Article by Jack Karako at IMPACTism

There are hundreds of nonprofit conferences that are coming up next year. Are you going to any of them?

Whether you need to learn more about nonprofit communication methods or want help rebranding your nonprofit with a new logo, a marketing conference can be the perfect opportunity to brush up on your supporter outreach strategies.

If you plan on attending a nonprofit marketing conference in the coming weeks or months, you’ll need to effectively network in order to get the most out of your conference experience.

Instead of simply handing out your business cards to everyone you see, employ more purposeful networking strategies. Not only will you be able to learn more while you’re at the conference, but your post-conference connections with other nonprofit professionals will be stronger.

Take a look at these top three tips before heading out to your next nonprofit marketing conference.


1. Network before the conference even starts

“Wait a minute,” you might be saying. “How can I network at a conference before it begins?”

Well, I’ll tell you!

Most conferences will have an extensive social media presence with Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, and Twitter handles with corresponding hashtags.

Connect with other conference participants on these social media platforms to pick their brains about marketing strategies and best practices before the conference even begins.

Once you do arrive at the conference, follow up with these individuals to keep the conversation going.

For instance, if you connected with a colleague on Twitter, meet up with them during the conference to discuss other marketing strategies.

Preparing beforehand and forming relationships prior to walking into the conference venue is crucial for networking success.


2. Offer to volunteer

Even though conferences have dedicated staff that help set up, check in, and perform other logistics, every conference host would appreciate a few extra helping hands. Just like your nonprofit needs volunteers to effectively keep its engine running smoothly, conferences can always use more help.

If it’s possible, offer to volunteer at the next nonprofit marketing conference you go to.

Volunteering at a conference has a couple of benefits:

  1. You get a chance to look behind the scenes. Everyone knows what conferences look like on the outside. But if you get the opportunity to volunteer, you’ll have a more exclusive view of the conference.
  2. You might score VIP passes to special events. While you should be volunteering to help out and not for your own self interest, offering to lend a hand at a conference might result in some special perks. You might be able to meet and speak with individuals whom you would not have met had you not volunteered.

While not all nonprofit marketing conferences are going to need or allow others to volunteer, you have nothing to lose by simply asking. And if you do end up lending a helping hand, you’ll be better off for it!


3. Be engaged

This point seems like a no brainer, but it’s so important that it bears mentioning.

Conferences are great places to receive lots of information and meet a ton of people. But after a couple days’ worth of sessions, you might be ready to throw in the towel.

Don’t! Being engaged doesn’t necessarily mean flying around the conference venue, shaking hands with every person, and attending every single session. You can show your engagement in any number of other ways:

  • Show up early to sessions. Not only will you not have to worry about finding a seat, but you’ll also be able to interact with the other attendees who show up after you.
  • Attend the “optional” sessions. If there are optional networking events and sessions that occur beyond the standard conference hours, try to attend them as time permits.
  • Meet with people outside of your area. Many marketing conferences will also have sessions and events that focus on other areas in the nonprofit world. Instead of sticking to what you know, branch out a little and learn something new.
  • Know your limits. Even the best networking strategies will fall flat if you aren’t well rested and don’t know when to take a break.

Being engaged at a conference is the key to getting the most out of your networking experiences. Just like you would want your supporters to be engaged during an advocacy campaign or fundraiser, conference hosts want attendees to be alert and ready to learn.


Marketing conferences are great places to learn more about the upcoming technologies and strategies for marketing to your nonprofit’s supporters and asking for donations. Successful networking will not only help you succeed at the conference in the short term, but will also help your nonprofit in the long term.


 About the Author:

By Jack Karako, Founding Principal and Strategist of Impactism

IMPACTism is committed to harnessing information technology, turning information into knowledge, knowledge into greater interest, and greater interest into greater participation.

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