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.

Exponent Philanthropy members and constituents design a portion of the 2024 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. The session should: improve an existing practice or mindset; explore a new or emerging practice or mindset; OR offer a unique perspective on a trend in philanthropy.

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 participant interaction as a learning method.

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

    January 4 Call For Sessions Opens
    February 9 Call For Sessions Closes
    End of April Proposal submitters notified of decisions
    April-November Designers work with Exponent Philanthropy staff coach to develop and finalize session plan.
    November 14-16 2024 Annual Conference in Austin, TX

Submission Requirements

  1. Who: This call for sessions is open to member and non-member funders, current Exponent Philanthropy Sustaining Partners (Platinum, Gold, or Silver), 2024 Conference Sponsors, and entities interested in sponsoring the conference or partnering with Exponent Philanthropy.
  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: February 9. There are no deadline extensions. Late submissions cannot be accepted.

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 30-40 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 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 (November 14-16) 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: 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Outsized Impact Film Festival

We also invite funders to consider submitting a 5-minute video to our popular and well-attended preconference film screening session on Wed 11/13. Selection for the film festival does not preclude selection for a session. All production values welcome – from casual iPhone to full production team.

From a 2023 filmmaker: “Participating in the festival [already resulted] in new and deeper connections for [us]. We had a robust conversation at our table discussion that carried over to follow-ups during meals and networking, and now I’m connected with a few new folks who may become partners in our work.”

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:

Leadership and Planning

    • 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
    • Strategic Planning


    • Mobilizing and training the board to play roles in public relations and advocacy
    • Recruiting board members
    • Orienting and training board members
    • Structuring the board and creating clear board positions including Board Chair
    • Planning effective board meetings including creating agendas, getting input, facilitating
    • Creating journeys of constant learning and community engagement for the board
    • Being intentional about board and staff roles and effectively managing the board-ED relationship for mutual success
    • Elevating the board’s role from basic governance to leadership
    • Preventing conflict among the board and between board and staff

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 foundation administration (including but not limited to hiring & managing staff, recordkeeping, communications, fiscal controls, budgeting)
    • Addressing IT and cybersecurity needs
    • Human Resources Management, including salary & benefits administration
    • Developing and nurturing your staff
    • Designing staffing models for a foundation with 4 to 8 staff
    • Management training for foundation EDs

 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
    • Funding community needs assessments


    • 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 in 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


Submit your Session Proposal Now