Why International Grant Professionals Week Matters

By Danny Blitch, MPA, GPC

Founder of #IGPW and #IGPD


The Grant Professionals Association didn’t exist when I drafted my first grant proposal. The Grant Professionals Certification Institute wasn’t incorporated either. Heck, my first grant proposal was written, awarded, and implemented more than five years before those 22 famous attendees met at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza for the first GPA national conference. Maybe I would have gone, but I wasn’t invited.


Back then, I didn’t know anyone working on grants in the Midwest. Few of you who are reading this article know what it was like to see your colleagues return from professional conferences energized and eager to show off their new found skills – knowing you had no conference in your field. Only a few of us had a network of more than a handful before the #grantchat community existed. We discovered RFPs on our own, searched the card catalog at the library, and happily attended every grantor workshop we discovered. It didn’t matter if the grant opportunity was a perfect fit or not. We learned from the grant-makers. Yes, we soaked it all up, but we longed for the peer affirmation, too.


That’s why I worked with so many of you to start #IGPW and #IGPD. International Grant Professionals Week is for us, for you, for all grant professionals. It takes a special breed to raise money for a good cause. Like you, my eyes have gone blurry staring into the blank space beneath the questions, with little idea of what to type. Collectively we know how emotionally challenging it can be to ask our friends, family, and strangers for money. I also remember the euphoria of giving every penny of those funds away to other people!


It takes great fortitude to muster a community around a common goal. The pain we feel is real when our passion does not get us funded. Somehow we still feel obligated to schedule the meeting to share the bad news. I have stood there wiping away the tears of my partners before dabbing my own eyes. Why do we do this work? Our passion for good causes and great people knows few bounds.


My fellow grant professionals, you are amazing, every day. You will do it again tomorrow, all of March, and every day next year. We are in “this” together. We are writers, program staff, grant-makers, accountants, executive directors, employees, consultants, and volunteers. Together grant professionals make social change happen, and without you, the world would be a lesser place.


Join me every day, March 14-18, 2016 as we educate, engage others, acknowledge our partners, and celebrate the grant profession. Why? Because #IGPW matters… to all of us.


I Found My Tribe at the GPA National Conference

By Amanda M. Ellinger, MRA – Sponsored Projects Coordinator at Jefferson College of Health Sciences

Grant Professionals Foundation Scholar


When I heard I had been selected to receive a GPA Conference Scholarship, I was floored. Although I’ve been writing grants since 2006, I had never traveled outside of Virginia for a professional conference due to institutional budget constraints. As many of you in the profession know, grant writing can be an isolating line of work. We spend most of our days operating in the background, planning projects, organizing teams, developing budgets, monitoring compliance issues, and making sure our PIs meet their deadlines. The college I work for is a small, primarily baccalaureate, single-purpose institution. As such, I have few peers and operate, as many grant writers at smaller institutions do, in a ‘department of one.’ So, you can imagine my delight when I learned it would be possible to not only travel to a national conference, but to THE premier conference on grant writing, where I would be surrounded by over 600 of my peers for four days!


I wasted no time getting acquainted. As soon as my feet hit the tarmac in St. Louis, I began making connections. My first stop was the Exhibit Hall where vendors from around the country were set up. There, I talked with The Foundation Center Directory and learned about Workspace, a new tool available to help manage the grant prospecting process.


On the second day of the Conference, I shared my experiences in a Higher Education Special Interest Group and as a result, found multiple colleagues at similarly-sized institutions who are interested in partnering on research projects related to grant writing as a profession. I have already reached out to one institution and we are currently conducting a literature review as the first step of collaborative research project.


On the third day of the Conference, I attended a session on social media tools for grant writing, where I learned about building relationships with funders through social media. I participated in my first ever GrantChat using Blab, a tool with which I was previously unfamiliar. I also sat in on a session hosted by the Editorial Board of the GPA Journal and have already connected with Andy Rawdon about submitting a proposal for a journal article. I bonded with Heather Stombaugh over a Silent Auction shift and learned that in addition to a mutual love of Boxers (the dog, not the athletes), we share a common history in research administration. As a result of our conversation and at Heather’s encouragement, I signed up to be a proofer for the GPA Grant News.


In addition to these wonderful experiences, I now have a national network of colleagues who are making grant writing a little less solitary and significantly more fun! I guess you could say I found my ‘tribe’ at the GPA Conference!


Many thanks, again, for an outstanding experience. See you next year!



