UPDATED Top Nonprofit Conferences for 2021

Nonprofit conferences are finally coming out of the ZOOM rooms and planning some great post-COVID events. The 2021 fall and 2022 season for conferences are now being announced and planned.

2021 is a unique time for conference-goers. While in-person events are beginning to open up again, many have pivoted to a hybrid learning environment. In-person attendance is becoming both available and optional. It’s great to have options. However, even the best conferences take up work hours, often require travel, and are always associated with hard costs. If you want to get a full lie of the land, scroll down to access our full database of conferences. These cover all areas of the nonprofit sector, in the US and abroad. And, if you just want the highlights, our top 8 picks are below.

Top 8 nonprofit conferences for 2021 (and 2022)

ANA DC Nonprofit Conference (formerly DMA: Washington Nonprofit Conference)

  • When: August 25-27, 2021
  • Where: Chicago, IL & Online (Hybrid)
  • Website: https://www.ana.net
  • What: Nonprofit fundraising and marketing conference
  • How much: $99-$999
  • Audience size: Around 200
  • Who attends: Professional fundraisers, nonprofit communications teams, and tons of vendors.

Hosted by ANA (Association of National Advertisers), which acquired DMA Nonprofit Federation, this multi-day conference offers plenty of fresh ideas and expertise. Networking is encouraged during breaks, and there is also a reception. Many major nonprofits attend and share case study successes in storytelling and fundraising. The Chicago setting makes it easy for attendees and sponsors to organize separate meetings with fellow attendees or local contacts. There are also plenty of vendors sharing knowledge and exhibiting their work. Safety protocols will be enforced for those who choose to attend the event in-person, including mask wearing and social distancing.

SXSW Civic Engagement & Climate Change + SXSW EDU

Note: We combined our summaries for the SXSW bonanza because, Texas.

  • When: March 11-20, 2022 (Civic Engagement, Climate Change & more), March 7-10, 2022 (SXSW EDU)
  • Where: Austin, TX & Online (Hybrid)
  • Websites: https://www.sxsw.com/conference/; https://www.sxswedu.com/
  • What: Mega-marketing and tech conference. These tracks cover innovation, activism, comms, education and tech. So much tech. 
  • How much: Registration opens in late summer 2021. Stay tuned for more information.
  • Audience size: 15,000 (SXSW EDU); 37,000 (SXSW)
  • Who attends: Professional fundraisers, nonprofit communications teams, and tons of vendors. And, everyone else. SXSW EDU is more focused to educators, government and people working in the ed space. 

If you’re the kind of person that thrives in crowds, parties, and socializing, this is your home. You must attend this conference. SXSW’s Civic Engagement & Climate Change tracks are hosted under SXSW at large. These could be particularly interesting for nonprofit professionals, but many other tracks are offered that could also prove to be valuable. These include Advertising & Brand Strategy, Startups, Tech, Media and more. The main issue here is that socially conscious programming competes with the broader SXSW circus, including celebrity mainstages and a dizzying amount of vendors and exhibitors in the main hall (which is more like an airport hangar). 

SXSW EDU is a more focused conference in the lead-up to the main event. If the ed space is where you live, the exposure to the newest concepts and lessons from case studies is excellent. The exhibit hall and networking parties don’t get started until the main conference on March 11, so if you’re shelling out for this, make sure you love the session topics.

Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC)

  • When: 2022 TK
  • Where: Held virtual conference
  • Website: https://www.nten.org/ntc
  • What: The longest-running, nonprofit-focused tech conference in the US
  • How much: $649-$1,249 (depending on timing and NTEN membership)
  • Audience size: around 2000
  • Who attends: Nonprofit communications teams, techies, and some fundraisers

We LOVE the community around this conference. The sessions are well-curated, with specific tracks and great opportunities for networking. There are parties thrown by vendors plus a larger gathering hosted by NTEN. NTEN programmers carefully choose their venues with accessibility in mind, and the whole event is planned with great attention to inclusivity. Be sure to do your homework on the sessions you go, to as some may feel like they’ll require advanced research. Make sure you save time for the sponsor exhibit hall. 

