Editor’s Note: This week’s blog post is brought to you by IMPACTism's Founding Strategist and Principal, Jack Karako.  IMPACTism works to improve online charitable giving models by partnering directly with organizations and businesses who make a positive impact on society.

There are dozens of nonprofit marketing conferences all across the country. And whatever subset of marketing you find yourself in, you and your nonprofit team can benefit from attending and networking at one of the numerous conferences that are coming up next year.

Whether you’re marketing your nonprofit to brand new donors or trying to retain the ones you already have, there is a conference for you! Networking at these events is crucial if you and your nonprofit want to successfully share and gain new strategies for marketing to donors and prospects.

Take a look at these top three tips that will help you successfully network at your next conference.

These tips can also work at any kind of nonprofit conference, whether it’s an alumni fundraising conference or a small data conference.

1. Volunteer like a pro

Before attending your next marketing conference, contact the host and offer to help with set-up or preparation. Volunteering before a conference starts is not only a great way to see the inner workings of that type of event, but you might also score VIP passes to special events during the conference.

Obviously, don’t help just because you want the perks that come along with being an insider -- volunteer because you actually want to.

When you help a stressed-out conference staff member, they’ll not only appreciate your generosity, but there’s a good chance they’ll reciprocate the kindness. Getting insider’s access to the conference’s VIP events can be the beginning of some great connections with the nonprofit marketing world’s biggest movers and shakers.

For instance, you might gain some new insights into email marketing that you would have otherwise missed out on had you not offered to go behind the scenes.

2. Determine who you want and need to talk to

If you’re attending a major marketing conference next year, it can be slightly overwhelming (especially if you’re shy!). There are numerous speakers and events and sometimes thousands of people who are all trying to network with each other.

How can you possibly get through all of those people and events in only a few days?

The best way to jump that hurdle and finish the conference race in first place is to narrow down who you want to network with at the conference.

Conference hosts will post lists of speakers and vendors who will be at the event. Sometimes they will also publicize a list of confirmed attendees. Even though this list may be several hundred names long, you should definitely take the time to look through it and determine which attendees you want to connect with during the conference.

Instead of wasting time trying to talk to everyone, narrow down your list and streamline your networking process.

3. Don’t be a wallflower

This can be a tempting move, especially if you’re in the third day of a large marketing conference and all you want to do is relax. Your quiet hotel room and complimentary pillow chocolate might be calling your name, but you’ve got to rally and commit to making the most of your conference experience.

This means:

  • Showing up to sessions and events early. Not only will this give you time to prepare and get situated, but you’ll also be able to meet new people that come in after you.
  • Being attentive and engaging. Maybe you’re responsible for marketing planned and major giving to your donors. If the conference you’re attending has a session on planned giving, sit in on it and ask questions, talk to people around you, and hang out afterward to talk to the speaker. You’ll learn more and expand your professional network.
  • Know your limit. All of the networking in the world will do no good if you aren’t actually invested in it. Make sure that you’re well-rested, well-fed, and know when to take a break to recharge.

Being actively engaged in your next marketing conference will help you gain more insight into your profession and expand your existing network of nonprofit colleagues.


There are many other ways for your nonprofit to succeed when it comes to its marketing and day-to-day operations. Attending a nonprofit marketing conference and following these three tips will help ensure that you network effectively and gain new ideas for marketing to your donors and prospects.