I Drank the Kool-Aid: Learning Best Practices from Seasoned Pros at GPA National Conference

By Jayson Babel – Strategic Non-profit Consultant at Florida Academy of Professional Mediators, Inc.

South Florida Chapter Scholar


As a relatively new grant writer, seeking best practices is a top priority to enhance skills and make our applications as competitive as possible. The opportunity to attend the Grant Professionals Association Conference 2015 in St. Louis presented itself as a chance to not only receive the hard facts and application guidance that is required, but it was also the opening to speak directly with the veteran grant writers whose experience is often untranslatable to text. I knew going into the conference that their experience, tips and, advice would be a great asset; however, their willingness to share and coach was more than I could have hoped. When arriving back at my workplace, post conference and working through a debrief with my superior, the two most significant “takeaways” from the conference were the Federal grants guidance and the wealth of knowledge from seasoned professionals.


Arriving at the Conference, I was excited to participate in the Special Interest Group (SIG) for Human Services. But before the SIG, I met a participant at breakfast who worked on similar disability issues. She was absolutely fantastic. We spoke at great length regarding the challenges and opportunities for grant funding and I must say, I was a sponge! This introduction to the conference was absolutely fantastic. Here I was, not even in my first session and with two pages of notes on where I should be looking for opportunities and how to navigate the vast expanse of information and resources. The conference continued on this high note working with the team from the Grant Professionals Foundation as a scholarship recipient, the staff were very kind in assisting in navigating the different sessions and dissecting what each session would offer me as a new writer. I then attended the First Timer’s Welcome and Breakfast where I learned I was not the only one who was working through the challenges of being a first-time attendee.


Needless to say, by the time I attended the SIG Human Services session, I had “drank the Kool-aid!” In my limited experience as a grant writer, I’ve experienced challenges…and as the only grant writer in my agency, I’ve often felt alone in the process. Listening to other professionals indicate they had the similar challenges and sharing our methods of navigating those challenges was invaluable. Not only did it offer guidance, but a shared experience that somehow invigorated my zeal for securing funding for the individuals with disabilities that I serve.


Overall, this was an exceptional experience with a plethora of information and grant coaching from the presenters AND the participants. I look forward to attending next year’s conference and continuing the relationship with the connections I made during my first GPA Conference experience.


March 14-18, 2016 International Grant Professionals Week – Let’s Celebrate!

March 14-18, 2016 is an important week for many reasons to grant professionals. International Grant Professionals Week and Day is an annual celebration to recognize and show appreciation for the work done by all grant professionals. It is one week out of the year we turn our attention to our field, our colleagues, and our “reason for being”. We encourage you to celebrate administrators, consultants, managers, grantmakers, and grant proposal developers.


Grant professionals work in full-time and part-time positions. We are CEOs and program directors and development professionals. We work as consultants, volunteers, and program officers. Grant pros do it all! But regardless of your role, International Grant Professionals Week (#IGPD/W) is all about you!


We have lots planned for the week and many ways for you to get involved.

  • Monday, March 14: via our social media channels, we explain grants and the importance of grant profession.
  • Tuesday, March 15: GPA Chapters across the country will host community events. Some will offer free professional development sessions.
  • Wednesday, March 16: via Blab the international community will entertain, engage, and share stories on our LIVE All Things Grant channel.
  • Thursday, March 17: our corporate and nonprofit community partners will wow us with their products, and services. You will want to see what our partners have cooked up for you!
  • Friday, March 18: our day to shine! We’ll honor and recognize grant pros around the world, and we’ll celebrate the more than $700B we raise every year. Follow and engage in the celebrations on social media!


GPA Chapters, community organization, and government agencies: celebrate and show your appreciation with the #IGPD toolkit, created just for you!


Businesses, municipalities, universities, and nonprofits: join us in this effort and become a #IGPW partner for free!


If you know or love a grant professional, acknowledge the work they do to “Make the world a better place, one grant at a time.” Join in the celebrations for #IGPW 2016!


2016 GPA Regional Conference Sponsorships Now Open

Sponsorships are serious business at the Grant Professionals Foundation. We know from experience how many great regional conferences are offered by GPA’s local chapters. So, let us help you!


The GPF offers a sponsorship program for regional conferences sponsored by one or more GPA Chapters. You get a cash infusion for your event, and we’ll provide you with a cool graphic for your program book, handouts, and website. Don’t worry if you have already received a Regional Conference Grant from theGPA: GPF donors want to support your conference, too!


Apply today!