Cause Camp

  • When: October 13-15th, 2021
  • Where: Grand Rapids, MI & Online (Hybrid)
  • Website: https://www.cause.camp/
  • What: Nonprofit marketing, fundraising, and leadership conference
  • How much: $249 individual ($99 to stream)
  • Audience size: Typically 300, Open
  • Who attends: Nonprofit story tellers, executives and fundraisers

Cause Camp features a small audience and presenters with a high amount of polish. The content is carefully curated and well paced. Networking happens between sessions and at an opening-day party. The community is very welcoming and it is clear why many people return year after year.

AFP ICON

  • When: 2022 TK
  • Where: Held virtual conference
  • Website: http://afpicon.com/
  • What: The largest conference in the world for fundraising professionals
  • How much: $499–$1,499  (depending on timing and membership)
  • Audience size: around 4,000
  • Who attends: Professional fundraisers, nonprofit communications teams, and tons of vendors

Hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, this is the Super Bowl of fundraising conferences. Representation from all of the main players in the CRM and donation platform games are here. Content is focused on the trends and tactics in fundraising with a lot of time (we’re talking hours a day) is allocated to the sponsor exhibit hall. Big points for networking and parties, which are thrown by the conference and sponsors. Remember when going that this is a group of fundraisers: Their job is to raise money. Game. On.

Engage For Good

  • When: 2022 TK
  • Where: Held virtual event
  • Website: https://conference.engageforgood.com
  • What:  Nonprofit and Corporate Social Responsibility conference  
  • How much: $445–$1,395
  • Audience size: Around 300
  • Who attends: CSR professionals, nonprofit marketers, executives, cause marketers  

Formerly known as the Cause Marketing Forum, this focused audience works (as the original name would suggest) in the cause marketing ecosystem. Content sits at the intersection of purpose and profit, featuring case studies of successful partnerships. Networking happens between sessions and at the opening day after-party. This is a great conference to learn from experts about smart earned-revenue models, and about how the CSR world at for-profit companies operates. 

National Conference of Volunteering and Service: Points of Light

  • When: July 14-16, 2021
  • Where: Online
  • Website: https://www.pointsoflight.org/conference/
  • What: The world’s largest conference focused on volunteer and service, bringing together more than 2,000 nonprofit, government, business, and civic leaders to gain and share the knowledge, resources and connections..
  • How much: $199
  • Audience size: around 2,000
  • Who attends: Volunteer coordinators, nonprofit communications teams, gov’t and social entrepreneurs and vendors. Many organizations involved in the old Hands-On Points of Light and AmeriCorps networks.

This multi-day conference offers plenty of breakouts and practical, learning-driven tracks with an eye towards cross-sector collaboration. Service and volunteerism are a core theme, with many sessions focused on utilizing AmeriCorps and corporate volunteers. Networking is encouraged during breaks, however there isn’t a main reception for dedicated networking. Plenty of vendors are on-site to share insights and exhibit their work. It is important to note that 2021’s event was originally slotted to be in-person, and is now a fully virtual event. This came with the benefit of lower ticket prices.

Upswell

  • Where: Online
  • When: October 20-22, 2021
  • Website: https://upswell.org/
  • What: Nonprofit fundraising and marketing conference
  • How much: TBA, but hosting free pop-up events now through the Fall
  • Audience size: Open
  • Who attends: Professional fundraisers, nonprofit communications teams, and tons of vendors.

The Independent Sector has agilely honed its multi-day conference offerings year-over-year, from the original IS Conference to 2017’s Our Common Future, to its latest incarnation, Upswell. Independent Sector has built in more downtime to network, catch up on emails, learn from exhibiting partners, or sit in a quiet room. That said, there are still plenty of tracks to choose from across formats that IS continues to refine. Many major nonprofits attend and share case studies in storytelling and fundraising, and the mainstage features major public figures .

If we missed any quintessential nonprofit conferences or you would like to add your conference to the list, please add it below:

Also, just in case you are in charge of planning a conference, we love presenting and sharing our knowledge with the sector. Here are the topics we like to present around.

And here’s our podcast on how to effectively attend a conference with Social Media for Nonprofits