GIA Conference Session Guidelines

Conference Session Development Process

Full details for how to submit a session for the GIA Conference are below. The process for submitting is here.

Conference sessions are developed in two ways:

  1. Session proposals submitted by GIA members during the call for sessions are evaluated and chosen by the GIA team with input from the GIA board of directors, Support for Individual Artist Committee, and Racial Equity Committee.
  2. Design and organization by the conference and preconference committees.

Following the selection of conference sessions, the GIA team will require organizers to participate in a session on planning and design processes. Organizers and presenters will be asked to submit a run of show (templates provided by GIA) and attend two 1-hour webinars on designing engaging sessions and designing accessible sessions, respectively.

Session Types

ON-SITE SESSIONS: On-site sessions are intended to be dynamic and interactive in nature within a 60- to 75-min timeframe and will be presented at the conference hotel. All presenters are expected to be joining in-person. Sessions can include a maximum of four speakers including a moderator.

OFF-SITE SESSIONS: Off-site breakout sessions take place at arts-related venues ideally linked to session content. Off-site sessions are allotted a three-hour time slot that includes, in addition to the session presentation, time for travel to and from the site, site tours, and/or additional site-specific content. Off-site sessions will be co-designed by session organizer(s) and the GIA team. For off-site sessions, we recommend that you list potential or ideal venues in your submission. Sessions can include a maximum of four speakers including a moderator.

Session Priorities

As we look toward the future – one that must be more equitable and just – it is essential that arts grantmakers reflect on how the past has informed our path here and what it will take to build power and cultural narratives that manifest the future we need.

As in previous conferences, we will continue to foreground GIA's funding focus areas: advocacy and public policy, capitalization, racial equity and justice, support for individual artists, and funding at the intersection. We encourage session proposals that are anchored in the above focus areas with a particular focus on cultural practices that reflect on the past and build power toward just futures. As the GIA team designs and selects thematic content, we are creating opportunities for shared learning while also supporting a community of practice that builds momentum in the direction of justice.

Specifically, GIA encourages conference session proposals that speak to our vision for the future of arts grantmaking by:

  • Increasing support to arts and culture through inclusion of arts and culture (i.e., the engagement of non-arts funders);
  • Using arts and culture as a frame to approach social issues;
  • Considering standard funding practices and alternative economies for investment in arts and culture;
  • Discussions emphasizing advocacy and public policy and practice;
  • Progressive ideas around technology, the digital world, and its role in the arts and culture sector;
  • Engaging foundation presidents and trustees and directors of public agencies as well as public commission members;
  • Showcasing current or emerging trends, innovative, or experimental approaches to grantmaking, and/or creative responses to problems or opportunities facing the cultural community;
  • Highlighting local perspectives that can also be applied to other locations and communities;
  • Including presenters who are artists, organizers, academics, local-knowledge experts, new grantmakers, and non-arts grantmakers who represent diverse perspectives and populations;
  • Demonstrating collaborations among funders or funders and other sectors;
  • Stimulating discussion and debate, challenge conventional thinking, and/or offer different points of view; and
  • Providing practical advice or tips for funders to take back to their workplaces.

Grantmakers in the Arts discourages conference session proposals that:

  • Are lectures or presentations of academic papers;
  • Do not include any aspect of interaction and opportunity to grapple with information;
  • Include incomplete representation of diverse voices (racially; geographically; etc.); and
  • Do not honor the guidelines.

Session Formats

Sessions are dialogic and participatory in nature. Sessions may be presented in any of the following formats, each designed to be highly inquisitive, participatory, and actionable.

Interactive Workshop Lite

Looking to explore new approaches and leading-edge ideas in the field of arts funding? An interactive workshop – presented by a team of 2-4 facilitators – is designed to engage participants in learning new frameworks, practical approaches and tools, case studies to inform work in your home community, and skills for advancing our collective field-wide work. These workshops can take varied formats including creative inquiry; generative, arts-based practice; break-out discussion; hands-on mapping/analysis; or skill-building; among others. The session should include participatory components and space for interacting with the facilitators in addition to Q&A.

Panel Dialogues

A standard, well-developed panel presentation – presented with 2-4 speakers each bringing a variety of experiences/perspectives to the topic – that may feature [1] deep-dive/field-wide conversation, [2] dialogue with peers with different concentrations, geographies, methodologies, etc., or [3] a case study inquiry. Ensure that at least 1/3 of the session time is dedicated to audience engagement (e.g., Q&A, brainstorming, collaborative problem-solving, etc.).

Un-Panel “Fishbowl” Dialogues*

*In a virtual format, this might include breakout rooms.

In this dynamic session style, there are 3-4 speakers who contribute to an engaging dialogue concerned with field-wide issues. Rather than using a panel presentation format, speakers gather in a discussion circle with participants seated in concentric circles around them. This session style allows for deeper conversation amongst speakers while encouraging those in the outside circles to participate in this witnessed conversation by joining the fishbowl.

