What Conferences Should Nonprofit Marketers Budget for and Attend?

I received this email today, and it’s question I get a lot . . .

Dear Kivi,

I am a new communications specialist working for an adult charter school. I’m so excited to be telling the story of an organization doing great work: transforming individuals, families and communities.

I signed up for your newsletter a couple months ago and have found some great resources! I’m looking forward to attending the CharityHowTo webinar on annual reports next month.

We are currently working on our FY13 budget, and I have been researching relevant professional development opportunities not to be missed. I was wondering if you might have any recommendations about conferences focusing on communications/marketing/PR for nonprofits.

 Looking forward to your thoughts!

Mandy Toomey
Communications and Development Associate
Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School

 

Nonprofit marketing and communications is a relatively young discipline, so we don’t really have a great conference created just for us. Instead, we are seeing conferences originally devoted to other disciplines start to address our needs more and more.

Without a doubt, if you can attend only one conference, I suggest that conference be NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference. Yes, it focuses primarily on online marketing and fundraising, but the networking alone is priceless and it’s a great mix of organizations of all sizes. It’s the one event I go to every year. It just took place earlier this month, but start budgeting for April 11-13, 2013 in Minneapolis.

After that, it’s a toss up, based on which direction you want to lean.

Socialbrite maintains a list of nonprofit and social change conferences that’s a great place to start, but it can be overwhelming!

If you want to focus on online marketing and fundraising, consider the Blackbaud Conference for Nonprofits (bbcon) in DC.  There’s also a series of regional Social Media for Nonprofits conferences.

If you are interested in traditional fundraising topics, the AFP Annual Conference is the biggest. The next one is in San Diego, April 7-9, 2013. Kim McCleary reviewed the 2012 AFP conference for us last week.

The Bridge Conference in Washington, DC covers both marketing and fundraising, but mostly from the perspective of bigger organizations that contract out of a lot of their marketing and fundraising (e.g. direct mail, telemarketing, national advertising). Along these same lines, the American Marketing Association and Direct Marketing Association also have nonprofit conferences. While I haven’t attended these personally, my perception is that they are also for larger orgs and wouldn’t be that helpful for smaller nonprofits.

There are also annual conferences by the state nonprofit associations.  While they don’t deal with marketing exclusively, more and more, it’s a part of the standard agenda. I’ll be speaking at the state conferences in Montana and North Carolina this year.

Happy conferencing!

 

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