By Polly Bates; St Rose Dominican Health Foundation
2016 Pamela Van Pelt Conference Scholar
Receiving the Pamela Van Pelt Scholarship last year allowed me to attend the Grant Professionals Association conference for the first time. After a 25-year career spent writing and editing a wide variety of communications, I found myself in a new position that was focused solely on grants. As the grant officer for the St. Rose Dominican Health Foundation, I am responsible for conducting grant funding research, preparing and submitting grant proposals, working with program staff to ensure contract compliance, attending program audits, reconciling grant payments, and developing an annual program plan. A year ago, most of these duties were still new to me. Attending the GPA conference greatly sped up my learning curve and deepened my understanding of the overall grant process. By far, this was the most useful and pertinent professional conference I have ever attended. Whether it was a keynote speech, a workshop, or a reception, I learned so much from the varied experience and perspectives of accomplished practitioners.
Each day was packed with relevant information—on program design and evaluation, persuasive writing, the sustainability question, and ethical considerations. A panel of local funders provided a wealth of guidance: get local employees to engage in what you do; build connections because “relationships determine results”; don’t ask questions that are answered on the organization’s website; leverage collaborations to solve big problems; put your request succinctly and clearly outline the problem to solve; remember that “people don’t give to you, they give through you,” and no one wants to be treated like an ATM. All the speakers were generous with their knowledge and advice. In fact, the atmosphere of the conference was so friendly and congenial that it was easy to meet new people and have interesting conversations. I also enjoyed meeting other grant professionals from my state of Nevada and going out to dinner with them. I was so inspired by the conference and the people I met there that I have decided to pursue the Grant Professionals Certification. It’s wonderful to embark on a rewarding new career, and I’m grateful for the scholarship that helped jumpstart my interest.