Round Table Dialogues*

*Designed as 15- to 20-minute rotating table-talks. In a virtual format, this might include rotating breakout rooms

Looking for input or feedback on challenges in philanthropic/public funding practice? For subjects that are well suited for a format other than a panel, round table dialogues offer an opportunity for peer-learning on a variety of subjects in quick succession. Each roundtable has a host who puts forward a discussion topic within the theme, after 15-20 minutes, the host remains, and all others move to another table. Dialogue continues for three rounds followed by a final share out by hosts.

Dialogues are facilitated by practitioners, organized by focus area, and encourage peer exchange to share common experiences, challenges, approaches, and solutions. These sessions may be organized by the conference planning team to couple similar topics within a shared space.

I Have Another Idea (A.K.A. Other)

If your preferred format is not listed above or you have a new idea for convening attendees in a space for justice and learning, you are welcome to get creative and offer an alternative format. The new format should not exceed 4 speakers. As you tap into your creativity, please be mindful of the material and technological limitations that the session may encounter.

Session Costs

Members proposing and organizing sessions pay their own costs associated with attending the conference as well as the transportation and lodging expenses for their non-member presenters. GIA will provide complimentary one-day registration for all membership-ineligible session presenters as well as provide a $300 speaker honorarium. Once sessions have been accepted, conference staff will work with each organizer to coordinate session details.

Remember: The session proposal deadline is 5 PM EDT on Friday, March 24, 2023. If you have further questions, contact Senior Program Manager, Sherylynn Sealy, at

Honoraria and Registration

GIA provides a $300 honoraria and day-of conference registrations to presenters who are not eligible for GIA membership, such as artists, academics, representatives from nonprofit organizations, and others who are invited to present during conference sessions. GIA members, as well as staff and trustees of organizations eligible for GIA membership, do not receive honoraria or complimentary registrations.

Travel & Lodging Reimbursement

Session organizers are expected to cover the travel and lodging costs of any presenters in their sessions who are not GIA members; for those organizations that are not able to cover these costs, limited funds are available from GIA by application. GIA member presenters do not receive travel and lodging reimbursement for presenting in conference or preconference sessions.

Session organizers are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the talent and expertise in the Puerto Rico region. Engaging local presenters may also eliminate or greatly reduce session-related travel costs and carbon impact. GIA staff and the 2023 conference committee are available to assist in recommending potential local presenters.

Conference Audio/Video

Each session breakout room at the main conference site will be equipped with 1) a small table for session organizer’s and/or presenters’ use, 2) an LCD projector and screen, 3) a flipchart with markers, and 4) an easel. A CD player or audio speakers for laptop audio feed can be made available upon request. Session organizers and/or presenters are responsible for providing their own laptops for presentations or any other computer-based displays. Presenters with Mac computers must also bring the appropriate computer-to-projector A/V adapter.

Low bandwidth Wi-Fi access may be available but should not be depended upon for session use. Presenters should plan to download any videos or webpages used in their presentations directly onto their hard drives.

Following GIA's submission of the final A/V order to the conference hotel, any new requests will be pending availability and may be at the session organizer's expense.

General Guidelines

GIA Conference Guiding Principles and Practices

Grantmakers in the Arts has a long-held commitment to engaging the community in each city where the annual national conference is held. In planning and producing the GIA Conference, GIA employs a set of principles and practices which seek to create a positive impact for both conference participants and the local community.

No Solicitation Policy

To preserve the capacity for open discussion, all attendees must refrain from fundraising or solicitation. Organizations that solicit funds should be represented by individuals whose roles involve programming and/or policy, and not by fundraising or development staff.


Audio and video recording of conference sessions, presentations, and performances by session organizers and other conference attendees is strictly prohibited. However, GIA may tape or transcribe conference proceedings in accordance with venue A/V policies and with explicit contracted agreement with artists and presenters.

Sharing Resources

In keeping with GIA’s commitment to sustainability, we do not offer a resource table for distribution of materials at the GIA conference. GIA regularly provides current reports, research, and materials of interest and relevance to the GIA membership on our website news feed. Please email links or digital copies to for consideration for inclusion in the GIA news feed.


Eligibility to attend the GIA conference, or to serve on a conference or preconference committee, is the same as eligibility for GIA membership:

  • Organizations legally incorporated as private foundations, community foundations (including donor-designated funds within community foundations), corporate giving programs, and entities of national, state, county, local, or tribal governments are automatically eligible for membership.
  • Nonprofit organizations whose primary activity is grantmaking must meet all of the following criteria:
    1. Grantmaking represents at least 30% of the organization’s total budget
    2. Grants are made to benefit the nonprofit arts sector, individual artists, and the general public and not to solely benefit organizations or individuals connected to the grantmaking organization (example: funds to individual artists to exhibit in the nonprofit organization’s gallery space, or to performing artists to produce product for the grantmaking organization)
    3. Grantmaking as a program is prominent in the organization’s mission, literature, and website

Why is this conference only open to funders?

The annual GIA conference is the sole opportunity for arts funders to meet in an environment conducive to exploratory, frank conversations about their work. The content of the conference is designed specifically to benefit funders and improve their professional practice.

Each conference includes a number of representatives of arts nonprofits, artists, and other individuals who are not funders, but who are specially invited to share their expertise in sessions, in preconference sessions, and as keynote presenters and performers.