2017 Annual Conference Session RFP

Grantmakers for Education 21st Annual Conference
October 16-18, 2017 | Washington, D.C.
Equity in Education: Empowering Community Voice

The RFP is closed. The deadline for online submissions was 5:00 pm PT on March 20, 2017. Notifications of session selection were made in late May 2017.

Grantmakers for Education invites members to propose learning sessions for our 21st annual conference— Equity in Education: Empowering Community Voice. At last year’s conference, we dove into deep, sometimes thorny conversations about the realities of inequity, power and racism not only in public education, but also in the offices and boardrooms of philanthropies themselves. This year we move our conversations into the realm of communities, to hear from educators, learners, business leaders, policy makers and families.

Envision sessions that can help grantmakers answer questions about the role community voice should play in equity, grantmaking, education policy and sustainable change for individuals, communities and nationwide. Through the voices of those most impacted and least heard, help us answer questions about how power differentials can be dismantled between grantor and grantee. Lead grantmakers in a vision of empowered, equity-focused communities that shape education policy and practice. Help grantmakers develop new modes of collaboration that will build sustainable economic development.

Our communities are clamoring to be heard. Let’s bring their voices to Washington, D.C., the heart of our nation and the core of education policy decisions.

We are seeking provocative proposals that prepare funders for the future using innovative ideas, diverse perspectives and a focus on impact. Proposals should have clear learning objectives, an engaging format, relevance for funders, and a clear connection to the conference theme and GFE’s operating principles.

The instructions below should serve as guidance as you prepare your session.

Quick Links​ to Information

2017 Annual Conference Theme   Support
Selection Criteria   Important Dates
Speaker Requirements   How to Submit a Session

2017 GFE Co​nference Theme

Equity in Education: Empowering Community Voice

Grantmakers stand in a singular place in their ability and responsibility to impact the lives of vulnerable populations and those with limited resources. This year, the conference will address equity issues through the lens of diverse community interests and investment priorities under the theme Equity in Education: Empowering Community Voice.                                   

“This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
- Frederick Douglas, “If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress”

As Martin Luther King argued in his last book, Where do We Go from Here, the choice facing grantmakers today is essentially between accepting chaos or rebuilding the social fabric of community.  Community-centered work demands the philanthropic sector recognize its privilege in order to ameliorate the grantee/grantor power differentials. This convening will provide participants the opportunity to hear from grantmakers, educators, learners, business leaders, policy makers and families about the challenges and opportunities of embracing community culture and opinions when addressing equitable solutions that are strengthened by local ownership.

  • What role should community play as drivers of sustainable change?
  • How do we move from a patronage model to a community-building model, bringing community voices into the design and planning of initiatives?
  • How can philanthropy amplify local and regional voices in policy and practice?

Our communities are clamoring to be heard by local and national policymakers. This year we will hold our provocative conversations in the heart of our nation, where so many decisions about education policy are made without representation from many who are affected by those policies and actions. With the White House in view of the conference hotel, just two blocks away, attendees will have a constant reminder to keep our conversations attuned to the nationwide importance and urgency of these issues.

Selection Criteria

Grantmakers for Education’s (GFE) Annual Conference Planning Committee—consisting of representatives from a range of grantmaking organizations across GFE’s membership (including size, grantmaking budget, area of focus and type of foundation)—works collaboratively with GFE staff to provide critical input and perspective on the session selection process, which takes place in April and May.  Selections will be informed by the following criteria:

I. General Criteria

Topical & Future Facing: We are especially interested in sessions that specifically address or reflect the conference theme and, within that context, showcase new and emerging work and innovative and break-through models. Additionally, we look for sessions relevant to what’s happening in education today and that anticipate future issues in the field.

Insightful: We are looking for sessions that are tied to the conference theme and its framing language, and that either explore new concerns or take perennial topics and advance the conversation to a deeper level. Because GFE values a diversity of perspectives, we’re particularly interested in sessions that challenge funders to consider old problems or assumptions in new ways by, among other strategies, incorporating fresh voices (students, teachers, parents, etc…) and perspectives.

Reflective: GFE’s conference aims to be a learning environment that promotes reflection and peer exchange. We are looking for sessions that create genuine conversations among attending grantmakers and that engage their wisdom and experience.

Well-conceived learning format: Sessions should be designed with thoughtful, relevant learning objectives—and then be crafted to meet them. Generally we look for sessions that engage the audience as active learners and provide them with well-designed opportunities for discussion. Please consider an untraditional and innovative strategy for interaction. And, of course, we seek speakers and moderators who bring depth, experience and energy to a session.

Clear lessons or ideas for funders: Sessions should provide participants with understandings and/or practical tools that will help them grow as education grantmakers and/or strengthen their work. In telling the story of the work, sessions should give a behind the scenes look at, for example, the rationale for the strategy, the lessons learned and the transferability or implications for other funders. The choices and decisions that led to particular outcomes can be tremendously useful as peer grantmakers look to apply them to their own grantmaking.

II. Member V​alue​

Grantmakers for Education’s Operating Principles: We encourage proposals that incorporate our strategic principles by helping to prepare our members for the challenges and opportunities of the future. Sessions should provide opportunities for new thinking, diversity of opinion, and open-minded discourse that respects different perspectives and encourages challenging conversation.

Outcomes based: Our intent is to encourage data-driven sessions, based on research and practices that have proven effective in the field.

Relevant to different types of funders: GFE’s conference attendees are a diverse group of grantmakers working on issues across the education continuum—cradle to career—with a wide range of strategies, budgets and scope of geographic focus. The conference planning committee will choose a final slate of sessions that reflect this range of interests. In your submission, please clearly state the group(s) for whom the session is most appropriate. While we appreciate proposals that are attractive to a diversity of funders, our strong preference is to have sessions that help a well-defined group of grantmakers improve their craft.

Speaker Requirements

All speakers must register for conference and pay for a minimum of one day. Additionally, non-member speakers are responsible for covering their own travel expenses. We encourage session organizers to support some or all of speaker travel and registration.

Additional speaker requirements:

  • All speakers must commit to the presentation of a session at designated times during the conference, October 16-18, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
  • Speakers should grant permission for online distribution of supplemental resource materials.
  • If you wish to distribute copyrighted information in your supplemental resource materials, it is your responsibility to obtain the necessary permission. Such materials will be distributed only if they are submitted with the publisher’s written permission attached.


We are here to help! For those of you who have content or structure-focused questions regarding possible RFP submissions, please email Grantmakers for Education at programs@edfunders.org.

Important Dates

  • March 20, 2017 — Proposals due
  • Late May 2017 — All applicants will be notified about the status of their proposals
  • October 16-18, 2017 — Annual conference in Washington, D.C.

How to Submit a Session

Only Grantmakers for Education (GFE) members may propose conference sessions (click here to inquire about membership)—doing so is an exclusive GFE member benefit.

We have an online process for submitting RFPs. Please submit your session proposal using this online form, available starting February 20. Even if you have submitted a proposal in past years, you will need to create a new account.

We recognize that you may need several days to complete the form; before you start to fill out the form, create an account (instructions are embedded in the form), and you will be able to save and revise your proposal before submitting it. Multiple proposals may be submitted using one account.

All RFPs are due by 5:00 pm PT on Monday, March 20, 2017. If you have questions, please contact programs@edfunders.org.