RFP — Hosts and Sponsors for SEJ Annual Conferences 2024 and 2025

Society of Environmental Journalists

Request for Proposals

from

Hosts and Sponsors for SEJ Annual Conferences

2024 and 2025

 

The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) is the premier North American organization for journalists who cover environment-related issues on all media platforms. SEJ’s Board of Directors is inviting inquiries, letters of intent and proposals from prospective hosts and sponsors for conference events in 2024 and 2025.

 

Organizational background

SEJ logoFor three decades, the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) has been committed to educating the public on environmental issues through the support of journalism. Today, SEJ, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, educational and charitable association, stands out as the largest North American membership organization created by and for journalists covering the environment. It is also the only organization that supports both environmental journalists and journalism through a comprehensive suite of programs, including an annual conference.

SEJ has a time-tested track record of significant achievement serving an important mission: To strengthen the quality, reach and viability of journalism across all media to advance public understanding of environmental issues.

More than 1,400 journalists, students and educators in the U.S., Canada and 43 other countries are members of SEJ. They cover science, energy, health, food systems, biodiversity, public lands, parks, land use, water quality, marine issues and more for news services, print, broadcast and digital publications serving communities worldwide. The organization is well known for educational events, publications, awards program, reporting grants, a Freedom of Information WatchDog Project and its lively and collegial network of members.

SEJ’s strategic plan identifies diversity, equity and inclusion as a key value within SEJ and across news media.

 

What SEJ seeks in a host

For each annual conference, SEJ is looking for an enthusiastic host that shares SEJ’s work to improve public understanding of the environment and energy issues. We are seeking host and partner institutions with rich intellectual resources to help strengthen our conference program — and with financial resources to partner with us to help us make the conference happen.

 

What SEJ brings to the table

SEJ brings the collective reach of its diverse membership and its reputation as critical infrastructure within the field of journalism to our conference partnerships. More specifically, working closely with honored university hosts, SEJ staff and volunteers organize, market and execute what some members have described as the best all-purpose environmental issues conference in North America. SEJ shares in the financial commitment and coordinates its fundraising activities with its host.

 

Why host an SEJ conference?

Host institutions have found that SEJ’s annual conference offers a unique opportunity to bring journalists and newsmakers to their campuses, from throughout the United States, Canada and many other countries, and to showcase top faculty and relevant research. SEJ’s comprehensive and nonpartisan agenda of education and news-making activities leads to considerable social media buzz and news coverage, immediate and long-term interaction between journalists and university faculty and researchers, student engagement and a great appreciation for the intellectual and financial contributions of the host.

SEJ offers a robust and time-tested platform for an important and rewarding exchange between campus researchers and reporters. SEJ events are widely recognized for the rich menu of full-day educational field trips, informative mini-tours, workshops and panel discussions. The field trips and tours often explore how host communities and others across a region are navigating complex environmental issues.

The journalists who attend tell us they leave the conference with a long list of ideas for news stories and new sources, including faculty members. Conference attendees take to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram before, during and after the conference to report on what they are learning, engaging, collectively, many thousands of social media followers, bringing attention to the event. More than 95% say the conferences make them better equipped to cover complex environmental issues.

But don’t just take our word for it. Read what attendees have to say about the SEJ conference.

Faculty members participating as speakers benefit from the meaningful experience of working with journalists to communicate messages and findings to a broader audience. This contributes to faculty and institutional advancement, attracting future students and energizing others on campus. University hosts and their supporters benefit from — and add to — the stellar reputation of SEJ conferences, and they share in every success.

Host universities benefit from increased visibility, along with new, lasting connections and international attention to faculty, academic programs, research and other accomplishments. SEJ is honored to partner with university hosts to advance mutual interests and shared vision of an informed society with much greater science and environmental literacy.

 

Typical SEJ conference agenda and timing

SEJ is seeking to develop a comprehensive, five-day agenda of workshops, tours, exhibits, panels, plenary and special events for Spring 2024 and 2025. Exact dates are selected in close consultation with hosts to align with university schedules and maximize participation.

SEJ’s preferred program agenda typically begins on a Wednesday morning with a pre-conference workshop followed by a large plenary event Wednesday evening, full-day reporting tours on Thursday and plenary sessions, breakout panels, exhibits, mini-tours and special events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning.

