This meeting has elevated the way we operate because it has accelerated the education of our new trustees. The learning curve is not so steep.

AUGUST 12-14, 2019


Registration now open

The premier program for fraternal foundation professionals Formerly known as THE Foundations Seminar, this flagship program of the Foundation for Fraternal Excellence is the largest of its kind dedicated to education and professional development for fraternal foundation staff and volunteers. Seminar is held in conjunction with the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) Annual Meeting of Members to increase cross-collaboration among NIC member fraternities and FFE foundations, and better align industry-wide partnership and education. Seminar provides attendees with a forum to collaborate on advancing our organizations’ mission while also offering an opportunity to learn new strategies and tools for our work, collaborate on shared business problems and network with over 350 industry professionals. In addition, Seminar provides a chance to recognize outstanding achievements of FFE member organizations and individuals with the Awards of Distinction program.


Seminar is intended for fraternal foundation staff in all functional areas and foundation volunteer leadership. By combining Seminar with the NIC Annual Meeting of Members, we create a well-rounded slate of programming for both foundation and fraternity leaders. Recommended attendees for NIC Annual Meeting programming include fraternity execs, board members and key volunteers, and director-level staff in various operational areas.


The program is formatted in blocks of educational sessions with keynote speakers throughout. Attendees can choose from the variety of topics covered in breakout sessions; Seminar also seeks to provide tracked content for specific areas of expertise (like the Nonprofit Finance track at Seminar 2018) when possible. Level of expertise covered in programs ranges from those new to the profession or to their specific development area, to tenured professionals in the field.


Seminar programs are selected specifically to cover all FFE Curriculum Plan areas for professional development, including communications, engagement, fundraising, management and stewardship. You’ll also gain insight on industry trends and new ideas for advancing your organization, and grow the network of resources available to you through the FFE including Alliance Partners, peer relationships, and more.

Announcing FFE Seminar 2019 Keynote Speakers

Penelope Burk

Being Donor-Centered in Changing Times …how to raise more money in a changing donor environment

In a rapidly evolving world, fundraising cannot shield itself from change. But making the right choices when resources are limited and competition is fierce is the challenge that every professional fundraiser faces. Luckily, today’s donors are much more specific about what inspires their philanthropy and they have more money to give – in some cases, lots more money – if they get the donor-centered things they need.

In Being Donor-Centered in Changing Times, Penelope Burk returns to the FFE Seminar with new research on what motivates donors to start giving, remain loyal longer and move their giving from modest to generous sooner. Of particular interest to foundation staff and volunteers, Penelope will talk about stewarding young donors’ philanthropy. 36% of all donors she surveyed last year said they held their philanthropy back; and the ones most likely to say they were giving less than they could were under the age of 35.

Penelope will round out her keynote address with new research findings in the most important of all fundraising programs – planned giving. Her latest research reveals why a third of donors surveyed are real prospects for bequests and what fundraisers (even young professionals) can do to turn donors’ interest into lucrative commitments.

Brady Josephson

Using Data to Optimize Your Fundraising

Why do people give? It's a foundational question for any fundraiser or organization but the answer, or answers, are multi-faceted and can be quite complex. This is where data from real interactions with real donors can help narrow the gap between what we think, what people say, and what donors actually do. Brady will provide a simple framework to think about data and how it can be collected, interpreted, and used by any organization to better understand their donors and improve their fundraising results. Full of real experiments and examples you'll walk away with new ideas to try and, hopefully, a better concept of how to use data to benefit your work.

Brady is a charity nerd, entrepreneur, digital marketer, professor, and writer. He’s the Vice President of Innovation and Optimization at NextAfter —a fundraising research lab and consultancy on a mission to unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world — where he performs original research, develops resources, and provides training to help organizations reach more people, acquire more donors, and raise more money to fund their world-changing work.

Board Track Curriculum Outline

This year, we have a track specifically for board trustees. Industry leaders will cover the ins and outs of philanthropic trends and principles of fundraising.
As a board member, you’ll craft your voice, discuss your vision and make sure your values align with your message and strategic fundraising plan.
Sessions include:

Monday, Aug. 12, 3–4 p.m.

Attendees will share detailed introductions of themselves and their foundations. Context and info on FFE will also be presented to allow attendees to make the most of their time at the conference. We will review the schedule and expectations of the sessions geared toward board members and discuss how this group can best help one another and leverage the experience, knowledge and ideas in the room.

Tuesday, Aug. 13, 10–11 a.m.

Many organizations struggle with board member engagement. Too many board members show up unprepared for board meetings, they check out and check email during meetings, they make commitments they don’t follow through on and generally come up short when stepping up to fundraise and advocate. This presentation will reference a proprietary study that surveyed board members and staff to better understand the challenges of board engagement and what could be done to improve it. There is no magic bullet, but the presentation will walk through 7 dimensions of board engagement with practical tips and tools to improve the board member’s experience and overall engagement. Learning objectives:

  • For leadership and staff: learn how to design and build a more engaged board member experience that holds board members accountable while also honoring their service.
  • For board members: better understand what is expected of a board member and how to help fellow board members also meet expectations.

Tuesday, Aug. 13, 1:30–2:30 p.m. and 3–4 p.m.
(this workshop spans over two breakout session blocks)

Designed to motivate and inspire, this dynamic workshop will provide an overview of trends in philanthropy and the principles of fundraising. Our interaction will include a Values, Vision and Voice exercise – a reflection of why board members value their affiliation with your mission and how they can align these values with your strategic fundraising plan. We’ll shatter fundraising “myths” and help board members feel comfortable and confident in their personal skills by developing their own “voice” in the fundraising process, from prospecting and cultivating to sharing personal stories and playing an important role in gift recognition and stewardship. This workshop is a great primer for new organizations as well as a reminder and “back to the basics” opportunity for more mature organizations looking to re-energize or increase fundraising results.

We’ll also dive into:

  • Board members’ role in fundraising
  • Campaign readiness and planning
  • Best practices in between campaigns (stewardship, gearing up, etc.)

Wednesday, Aug. 14, 8:30–9:30 a.m.
(part one of breakout session block V)

When boards fall short in performance, or when confronted by board dysfunction, a first default is often to target people who make up the Board and senior staff. However, often the problem lies not in the people, but in the underlying culture. Cultures can – and need – to be examined, managed and cultivated. While a daunting task that takes perseverance, championing and time, any board can set a course toward becoming a high-performing board. So, what does a high-performing board look like? This session will explore the top 10 cultural markers of a high-performing board and provide tools and for your board to assess effectiveness against those markers. The session is intended to be interactive and discussion based.

Wednesday, Aug. 14, 9:30–10:30 a.m.
(part two of breakout session block V)

Organizations whose boards have driven their organizations to accomplish highly creative feats will be assembled for this panel in coordination with the planning committee. We’ll look for organization who have completed capital campaigns, non-traditional projects or other initiatives that required a high-level of board engagement, collaboration and leadership.

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