There are two conferences I’ll do anything in my power not to miss: Skepticon (which I went to last year for the first time and have no plans of missing ever again) and the Secular Student Alliance national conference.
We networked with leaders of other groups around the country. We had lunch with them, we sat next to them, and we slept in the same dorm rooms as them. We talked about what we’ve done that was successful, what we’ve done that wasn’t, and new idea for how our groups can move forward. I walked away from the three-day conference with a notepad full of ideas for the group (enough to keep us busy the whole year if we wanted), a pocket full of business cards of students to keep in touch with, and a stronger feeling of optimism for what we can accomplish than I would have ever suspected.…
So from now on, the SSA at UNLV has a new item at the top of our budget. Every year, our group is going to pay for two of our members to go to the conference. We’ll take full advantage of the travel grants the SSA offers, but whether we get those or not, airfare, lodging, and meals will be covered for two of our new leaders that year. We have easily been able to cover that expense using what we learned about fundraising at the conference, but even without that, even if it truly were a negative line item on our budget, it would still be the single most valuable thing we could spend our money on.
None of that is an exaggeration. Whether it’s SSA’s conference or the CFI Student Leadership Conference, you learn so much by being around other activists that group leaders would be crazy to miss if they have the option to attend either one.