An important part of being an effective fundraiser is staying up to date on current fundraising trends, industry best practices, and donor preferences. One of the best ways to do that is to attend occasional nonprofit conferences. They’re the best! In addition to the info-packed sessions and workshops, these conferences provide invaluable opportunities to connect with other fundraisers, share ideas, and encourage each other.
But how on earth do you choose the right fundraising conference to attend? There are so many choices!
We rounded up a few of our favorite nonprofit fundraising conferences and included our impressions of each one. We hope this will help you choose the conference that’s the best fit for you and your passions!
The Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference (AFP ICON)
This is one of our favorite conferences. There are tons of sessions, workshops, and roundtables to choose from, and they cover an unbelievably broad range of topics. There’s something for everyone! Sessions about fundraising and event planning are plentiful, but so are sessions around bookkeeping, IT management, staff development, and more.
One of the best parts of AFP ICON is the emphasis on tactical, practical information. You’ll leave every session you attend with handouts, examples, and ideas bouncing around in your head. This is a great learning opportunity for anyone in the nonprofit sector who wants to be more effective in their role.
Pro tip: Another outstanding aspect of AFP ICON is the emphasis on networking. See if your state, local, or regional AFP branch is hosting a reception! You’ll meet up with fundraisers from your area and make valuable local connections. Other gatherings and receptions at the end of each day provide ample opportunities to introduce yourself to likeminded fundraisers who can share ideas and support with you.
The Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC)
If you’re tech-oriented and looking for ways to use technology to improve your fundraising, this is the conference for you! NTC combines practical strategies with conversations about bleeding-edge technology to create a one-of-a-kind educational experience. You may attend one session on the best ways to use text fundraising before heading into a session on machine learning and how to use AI to improve fundraising appeals.
There are learning opportunities for nearly every position in the nonprofit world. That said, there’s definitely a bent toward fundraising and development topics. Networking is a big draw for this conference, too. Plus, NTC is exceptionally welcoming to first-timers. There are tons of affinity groups you can connect with, which is a great way to meet fundraisers with similar backgrounds, affiliations, and hobbies.
Pro tip: The “NTC Beer” meet up the night before the conference starts is the unofficial kickoff for the whole thing. It’s a great chance to check out a local bar, introduce yourself to fundraisers, and ease into your conference experience with a fun, laid-back evening.
Nonprofit Storytelling Conference
AFP ICON and NTC are fun and educational, but they’re really big conferences! If you’re looking for a smaller event with a more specific focus, you may want to check out the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference!
This conference focuses primarily on nonprofit marketing and fundraising, and there’s something for nearly everyone who works in development. If you work in development, major gifts, grants, or event planning, you’ll love the emphasis on identifying and crafting compelling stories that make your marketing and fundraising more effective.
Pro tip: Take advantage of the happy hours, receptions, roundtables, and workshops. Storytelling is an art and a science, and this conference is a valuable opportunity to share ideas with your fellow fundraisers.
Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum Conference
As its name suggests, the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum focuses exclusively on peer-to-peer fundraising. Because this conference focuses on one fundraising style, sessions can get into the nitty-gritty of how to run specific campaigns well.
Sessions at this conference are split into “tracks” that can help you choose classes that speak specifically to the kind of event you run. 5ks and races, bike races, DIY fundraisers, and other tracks cover every imaginable fundraiser you can imagine. But don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to one track! You can pick and choose which sessions you attend no matter what track you’re interested in.
Pro tip: Make sure you visit the exhibition hall, especially on the first night of the conference! Conference organizers require sponsors who exhibit on the first night to have some kind of interactive element at their booths. We’ve seen fun games, raffles, photo booths, coffee stations, and more!
The 2021 Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum has concluded, but keep an eye on their website for information about next year’s event!
The Nonprofit Innovation and Optimization Summit (NIO)
If you love data or get excited about A/B tests, this is a great choice. NIO is put together by the team at NextAfter, a consulting company that focuses on helping nonprofits grow their digital fundraising by understanding donor behavior. They run tons of experiments and A/B tests to figure out which strategies work (or don’t), how donors behave under different circumstances, and how nonprofits can optimize their fundraising to be as effective as possible.
