaker begins.
  • Attending the “optional” sessions. Going to unique events and sessions that you don’t necessarily have to attend can be a great way to relieve some stress and meet some new people.
  • Knowing when to take a break. You need to get as much as you can out of your conference experience, but you can’t do that if you’re falling asleep in your chair during a session. Find a good balance and take a break when you need to.

These strategies will help you stay engaged during your conference and will allow you to make the most of the experience.


Conferences can be simultaneously exciting and nerve wracking. But with these four tips, you’ll be able to emerge from your conference on the last day well-informed and well-connected. Whether you need help with your nonprofit’s mission statement or you’re trying to boost your donor retention, a nonprofit conference can be just what you need!