Plan your conference

Best practices for creating a successful conference grant proposal.

More resources, guides and helpful information can be found on the Events Team Portal and on the Community space tab.

Step 1: Send out a community engagement survey

The purpose of the community engagement survey is to help organizers demonstrate how important it is to the community to have this event. The survey will also help gather consensus on what topics or priorities the community wants to focus on at the event. The number and quality of survey responses will influence the size of the event, so it is important to make sure your community knows this.

  1. Open the community engagement survey template and make a copy. This is a MASTER FILE - DO NOT EDIT - Please make a Copy.
  2. You can add additional questions to the survey, but you should not remove any questions. If you translate the survey, please post the translation on this discussion page so others can use it.
  3. Send the survey out to people in your community who might be interested in this event. Set a deadline for survey responses and send out reminders.
  4. You will need the results from the community engagement survey to complete the grant application and be eligible for funding. Important note: The community engagement survey is required. This is a MASTER FILE - DO NOT EDIT - Please make a Copy.

Step 2: Learn from similar events and best practices

It is a good idea to review reports from events that are similar to what you would like to organize, and from events your community has organized in the past. Below are some best practices and guidelines that other volunteers have learned from years of organizing events.

Remote events - remember that you can always consider applying for a virtual event grant instead of an in-person one. Please also read our new requirements, guidelines and tips for organizing remote events.

Participants & Scholarships
  • Participants should be experienced, active editors or volunteers who are engaged with with work that is relevant to the conference goals.
  • Conferences can be an expensive and ineffective way to do outreach.
  • Travel scholarships should only be given to experienced editors and active volunteers.
  • Consider offering partial scholarships, or asking scholarship applicants how much funding they need to attend the event.
Location & Timing
  • Choose a location that is relatively central to most of the target participants. High travel costs will limit the number of travel scholarships you can offer, and may limit the number of people who are able to attend without funding.
  • Conferences and working group meetings should not be longer than two or three days.
  • Sightseeing trips and museum visits should be limited to evenings after conference programs have ended or as optional activities on the days before or after the conference.

Step 3: Plan your budget

Budget Guidelines
Venue & Materials
  • Try to partner with like-minded institutions that can offer their space free of charge or at a discount.
  • If you cannot find a free venue, please offer a rationale for why you chose a specific venue (low cost, conveniently located, etc.).
  • Limit swag to low cost items like stickers.
  • Printed banners and signs should be general enough that they can be reused for later events.
Travel & Meals
  • Full or partial scholarships can include round trip travel, shared accommodations, conference registration and visa fees.
  • Travel scholarships should only be given to experienced editors and active volunteers.
  • Funding for food should be limited to lunches during the conference, coffee breaks, and one group dinner.
Event Planning & Support
  • Funding can be requested to pay travel agent fees, and for administrative support for tasks such as processing visa application letters and reimbursements to scholarship recipients.
  • Some conferences may benefit from a paid facilitator or trainer. Please discuss this with a program officer in the early planning stages.
  • Minimal expenses for planning meetings can be included, such as meeting space and local transportation for site visits and meetings with event partners.
  • Up to 10% unforeseen expenses can be included in the request.
Alternate sources of funding
  • Ask for in-kind donations: i.e. donations that are done in goods and services rather than money/cash which are usually comparably easy to obtain and manage and can also be a door opener to interesting partner organizations. This can include: free use of venue, reduced prices for meals or services like printing or transportation.
  • Contact organizations who support work in your region or on the conference topic - they may be able to provide travel scholarships or other funding.

Step 4: Gather a strong organizing team

The size of a conference will likely dictate the number of volunteers needed to plan and execute a successful event. The roles below can be split into smaller teams, and additional roles can be added. Conference planning experience is not the most important quality to look for, but it is important that there is momentum and genuine commitment from the core organizing team.

Core Team
Grant Coordinator
  • Main point of contact for grant proposal.
  • Available to check in with the core organizing team and grant program officer on a regular basis to ensure plans are on track.
  • Responsible for tracking the budget, collecting expense documentation from different teams and working with the fiscal sponsor (if applicable).
  • Coordinates research on possible event venues, caterers, and accommodation for participants.
  • Ensures there is sufficient internet at the event venue and coordinates logistics on the day of the event.
  • Responsible for getting official documentation or contracts with the event venue and any vendors.
  • It is helpful to have someone with experience negotiating vendors.
Conference Program
  • Coordinates program planning survey, call for proposals, and developing the conference program.
  • Collects documentation of outcomes and action items from each session.
Support Teams
  • Keeps the event page updated.
  • Coordinates the community engagement process.
  • Creates a mailing list, Facebook page or other communication platform to keep participants updated before, during, and after the event.
Scholarship committee
  • Manage scholarship application process.
  • Request approval from program officer on list of selected scholarship recipients before recipients are notified.
Volunteer coordinator
  • Coordinates volunteers to work on small tasks, i.e. design logos, manage check-in, set up ether pads and take notes in sessions.