  • Tell the GPF in 250 words or less why we should sponsor your regional conference.
  • Submit your entry with contact information to info@grantprofessionalsfoundation.org.
  • Deadline: April 15, 2016 at 11:59pm ET.


Good luck!


Prepare for the GPC Exam and Support Our Profession

The fun, upbeat In the Trenches book, Prepare for the GPC Exam: Earn Your Grant Professional Certified Credential, is on sale now! Sales of the guide will support the Grant Professionals Foundation’s scholarship programs.


The new, one-of-a-kind manual covers each of the competencies established by the Grant Professionals Certification Institute ). It includes a chapter on the writing prompt, a chapter on what candidates should expect before and during the exam, and a special bonus chapter on “Strategies to Reduce Test Anxiety.”


A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the book established the Giving Back Scholarship Fund for GPC Exam Scholarships. Every book purchased helps others in our field achieve something less than 400 people in the world currently hold: the GPC credential.


Every purchase advances the grant profession. Visit CharityChannel Press to purchase the book. Use our special coupon code (gpc-prep-gpf) to receive a 20% DISCOUNT!



How 100 Years Sparked a Giving Platform that Connected Donor’s Passions with Changed Lives

By Becky Jascoviak, MBA – GPF Board Member and Grant Writer at Kids Alive International


Kids Alive International, the organization I am blessed to serve, is celebrating 100 years of ministry this year. It’s an incredible milestone that very few companies reach, let alone non-profit organizations. What do 100 years look like? In 1916…

  • The Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world.
  • Crossword puzzles hadn’t been invented yet.
  • Only 23% of the world could read and write.
  • Average life expectancy was only 48.


At Kids Alive, 100 years look like this: what started as two little orphans taken in by a missionary couple in China in 1916, has now become nearly 7,000 children in 15 countries worldwide. We provide loving homes and promising futures to children who have no hope, a family for one who has been abandoned, an education for one whose father only made it through 2nd grade, a supplemental reading program for a refugee child who has been out of school for three years, and above all, love.


It’s why I do what I do: connecting people of passion to the people and projects that will light their fire for a change in the world; connecting donors and dollars to desperate, displaced people. And for 100 years, Kids Alive has faithfully provided people the opportunity to connect with abandoned and abused children through a variety of giving programs including individual child sponsors, service team building labor, and project and program proposals for major donors.


As the 100th Anniversary approached, we sought to create a donor program devised to spur the ministry on to the next century – a future-focused appeal, rather than simply a celebration of the past. A three-year plan called the Next Century Initiative was established along with a new fund called the Independence Fund. These two programs, in tandem, provide a way for donors to help build the facilities and infrastructure needed to care for more kids, as well as provide a pool of funds to provide for ongoing needs of our students as they grow into adulthood.


Within the Next Century Initiative, there are tangible building projects such as schools, care centers, and residential homes, within each of our countries. Also, there are programmatic funding opportunities such as education, training, and discipleship. This balance allows us to speak directly to the passions and desires of each donor. A vast majority of our donors give to site-specific programs and projects. Perhaps they sponsor a child in the Dominican Republic; they are also inclined to want to make sure that the student has a classroom conducive to learning.


We started in 2013 gearing up for 2016 with a quiet phase of donor cultivation and specific major donor proposals. Designed as a three-year giving plan, this program garnered a substantial foundation on which to build the public phase, including extra or special one-time grant giving, matching campaigns, and some fully funded projects. We then expanded to our mid-level donors and a broader reach of grant funding positioned in support of sustaining the ministry long-term. These two phases together have yielded over half of the $6 million we hoped to secure through the Next Century Initiative.


It is 2016, and we are off to the races with our celebration events around the country – the truly public phase of bringing the field here to the donors. We’re hosting large presentations and small intimate donor circles, we’re presenting at conferences, and donors are going out of their way to connect with their passions through special gifts.


How will you celebrate your next milestone?


GPA: I Finally Found My People

By Elaine Finn, GPC – Owner of Elain Finn Consulting

Grant Professionals Foundation Scholar


For me, it’s all about the instant gratification.


Being chosen as a GPF scholar to attend the Grant Professional’s Association Annual Conference last November in St. Louis provided me with immediate opportunities for professional and business growth. All those industry experts, all in one place…. grant writer’s heaven!


Within two hours of landing in St. Louis, I had a hot lead on a prospective business opportunity. “You’re a consultant from New Jersey? I’ve been looking for someone who can….” I practically cut off my new best friend in mid-sentence at the Welcome Reception to run back up and grab the forgotten business cards from my hotel room.


