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The excitement of attending the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference (AFP ICON) on March 29 through 31st in Baltimore is getting stronger, yet there’s one important piece that often gets overlooked by attendees in the lead up.

The Marketplace

Wait, did I just lose you? Don’t click out of this blog just yet. There’s hidden gems in the area that you may walk through but feel is just trying to take money out of your pocket. I’m here to tell you that the
AFP Marketplace is the best way to grow your organization’s capacity as well as have a great time at the conference. Here’s the top two strategies for enjoying the vendor Marketplace to the fullest. 

1. Learning

While nonprofits are not businesses, there is a lot to learn from vendors and consultants who have decided to invest their time, money, and energy into giving you a great experience when visiting their booth. With so many options in the market today for technology, services, and products that will help your organization it is important to be open to new revenue streams as well as new ways to think about your current operations. 

Conferences are some of the most effective ways to get face time when you are shopping for a new service or getting acquainted with one you already have. There is a very good chance that the marketplace will have a software or service that you’re interested in. Even if you ultimately don’t want to learn beyond the conversation you have at their booth, it will still be worth getting you to think about the potential ways you can grow your organization’s capacity.

Strategy: be honest, yet polite. If you are not interested whatsoever in an organization’s services then make it clear that you do not want follow up. There are real people on the other side who are emailing and calling you and saving everyone’s time will make everyone happier. But even vaguely intrigued by what they’re offering? Won’t hurt, you can opt out later and you won’t hurt the marketing team’s feelings.

2. Networking

One of my pet peeves is how vendors use the term “partner” when referring to clients. Yet the reality is that when you look at many of the presentations that AFPICON has to offer, there are a fair amount of vendor / client presentations (e.g. A Nonprofit’s Tech Stack: Accessible Data for All) where there’s a legitimate connection that was made between the vendor and the client.

Furthermore, many vendors will try to bring client success and support staff to AFPICON. This means you are getting to speak (and vent) directly to the people who you are happy, frustrated, angry, thrilled, etc. with. Being able to have a personal connection with the people behind your support tickets or phone calls or invoices is vital to building a long term relationship. Empathy suggestion – if you’re happy, let the team know. It goes a long way to hear that their service or product made a positive difference in your life.

Strategy: many vendors will be able to provide you drink tickets during cocktail hour held at The Marketplace. Cozy up to the ones that you are interested in their services and see if they can hook you up. By the way, Neon One’s booth is at 313. Ask for me, but just be honest with me about your email opt-in.

There’s many ways that you can benefit from The Marketplace at AFPICON (or any conference for that matter). While these tips and tricks are useful, don’t forget that many vendors try to put out items or toys that may be great for kids or just be interesting. And most importantly, they are there because they think they can help you! Be open, be inquisitive, and be ready to learn and network.

Want to make the most of your experience? Visit Booths 313, 435, and  451. Drinks are on us.

Join me: Thursday, March 5th, 2020 
Flash Class: How will you make the most of AFP ICON? With Tim Sarrantonio & Kelsey Nelson


Curious for more? Visit the rest of our Mastermind Series content here! Deep dive with us and check out our recorded Flash Classes, LiveCast recordings, and podcasts with these same Masterclass presenters.


Tim Sarrantonio

Tim oversees Neon One’s ecosystem of software, consultant, and institutional partners that can address any nonprofit need. Neon One provides best in class products with NeonCRM, Rallybound, CiviCore, Arts People, and an ecosystem ensures that over 27 product integrations and over 90 consultants are working to solve problems specific to nonprofits.  

Key Strategies for Enjoying the AFP ICON Marketplace | The Masterminds Blogs