 

Past and present host universities

Because of the pandemic, SEJ’s fall conference in 2020 was held virtually, with our host, Boise State University. We are making plans for a spring 2022 conference in Houston, to be hosted by Rice University and for an in-person conference in Boise in 2023.  

Previous hosts include Colorado State University in Fort Collins, University of Michigan - Flint, Stanford University, MIT, Duke, University of Wisconsin, Texas Tech, University of Miami, Virginia Tech, Carnegie Mellon University, UCLA, Portland State University and the University of Montana.

Upon request, SEJ can put prospective hosts in touch with previous hosts to discuss the benefits and opportunities of hosting an SEJ annual conference.

 

Attendees for SEJ Conferences

We usually have between 700 and 1,000 participants, with professional journalists and members comprising more than half of each year’s attendees. Other participants include newsmakers, academics and expert sources, business representatives and representatives of non-governmental organizations. Our participants enrich the gathering each year as enthusiastic speakers, exhibitors and attendees. We’ve had distinguished scientists, government officials, including multiple Cabinet secretaries, U.S. Senators and Governors, CEOs, philanthropists, environmental advocates, students and members of the host community participate.

 

How it works

SEJ marshals project support from news organizations, foundations and sponsors to help fund the conference. Campus partners develop other funding sources, corporate underwriting and funding from local businesses to make the SEJ/university partnership possible.

SEJ members are appointed to chair the conference, and they oversee the development of the program with SEJ staff’s Director of Conferences, to ultimately deliver the robust agenda of events. They work closely with member-volunteers and a designated university liaison and faculty during this process.

We work in partnership with our host, drawing heavily on university faculty, research facilities and other campus resources available for the program. SEJ personnel do the legwork for inviting and coordinating with speakers and moderators. We help market the event and coordinate production and distribution of conference promotional materials, including a custom conference website and app, and program agenda book.

 

What elevates a host proposal for consideration?

SEJ is looking for strong partners for the planning team, through faculty and departmental resources and cash underwriting for direct expenses of the conference, such as catering and transportation and venues. In reviewing proposals, SEJ will be keenly interested to learn about the intellectual resources on campus that we can tap for panels and other programs. We’ll also want to hear a variety of ideas for tours and field trips of interest to journalists who cover the environment.

While our conference explores international and national issues, we’d like potential hosts to share their excitement with us about why their institution and their community is a good match.

With regard to meeting space, SEJ generally needs a ballroom that can accommodate plenary and meal events for up to 500 people, eight or nine breakout rooms for panels and audiences ranging from 50 to 100, a registration area, and space for 30 to 60 exhibit booths and tables. We need a venue with free WiFi, which helps journalists easily and immediately share conference news via social media.

Many of our conferences have been hotel-based with conference facilities. But we have also met on college campuses, using campus conference centers. On-campus meetings can be very successful if the university is able to provide sufficient meeting and exhibit space, catering and A/V support and those facilities are near affordable hotels.

 

What is the preferred process for responding to this RFP?

SEJ welcomes the opportunity to talk with representatives of potential hosts, answer questions and provide further details.

SEJ seeks letters of intent from potential host institutions. A letter of intent should be sent by an authorized university official and should be an invitation to SEJ, outlining opportunities and outlining the benefits of a potential partnership. In the letter, please tell us the year you are interested in hosting, 2024 or 2025, and estimate the resources you are prepared to commit, including the amount of financial support. We will also need to know whether the conference would be based at a conference hotel or hosted on campus. If campus-based, please include information on meeting space and other facilities available for the conference.

If SEJ and the potential hosts decide to move to the next stage in the selection process together, SEJ will invite potential hosts to submit a full, detailed proposal.

 

Timing

SEJ seeks letters of intent to be submitted in 2021 and will be reviewed as they come in. Send them to James Bruggers, SEJ Future Conference Sites Coordinator, 186 N. Bellaire Ave., Louisville, KY 40206. Please send an email copy to Meaghan Parker, SEJ Executive Director, at mparker@sej.org.

The SEJ board would like to make its decisions about our next two conferences in Fall 2021.

Feel free to contact James with any questions about this request for proposals. Reach him at 502-693-0357 or email, at james.bruggers@gmail.com.