The next day was social butterfly boot camp for my introverted self, who needed to take a deep, focusing breath before introducing myself to tablemates in each new conference room. But the effort was well worth the brief moments of anxiety as I made connections with other attendees who gave me ideas on new industry niches to pursue, marketing strategies, and just a sense of belonging to a community of like-minded people serving the nonprofit world. And the access to conference presenters is priceless. Where else can you sidle up to a representative of one of the biggest philanthropy service organizations in the country and get detailed, constructive advice on that application question that’s been giving you fits for the past three weeks?


A highlight, by far, was the Human Library, advertised as an opportunity to “check out” experts in the field for a 15-minute, one-on-one session. It’s a back stage pass to the rock stars of our grant writing world, and it was a popular session. I scored a slot with Micki Vandeloo of Lakeview Consulting who so generously, and genuinely, answered my specific questions on how to improve the “back office” business side of my consulting work. If anyone’s tracking success measures (grant writer’s inside joke, right?) I’ll be ready to quantify for you next year in Atlanta how much money those 15 minutes saved me in more efficient business practices and how much it earned me in focusing on where my best clients are likely to be. 🙂


And back to the networking, oh the networking! Every session, every break, every meal was an opportunity to connect with others in the business. Sometimes to commiserate, sometimes to toss out ideas for future collaboration with the promise to connect on Linked In, social media, or email. I came home from the annual conference with a better team behind me. If a client should come calling who’s just a bit outside my area of expertise, I can now say yes knowing I’ve got back-up from other grant writers I’ve connected with across the country. Whether through collaboration, or being able to pass the work along to another grant writer, it adds value to what I can offer prospective clients.


The consistent theme of the conference, and in fact all my experience with GPA members both nationwide and within my local chapter, is one of generosity. I have yet to meet a single member who wasn’t willing to share advice, encouragement, grant opportunities and even workload to advance the profession, support personal success and, of course, win some grants for highly deserving causes.


At the conference, GPA unveiled a great new tagline that in a nutshell captures the essence of GPA and its value to the industry. But from my insider perspective, GPA’s unofficial slogan is “GPA… I Finally Found My People.” A hearty thank you to the Grant Professionals Foundation and its supporters who provided the scholarship that allowed me to attend. In the spirit of GPA, GPCI, and GPF, I absolutely plan to pay it forward as my business grows.


It’s More Than A Learning Opportunity: Make Friends & Build Networks at the GPA Annual Conference

By Rhonda McDonald, Owner of RM Grant Writing

Chuck Howard Memorial Scholar


Last November, I took a trip to St. Louis, Missouri to attend the Grant Professionals Association 17th Annual National Conference: Gateway to Grant Success. I attended as a Scholar, having received a scholarship from the Grant Professionals Foundation that paid for my conference fees. At home reflecting upon my attendance, roughly 3,000 miles away from St. Louis, I am contemplating what elements of the conference had the biggest impact on me.


The breakout workshops were extraordinary; the greatest problem was selecting just one each session. Reading the list of workshops over the summer is, after all, what led me to want to attend. But that is not the only reason I am excited to attend future GPA annual conferences. As important as all the information learned from the breakout sessions can be, they are not what will drive me to attend future gatherings. I look forward to being able to network with fellow grant professionals. To see my new grant friends again face to face. To work alongside or even attend workshops with, these new friends. To talk with and get feedback from those who have been in the trenches of the grant professionals.


I am an introvert by nature, and meeting new people is never easy for me. I started my conference attendance by volunteering to help set up the GPF’s Silent Auction booth. This simple activity provided me a jumpstart to the conference by meeting other grant professionals right out of the gate. Throughout the conference, the Silent Auction booth provided me an anchor: a place to go between workshops, to see familiar faces before rushing off to the next session. I enjoyed working alongside the members of GFP so much, that when I was asked if I would be a member of the Silent Auction Committee for the 2016 GPA Conference in Atlanta, I was more than happy to say, “Yes!”


In addition to volunteering, other opportunities to network with fellow grant professionals were numerous. Meals provided time to chat with and swap business cards with like-minded grant professionals. Meeting and chatting with vendors provided additional opportunities other meet fellow grant professionals. Workshops were yet another venue to network with those in the field. To make connections with those who have been there, done that, and who are willing to help someone new like me.


I look forward to attending next year’s GPA Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I anticipate continuing my professional development with the excellent workshops that will be available there. More than anything, I am excited to be able to network face to face with other grant professionals, and spend my spare time helping at the GFP Silent Auction!