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Should Nonprofit Professionals Attend Technology Conferences?

conferenceWith limited budgets and the proliferation of information on the Internet, it’s questionable whether or not a nonprofit organization should go to the expense and logistics of sending staff members to technology conferences.
By using your personal and professional network, it is reasonable to think that you can get good recommendations and feedback on products that are available.

But, there is something to be said for attending these conferences. Technology is growing and changing at an amazing rate, and conferences like this are the places where new advances are often introduced. Add to that the competition for donor dollars, and it may very well be worth it to get a peek into where the industry is going.

Of course, it makes the most sense to choose conferences that focus specifically on the nonprofit realm. These will generally include presentations and panels by professionals who are chosen specifically for what they have to offer to this specific market. Topics will vary widely, which allows you to choose those that are most pertinent. It can also provide a nice cross-section of areas in which to gain more understanding. For example, you may be able to attend one session on using your database to more efficiently manage volunteers, while the next one introduces you to the best blogging software to engage your supporters.

With that increasing competition for donations, attending a nonprofit technology conference can also help you make decisions regarding the direction you want your organization to take. You will be privy to new developments before the competition and be able to have them implemented and the bugs worked out before others are even aware of what has become available. In addition to workshops and sessions, you’ll likely get to tour a number of vendors in order to learn first-hand about the products they have to offer.

By assessing your organization’s needs, you can review upcoming conferences in order to determine which might meet the most. Planning ahead can save a considerable amount on airfare and hotel reservations. If you’re really shoe-stringing it, consider conferences that are within driving distance or that are in cities where staff members have family or friends to reduce the cost of lodging.

Finally, if you have a staff member of volunteer who is particularly interested in technology, sending him or her to a conference can be a great way to build skills while offering recognition for hard work and commitment. It’s a win-win situation because both the individual and the organization benefit.

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