Annual Conference Call for Sessions - Exponent Philanthropy

Annual Conference Call for Sessions

The Exponent Philanthropy Annual Conference is designed for and by lean funders—those who give with few or no staff. Here, you can let your guard down and talk about the problems affecting the causes and communities you care about most with those who can relate.

Call For Sessions

Exponent Philanthropy members and constituents design a portion of the 2023 Annual Conference, and we invite you to submit your session ideas.
Preview Proposal Application Form 

Submit your Session Proposal Now

Evaluation Criteria  

We are seeking sessions that provide actionable instruction for our community of lean funders. Our expectation is that session designers articulate educational take-aways that are both specific and universal, rather than tell a story about one foundation’s work. 

We will accept sessions that achieve the following: 

  1. Provide participants with practical guidance and take-aways.
  2. Address one of the indicated topic areas below.
  3. Improve an existing practice or mindset, explore a new or emerging practice or mindset, OR offer a unique perspective on a trend in philanthropy. 

Exponent Philanthropy’s Programs & Services Committee, additional volunteer members, and key staff will review all submissions and select those that are most relevant to our audience and meet at least one of the above criteria. The committee will review all session proposals name blind—i.e., solely on the strength of the proposal in meeting the criteria. 

Session Planning Key Dates & Deadlines

December 15 Call For Sessions Opens
January 31 Call For Sessions Closes
Mid-late March Proposal submitters notified of decisions
April-October Designers work with Exponent Philanthropy staff coach to develop and finalize session plan.
October 17-19 2023 Annual Conference

Submission Requirements 

  1. Who: This call for sessions is open to member and non-member funders, as well as current Exponent Philanthropy Sustaining Partners (Platinum, Gold, Silver or Provisional) or Conference Sponsors.
  2. How many: Organizations or individuals may submit a maximum of two proposals. All proposals submitted by different individuals from the same organization count toward the limit.
  3. Deadline: January 31. There are no deadline extensions. Late submissions cannot be accepted. 
  4. Designer ownership: There are no session designer transfers. This means the person who submits the session must be the person who works with Exponent Philanthropy staff throughout the 6-month session design process. If the designer transfers or delegates the work, Exponent Philanthropy reserves the right to disqualify the session.  

         Conference Session Details 

        • Audience: Our audience includes donors, trustees and staff from all types of foundations; individual donors and philanthropic families; donor advised fund holders and managers; philanthropic support organizations; philanthropic service professionals; and thought leaders in the field of philanthropy. 
        • Numbers: Breakout sessions can see participant numbers ranging from 35-50 on the lower end to 75-90 on the higher end.   
        • Length: Most sessions are 75 minutes. We’re also planning for a small number of short-form storytelling sessions as well as longer deep-dive workshops. Exponent Philanthropy will confirm your session’s length at the time of acceptance.   
        • Room set-up: Given hotel space and health and safety protocols, session designers will not have discretion over the set-up of session rooms. 

        Expectations for Accepted Session Designers 

        Proposal submitters are asked to keep the conference dates (October 17-19) available until they’re notified of the status of their proposal. Session designers who do not adhere to the expectations below may have their sessions removed from the conference program at the discretion of Exponent Philanthropy staff. 

        Please note, session designers will not receive free or discounted access to the full conference. Speakers may attend at no cost only on the day they are speaking.  

        If selected for a session, designers must agree to: 

        • Participate in a session design webinar training to review deadlines, key steps in the process, and Exponent Philanthropy’s educational philosophy. 
        • Complete all session planning tasks and meet all deadlines.  
        • Participate in a speaker webinar, if speaking.   
        • Work with a session coach (an Exponent Philanthropy staff member) to design and execute the session. This means being willing and open to adapt the session to fit the criteria.  
        • Incur all expenses related to the development and implementation of their sessions. Exponent Philanthropy does not pay honoraria, travel, per diem, or other costs for session speakers or designers.   
        • Be present at the conference and serve as a point person in the session (if not speaking) by introducing the session and assisting with technology and handout distribution.   
        • Comply with Exponent Philanthropy’s Non-Solicitation Policy: All Exponent Philanthropy programs are non-solicitation environments and shall not be used for commercial sales pitches, self-promotion, or unwarranted criticism of a competitor. Exponent Philanthropy reserves the right to take action as necessary to address violations of this policy. 

          Session Topics 

          Conference sessions will highlight our three areas of focus: catalytic and equity-centered practices and the fundamentals of foundation management.

          For more on these areas of focus, see our resources: 

           We are specifically requesting sessions that center on the following: 

           Foundation Management Fundamentals 

          • Understanding foundation legal requirements 
          • Understanding foundation tax requirements 
          • Understanding & addressing accounting needs (including 990PF) 
          • Managing investment assets and advisors 
          • Understanding the basics of board governance (including but not limited to succession planning, strategic planning, bringing on new members, board self-assessment)  
          • Understanding the basics of foundation administration (including but not limited to hiring & managing staff, recordkeeping, communications) 
          • Addressing IT and cybersecurity needs 


            • Fostering equity (racial, gender, disability, and/or sexuality) in your grantmaking   
            • Streamlining grantmaking processes to reduce the burden on grantees  
            • Strengthening organizations through general operating support, capacity building, and/or multiyear funding 
            • Supporting leaders of color and small, dynamic grassroots organizations  
            • Engaging grantees and members of the community in decision making  
            • Providing seed funding for start-up nonprofit organizations or social entrepreneurs  
            • Supporting and nurturing talent, leadership and potential with grantees and community members  
            • Funding and disseminating research for policy change  
            • Funding organizations engaged in advocacy  
            • Supporting community organizing or movement building 
            • Assessing your impact 

            Going Beyond Grants 

            • Leveraging powerful assets like knowledge, connections, reputation and more to take on challenging issues and problems  
            • Convening grantees, community members and local leaders from all sectors  
            • Mobilizing diverse partners around an issue to develop action plans, coordinate efforts, and build collective will  
            • Leveraging your relationships to serve as a community broker and matchmaker  
            • Promoting civic education, participation, and voter engagement  
            • Speaking out to call attention to urgent issues  

            Learning About Your Community and Investing in Relationships 

            • Inviting conversations and nurturing relationships with grantees and community members  
            • Listening to and understanding your community and the history and ecosystem of your issue areas 
            • Respecting and relying on the experience and wisdom of grantees and community members  
            • Understanding gaps and needs, and leverage points for change  

            Governance & Leadership 

            • Fostering equity (racial, gender, disability, and/or sexuality) within your board, staff and operations 
            • Developing a common understanding with board and staff on what you want to accomplish  
            • Focusing a significant part of your work on one or two issues  
            • Committing to long term goals that can take multiple years or even decades 
            • Seeking out ways to collaborate with other funders in diverse ways  
            • Investing in professional development for board and/or staff 
            • Mobilizing and training the board to play roles in public relations and advocacy 

            Submit your Session Proposal Now