4 days…96 hours…5,760 minutes. Yep, #bbcon 2015 is really almost here.

I don’t know about you, but I’m more excited for this year’s conference than I have been for any in years past. Maybe it’s because there’s a heightened focus this year on making it a conference for the entire philanthropic industry. Or maybe it’s because of the Big Idea Sessions and the new Social Media Lounge. Or maybe it’s Ashley Judd.

Regardless, I’m anticipating a convention center exploding with energy—the kind that inspires you to think differently, do more, and dream bigger.

If you’ve taken a look at the agenda, you know what I mean when I say it’s packed. From breakout sessions and Big Ideas to key notes and learn labs, I know that I can’t be the only person overwhelmed with all the goodness going on.

To make navigating the conference schedule a little easier, I’ve highlighted 5 things you absolutely can’t miss: 

1. The BIG Idea Sessions:

There are total of 6 Big Idea Sessions happening this year, and they all promise to be killer. With speakers such as Sean Sheridan, Marc Pitman, Vanessa Chase, Amy Sample Ward, Jennie Larson, and Rachel Muir, how could they not be?

The Hot Topics:

  1. The Future of Fundraising: Donna Wilkins, Rachel Muir, Ted Hart
  2. Harnessing Your Organization’s Story: Marc Pitman, Sean Sheridan, Vanessa Chase
  3. Your Future Donor: Una Osili, Alia McKee, Monica Maldonado Williams
  4. The Future of Nonprofit Technology: Amy Sample Ward, Robert Machen, Tom Matthews
  5. Creating a Movement: Jensine Larsen, Courtney Corbin, Shayna Englin
  6. Measuring Outcomes: Hal Williams, Andrew Wolk

These sessions are being led by some of the top minds in the industry. There’s no doubt that every session will challenge us all to re-imagine the ways we think about our roles in the philanthropic industry, and leave us all more prepared to do more and think BIG.

2. The Social Media Lounge

Ok, so I’m admittedly partial to this one. For the first year ever, we’re hosting a social media lounge where the focus is going to be about taking all of the amazing conversations that are happening within the convention walls and sharing them online.

And we’ll be hosting some killer pop-up sessions throughout the conference:

  1. Cause for Change with Derrick Feldmann
  2. Creativing Movements with Digital and Social Media with Austin Graff
  3. Monthly Giving – The Strategy You Need in 2016 and How to Pull It Off with Brady Josephson

Stop by, tweet with us, take a selfie, or recharge—Let’s create some #bbcon buzz! Go here to download your 2015 social media guide. And don’t forget that every #bbcon tweet = a donation to Latinitas!

3. Keynotes by Nicholas Kristoff and Ashley Judd

Talk about a stellar line-up, am I right? Nicholas and Ashley will be helping us open and close this year’s #bbcon with a major bang.

In case you need it, here’s a little background on the two of them:

Nicholas Kristoff:

Nicholas D. Kristof is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. With his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, he has written several books including: A Path Appears, Half the Sky, Thunder from the East, and China Wakes. They were awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for their coverage of China and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2009. Nicholas was previously bureau chief in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Tokyo. He won his second Pulitzer in 2006 for his columns on Darfur.

Ashley Judd:

A Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated actress, Ashley Judd is known for starring in films such as Where the Heart Is, Simon Burch, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and Big Stone Gap.Outside of Hollywood, Ashley serves as a board member for Population Services International and Global Ambassador for YouthAIDS. She has traveled the world to do international public health work on maternal health, child survival, human rights, family planning, STD and HIV prevention, and malaria prevention and treatment. She has spoken at conferences around the world, including the London School of Economics’ Family Planning Summit, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She also hosted a talk with President Clinton on the Clinton Foundation for the London School of Economics and spoke on the floor of the Democratic National Convention as ballots were cast for the party’s presidential nominee.

4. Impact Awards

The Blackbaud Impact Awards recognize nonprofit professionals using technology to power their passions and help good take over.

This year we’ll be giving awards from 4 categories:

  1. Innovation of the Year: Awarded to a professional who delivered a transformational impact to  their nonprofit’s operations by leveraging Blackbaud technology in new and creative ways
  2. Fundraising Dynamo: Awarded to a professional who understands the value of cultivating meaningful, long lasting relationships with supporters, and is adept at using his or her toolkit to understand what constituents need and how to build relationships with them.
  3. Most Impactful Digital Strategy: This award goes to the organization that transformed its outreach using digital media. By embracing online, mobile, and social media, this organization has optimized its performance for maximum success in an evolving landscape.
  4. NEW People’s Choice: Mission in Action Award: Every cause has a story. It’s at the heart of every member of your team, every dollar you raise, every communication you send, every second of your efforts to raise awareness and drive change.For the first time ever, #bbcon attendees will be able to vote among finalists for the photograph that most powerfully conveys the impact of the mission or the story behind the cause.

I cannot wait to celebrate the winners of these awards and all the ways they’re helping make this world a better place.

5. Friendly Savages

Because you can’t have bbcon in ATX without getting to hear “one of the best groups working in Austin today.”

The Friendly Savages make music out of the Austin, Texas, the cauldron of rock, blues, and secret sauce, and their characteristic style and the energy they bring to live shows is going to keep all of us rockin’ throughout the 3 day conference.


And that’s just the beginning..

This list doesn’t even begin to skim the surface of all the amazing things that will be happening during conference. There will be major announcements, reveals, deep-dives, contests, beat poetry, and more. I’ll do my very best to keep you all updated here on npENGAGE, but I encourage you to keep up with us on social by following #bbcon.


Madeline Turner is the Online and Social Marketing Manager at Blackbaud. Prior to running Blackbaud’s social media and thought leadership blog npENGAGE, Madeline worked as a Managing Editor for Blackbaud’s Content Marketing program. It is her goal to create content and share ideas that challenge the status quo of the nonprofit industry. When Madeline isn’t tweeting or writing blog posts, you can find her drinking coffee out of her ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ mug, wearing giant headphones and singing off-key.

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