If you want to hone your direct response fundraising skills and stay apprised of the latest trends in nonprofit membership development, the good news is there’s no shortage of conferences and educational events to help you do just that. Unfortunately that’s the bad news too. With an unending supply of webinars and workshops promising to teach you how to do everything from conquer social media to overhaul your acquisition program, how do you choose?
Obviously you want to put your time and professional development budget to the best possible use. But this doesn’t just mean getting quality information and case studies from industry experts. It also means getting unbiased information – or at least sometimes taking the information you receive with a grain of salt. For instance, free webinars from service providers can be a great source of information and the price is nice, but just keep in mind that they are, by nature, intended to showcase the supplier’s services.
So which conferences should you attend? No matter what coast you’re on, if your organization is serious about direct response fundraising, it’s well worth making space in your calendar and budget for these three essentials:
1. The Bridge Conference, July 20-22, 2011. For five years the Washington DC Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals has teamed up with the Direct Marking Association of Washington to bring nonprofit fundraising and marketing professionals this two-day, information-rich conference in Washington DC. The sessions cover nonprofit branding, online giving and advocacy, direct mail, social media and other marketing and fundraising tools and techniques. Register by April 15, 2011 for best rates. And if you’re interested in speaking the Call for Papers Deadline is October 30.
2. NTC, March 17-19, 2011. NTEN‘s Nonprofit Technology Conference is the single largest annual conference focusing on nonprofits’ use of technology. It’s not strictly a fundraising conference, but it’s all about the tools you need to understand and integrate into your programs for successful membership development and advocacy. In 2011 the conference will be held in Washington, DC (the location alternates between San Francisco and Washington DC, with a wildcard city in between).
Sessions cover everything from driving traffic to your website and online conversion techniques to email fundraising and advocacy, to cloud computing and content management systems. Whether you’re an uber techie or just a smart media-agnostic fundraising professional, NTC offers essential information and case studies in online communications, fundraising and new media that you can’t afford to miss.
3. DMA Nonprofit Conference, February 17-18, 2011 (DC Conference). The DMA Nonprofit Federation holds two annual nonprofit conferences in Washington, DC (winter) and New York (summer). Focusing exclusively on direct marketing for nonprofits, it’s a high impact conference that delivers up a wealth of case studies and ideas that you can put into action in your own program. You don’t need to attend both conferences – just attend whichever one is closest to you and you’ll be glad you did.
And for professional development in between conferences, DMFA educational programs offered in New York, Washington, DC and Boston provide high quality direct resonse training and networking opportunities whether you’re just getting started in membership development or are an old pro. Next week on October 21 the DMFA will be offering DM101, a full-day workshop in DC covering online fundraising, direct mail, targeting, analytics and more.
What are your must-attend conferences and resources for fundraising information and ideas? Share your tips here.