This is definitely a conference for the data-focused fundraiser. You’ll see lots of examples from other nonprofits and results from fundraising optimization experiments. You’ll leave this conference with tons of ideas and a renewed enthusiasm for experimentation, iteration, and optimization.
Pro tip: You’ll notice that exhibitors, session moderators, and other people give you tokens during the conference. Hang onto them! You can trade those tokens for some pretty sweet merchandise at the conference Swag Shop.
State & Regional AFP Conferences
Did you know that there are tons of different AFP conferences? AFP ICON is the most well-known (and most widely attended) conference, but many smaller AFP chapters host their own conferences and workshops. Some notable examples include Planet Philanthropy (put on by AFP Florida), BRIDGE Conference (by AFP in the DC Metro Area), and Fundraising Day (by AFP Toronto). Check with your local AFP chapter to see what local or regional options are available!
These smaller AFP conferences are outstanding resources for nonprofits. Aside from the opportunity to network with fundraisers from your area, you may be able to save some time (and money!) by not having to travel far from home. It’s also valuable to have a solid grasp of how philanthropy functions in your area. What works for a major fundraiser in Chicago may not work in a smaller community—the sessions at regional conferences are more likely to be specific to your community, its needs, and its possibilities.
If you’re looking for a conference that focuses on peer-to-peer fundraising you can attend in 2021, check out P2PWorld! Put on by our friends at Cathexis Partners, this 5-day event is broken up across 5 weeks. Sessions are virtual, and the format gives busy fundraisers a valuable opportunity to brush up on their peer-to-peer prowess without taking multiple days away from the office.
Speakers at this event include fundraising consultants, peer-to-peer experts, industry sponsors, and other nonprofits. There’s something for everyone!
Pro tip: You don’t have to wait to dive into peer-to-peer sessions! Recordings of past presentations are included on their site.
Nonprofit Marketing Summit
If you handle any kind of marketing for your nonprofit, attending this virtual conference is a great way to hone your skills! A broad variety of sessions mean you can learn about anything from planning a social media marketing calendar to the ins and outs of Google Ad Grants.
Nearly every possible facet of nonprofit marketing is covered in this two-day event. If you’re looking to hone existing marketing skills or develop new ones, this is a wonderful resource!
Pro Tip: If you like to go back and re-watch sessions you loved (or watch the sessions you couldn’t attend!), spring for the VIP pass. In addition to other benefits, you’ll get recordings of all 30+ sessions so you can watch them when you want a refresher.
Cause Camp is an outstanding event for anyone who appreciates turning best practices and industry know-how into action items you can use right away. The emphasis at Cause Camp is developing relationships with other fundraisers and learning strategies you can immediately take back to your nonprofit. This year’s 2021 Cause Camp, like so many others on this list, will be held virtually!
Pro Tip: If you’re really focused on taking your nonprofit marketing to the next level, consider enrolling in their Marketing Bootcamp. After their 2-day bootcamp, you’ll leave with a fully-developed marketing plan, including three months of planned content! The 2021 Marketing Bootcamp is already full, but you can already put your name to be on the waitlist for next year.
Qgiv Conference (coming in 2022!)
In 1 BC (“before covid,” in this case 2019), we had a dream. We were planning the Qgiv Conference, a gathering of likeminded fundraisers from all over the country. Sessions were to cover a variety of topics, from cutting-edge thought leadership sessions to Qgiv-specific workshops and roundtables. We all know how 2020 went and why we decided against hosting the conference that year (psst: you can read more about how 2020 impacted the nonprofit sector in our new research study). But the Qgiv team has turned its attention to the future. The Qgiv Conference will finally be held in 2022. Expect to see more from us as the event develops, including details about the venue here in sunny Florida and sneak peeks of our speakers.
There are so many amazing options for fundraisers looking to attend a nonprofit conference. We’ve just listed seven, and that doesn’t even include sector-specific conferences (ex: healthcare-focused nonprofit conferences, faith based-focused conferences, etc.) or organization-specific conferences (ex: YMCA’s annual conference, regional organization conferences, etc.). We hope this list gives you some insight into a few of our favorite conferences and what to expect from each one!
Looking for educational opportunities?
You’ll love our webinars program! Our guest speakers and Qgiv staff cover topics from nonprofit storytelling to legal compliance and beyond. Look through our webinar archive and put together your own in-home conference experience!