Call for Sessions

Presenting at the BoardSource Leadership Forum

The BLF2020 Call For Sessions is now closed.

The success of BLF depends largely on our presenters and their ability to deliver thought-provoking sessions that help nonprofit leaders tackle important leadership challenges and seize opportunities to advance their missions. We expect our attendees to leave the conference motivated for action.

Past speakers have included some of the most influential and inspiring leaders and thinkers in the nonprofit sector. They are board chairs, board members, and chief executives who are transforming their organizations through extraordinary board leadership; researchers who are forging new understanding of board leadership models and practices; advisors who are helping boards expand their impact and improve performance; and other influencers who are helping the nonprofit sector think creatively and differently about leadership and governance.

As a speaker at BLF2020, you will have the opportunity to

  • engage participants in dialogue about important issues, trends, or challenges affecting nonprofit leaders and boards
  • disseminate new knowledge, insights, or research that will help nonprofit leaders strengthen their organization’s board leadership and impact
  • network with 1,000 nonprofit chief executives, board members, and senior staff, as well as consultants, funders, and others, who are focused on strengthening nonprofit leadership
  • participate in the full, two-day conference program with a complimentary speaker registration

To submit your proposal, follow the link below and create a username and password in Cadmium. After creating an account, you will be prompted to complete the application.

Please note:

  • The submission deadline is August 23 has passed
  • Each session under consideration is subject to a telephone interview to review speaker(s) knowledge of the subject matter.

More Information


If your proposal is accepted, you are expected to meet the following deadlines. Speakers who do not meet the following deadlines will risk having their sessions cancelled.

  • Blog Submission Deadline: November 11
  • Registration Deadline: January 31

*writing a blog about your session is not required, but it is a great way to get people interested in your session and what you have to say. It is highly recommended

What Successful Submissions Include

Successful submissions will

  1. contain a compelling description of your session.
  2.  include information on their proposed learning goals, objectives, and outcomes.
    • Goals: Overarching aims, generally not specific enough to measure. In broad terms, what do you want participants to get out of this session?
    • Objectives: What specific things do you want the participant to know and do? These are specific achievements that contribute towards reaching the goal(s). When writing objectives remember to make them S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
    • Outcomes: What do you want participants to be able to demonstrate after this session? Outcomes are changes in behavior, attitudes, perceptions, knowledge, and/or skills as a result of your session.
  3. propose a session format that is engaging and interactive for participants
  4. articulate what an attendee can expect to learn and clear takeaways for the session
  5. be innovative. BLF is the most prominent national conference on nonprofit board leadership, and we look for sessions that have the content and approaches to support this distinction.
  6. incorporate real-world case studies, relevant hot topics, practical applications, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities as much as possible.
Types of Sessions

All approved sessions will largely fall into one of five formats:

Workshop: Interested in getting participants fully involved in the learning process? The ideal workshop features small and large group discussions and activities and exercises that engage participants and foster collaboration.

Roundtable Discussion: Are you passionate about facilitating dynamic discussions on specific topics? The ideal roundtable encourages big thinking and equitable conversation, while creating a welcoming and inclusive space.

Lecture: Is there a topic you just can’t get out of your head? This is your chance to stand and deliver engaging content on a topic of intrigue or importance to the sector.

Debate: Do you like fierce but focused discourse? The ideal session would facilitate open debate and discussion on a provocative and sector-relevant topic.

Panel Discussion: Are you interested in a convening of the minds? An ideal panel brings thought leaders together to tackle tough ideas or discuss exciting trends.

Deep Dive: Ready to get intentional and immersive? The ideal deep discussion is a journey through a specific topic that challenges groups to explore through activities, exchanges, and reflection.

Session Categories

In addition to fitting in with BLF’s overall theme, every submission must fit onto one of four categories.

Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity

Knowing that the nonprofit sector’s ability to effectively serve those in need depends on its ability to become diverse, inclusive, and equitable, we ask: How do we begin, continue, and elevate our push for diversity, inclusion, and equity throughout our work?

Based in the context of historic, institutionalized, and systemic inequities that impact the communities we serve, as well as those within our organizations, these sessions will help board, senior leaders, and staff start conversations, create space for truth telling and healing, and move their organizations forward to generate internal and external change.

Examples: New DI&E research, recruiting a diverse and inclusive board, understanding the relationship between an organization’s external work and how DI&E impacts it internally, the role that nonprofits play in socio-economic justice.


Driving Community Change

How do we see our organizations as drivers of a purpose larger than our own missions? How are we connecting with nonprofit partners and the communities we serve in new ways that illustrate our commitment to fitting into a bigger picture rather than to a singular focus on our own organizations?  How are our efforts in this area impacted by the work of others? Where do our programs and goals overlap or intersect to help address challenges and support movements of change in our communities?

Examples: Case studies on mergers or strategic partnerships, examples of collaboration in unlikely places, the board’s role in sharing power.


Governance Essentials

What does every board member need to know? What are the essentials for transforming our boards and organizations in an ever-changing environment?

Examples: Roles and responsibilities, fundraising, risk management, new governance models.


Ethics and Accountability: In Our Boardrooms and Communities

As leaders in our organizations and our community, we are charged with meeting certain standards of ethical conduct in carrying out our responsibilities. This includes protecting those who not only receive our services but also those who provide our services and engage with us on all other levels, such as staff, volunteers, stakeholders, vendors, and our fundraisers.

How can we create a culture where safety and accountability are paramount — a culture that extends beyond our boardrooms and organizational walls to the community and everyone else our organization touches? In short, how do ensure we  “do the right thing”?

Examples: The board’s role in preventing sexual harassment and discrimination, creating a safe and protective culture, conflicts of interest, walking the talk: ethics, accountability, and values

Registration Information

Up to two presenters per session (three per panel) will receive a complimentary registration to the conference. In addition, presenters are invited to the networking reception and Judith O’Connor Leadership Plenary Session. Presenters are responsible for all travel costs and meals not provided by the conference.

Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch
315 Chestnut Street,
St. Louis, MO, 63102

May 7-8, 2020

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