Why Conferences Are Critical For Growth

 

Why Conferences Are Critical For Growth

(Disclosure: Joe Mueller is a past president, vice president and treasurer of the Community Service Public Relations Council. He served on the Spectrum Conference planning committee for the past four years.)

As a general rule, nonprofit communicators don’t take enough time for professional or personal development.

There are always annual reports to be produced, media releases to be written and distributed, social media channels to be administered, and fundraising campaigns to be supported with various marketing collateral. Then there’s staff meetings to attend, board members to meet and volunteer efforts to support.

You’re overworked and under loved.

But communicators, fundraisers and other nonprofit leaders need at least one day per year dedicated to learning about new trends and required skills, meeting fellow nonprofit professionals who share the same struggles, and taking a few minutes to breathe and visualize how their organization could benefit from a new or different approach.

You can probably come up with many more reasons to attend a one-day conference. In the St. Louis region, the Community Service Public Relations Council’s annual Spectrum Conference meets and surpasses these needs. It provides a wide variety of presentations on communications and public relations, fundraising and leadership. For those new to the nonprofit sector and the profession, it provides an opportunity to learn from professionals with decades of experience.

As the Spectrum Conference came to a close on Tuesday, May 10, 2016, other lessons that became apparent:

Benefits of community: Throughout the years, dozens of professionals developed longstanding relationships and friendships through CSPRC and they often began at the Spectrum Conference. There are hundreds of examples of problems solved during a discussion in a presentation or at a lunch conversation. Sometimes, it’s a form of group therapy where fellow nonprofit professionals will provide insights or advice or lift your spirits with a word or two of encouragement. The passion and commitment of those who make presentations and vendors who sponsor events can be energizing and provide motivation and enthusiasm.

Don’t forget to unpack: Chances are you gained ideas to work smarter, not harder. But there’s a tendency for nonprofit professionals to immediately dive back into their email and task lists the moment the conference ends or the day after. One can increase the value of a conference by organizing materials and notes within 24 hours of its conclusion. New ideas to possibly implement or items requiring immediate action won’t be lost if they’re documented and added to your planning system or process.

You are a leader: One of the simplest but most profound lessons for the attendees came during the closing keynote by Beth Fagan. She asked those who were communicators to raise their hand. She then asked those who were leaders to raise their hand.

“Everyone should have had their hands raised both times because all of your are communicators and leaders,” she said.

No matter the size of your organization’s budget, the number of people it serves or the amount of money it raises, your nonprofit will always need outstanding communications and leadership. The rewards will be great for all nonprofits and the people they serve when staff members take a day to learn, share and value the importance of these management functions.


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