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.

Session Types

ON-SITE SESSIONS: On-site sessions are intended to be dynamic and interactive in nature and will be presented at the conference hotel. Sessions can be presented in a variety of formats (see options below) and length. We encourage session organizers to think outside of the box – or typical panel – when proposing sessions. Sessions can include a maximum of four speakers including a moderator.

OFF-SITE SESSIONS: Off-site breakout sessions take place at cultural venues (ideally linked to session content). Off-site sessions are longer than on-site sessions to allow for 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 the session organizer(s) and the GIA team. For the strongest submission, we recommend that you list potential venues in your submission. Sessions can include a maximum of four speakers including a moderator.

Session Priorities

As in previous conferences, we will continue to foreground GIA's funding focus areas. 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. These include 101 funding practices for people new to the field; collaborative/creative approaches to the sector; traditional or untraditional partnerships; and emergent ideas for sustaining the arts and culture sector underwritten by racial justice. 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.

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 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

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.


This is for groups interested in sharing new ideas or works in progress. Pecha Kucha, chit-chat in Japanese, is a unique presentation style. These presentations are known for telling stories through images rather than text and are typically brief. They use the 20x20 rule, where each presentation consists of 20 slides, and each slide is displayed for only 20 seconds, automatically progressing to the next one. This results in a total presentation time of 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

Affinity Group

Affinity groups last approximately an hour and are intended for people of shared identity to have a gathering space at the conference. Historically, affinity groups are scheduled for Monday evening and Wednesday morning. Past affinity groups include: Dreaming in Black Space, AAPI, Loud & Queer, and White Folks for Black and Indigenous Lives.

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 Lengths

  • 10-minutes (pechakucha style idea shares)
  • 20-minutes (part of a session with multiple roundtables or presentations)
  • 60-minutes (standard single session OR affinity group)
  • 75-minutes (standard single session with a bit of extra time for interactivity or Q&A)
  • 90-minutes (standard time for a workshop style OR to allow for partnering/co-presenting with another like-minded session)
  • 120-minutes (workshop or offsite session)

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, April 19, 2024. If you have further questions, contact Program Manager, Jaime Sharp, 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 Chicagoland region. Engaging local presenters may also eliminate or greatly reduce session-related travel costs and carbon impact. GIA staff and the 2024 conference committee are available to assist in recommending potential local presenters.

Conference Audio/Video

Please let us know if you have any A/V needs for your session beyond a projector and screen. 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. 

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 that 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 an explicit contracted agreement with artists and presenters.


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.

Registration Rates and Schedule

All GIA members, including those organizing or participating in sessions, may register for the conference at the following rates.