GPA 2020 Annual Conference Scholarship Essay, by Jenna Trisko

Grant Professionals Foundation Scholarship

I was one of the very fortunate recipients of a scholarship to attend the 2020 virtual Grant Professionals Association Conference. This was my first experience taking part in this conference and actually my first ever experience attending a conference completely dedicated to all things grants.

I have been in the grants world for the past 14 years and have worked in all aspects of the process from project development and proposal submission to post-award administration. What has kept me completely immersed in this world is that every day is different- every application, and project or program funded, is so unique from the one before it. Compliance issues change, programs are modified to make a greater impact, and new RFPs are launched to address pressing current societal needs and issues. Plus, let’s face it- grants change lives, communities, and systems. Grants are powerful catalysts for change and this idea motivates me everyday to act. Us grant professionals can be a part of changing the world for the better- what an exceptional field we work in!

The opportunity to participate in last year’s conference allowed me to see where my strengths and weaknesses are in the field and how I need to invest in my professional development efforts to continue to improve my job performance. I attended several sessions that addressed the importance of serving as a proposal reviewer. I have already reached out to several foundations as well as state and federal agencies to request to participate in the next grant proposal review panel. Many of the agencies were quick to welcome me to the task, and I look forward to learning a lot as I begin the review process. I also want to mention that I think it is important to review proposals in fields that you may be less familiar with. I have written grants in areas such as health; animal welfare; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and education. I found that my state’s department of revenue was seeking reviewers for some of their tax preparation grants and this is both an agency I have not submitted to in the past or a program area I am skilled in- the perfect opportunity for a rapid learning curve.

Additionally, one of the conference sessions highlighted strategies to promote efficiency in grants offices. This session spoke to me, as the post-secondary institution I am currently working for, has a small grant team that is in the process of formalizing some internal processes to help the office run more proficiently. A few of the suggestions from the session I implemented in our office right away. We now have a general email account set up so my colleague and I can receive updates from funders simultaneously, and it also helps us stay on top of important emails when one of us is out of the office. We also created a grant log spreadsheet that allows us to track each application and secured grant from the start of the proposal process to the closeout of the grant project. Finally, we are in process of fine-tuning some of our grant policies and protocols and creating succession planning documents for a smoother transition when staff are added or leave the institution. These simple changes have led our little grants office to begin the strategic planning process to progressively expand into a full-fledged sponsored programs office in the years to come.

Another session that really stuck out to me was on seeking out publication opportunities through the Grant Professionals Association. As with many of us grant nerds, I love to write and fancy empirical research that helps to support our profession. I already have several articles I would like to submit this year for publication. It is an excellent professional development opportunity no matter where you are in your grants career, and you are able to share insight and expertise on a particular topic with your colleagues. It is often thought that those in the grants world should not or do not communicate with each other- we are all fighting for the same funding sources so we should keep to ourselves and not share any secrets. This is such a silly suggestion, as we need to bolster the great people and work taking place in our profession. We need to continue to share knowledge, ideas, and simply serve as a support and mentor to each other. I look forward to submitting an article or two in the coming months and hope this submission process will serve as a networking tool to connect with other grant professionals.

Beyond the sessions, I really appreciated the vast diversity of vendors and exhibitors that were available to review. With the advent of the pandemic, my passion as a lifelong learner has taken a dramatic upswing. I just want to engross myself in educational opportunities whenever possible, and I really focused on those vendors that offered trainings in federal compliance, procurement, audits, etc. My current position is focused more on the pre-award side, and many of the post-award compliance and reporting requirements I have less exposure to. I am really hoping to further my education in these areas with the assistance of several of the exhibitors that I learned about through the conference.

I do also want to say that I so appreciated the diversity of attendees. I was amazed by the number of attendees from all over the country and the breadth of knowledge and experience from a variety of different fields. It was really humbling to hear the positive comments in each session. I felt like the GPA attendees are a team of like-minded, passionate individuals who want to move the profession forward. I just felt truly welcomed and not an outsider. The entire conference was an energizing experience that I look forward to participating in again.

Overall, the conference in this new virtual world was well-executed, and although there were a few technical issues along the way, it was a great space for learning. In fact, I really hope the virtual component continues to be offered for both the conference and the Grant Professionals Certification. Outside of the pandemic, these remote opportunities create accessibility for those with mobility issues or other disabilities, those who have financial barriers, or those who simply prefer to take part in activities from the comfort of their homes. The only downside that I struggled with from a virtual standpoint, is it is not as easy to generate conversation with those around you and so the opportunity to network requires more skill and creativity to achieve. I am not sure if this is possible but I wonder if in this year’s conference attendees can list their areas of expertise (e.g., compliance, procurement, proposal development, post-award, etc.), fields in which they have experience (e.g., arts, mental health, K-12, higher education, medical, etc.), and maybe their geographic region. If there was a page on the site where this information is posted and a link to connect with various attendees, it may make it easier for other attendees to comfortably reach out and converse with one another. I am not sure what is feasible, but I would love to see some strategies in future conferences (if virtual) to assist in attendees making connections with other attendees.

My hope for future conferences is to have the opportunity to present on a unique and engaging topic. I have already been letting the creative juices flow, making notes on various ideas. I hope to be able to pitch a compelling presentation proposal for the 2022 conference.

This experience has also fueled an interest in completing my GPA certification and possibly starting a chapter in my area. Through this chapter development, I look forward to meeting other grant professionals in my region and learning from and supporting each other. This conference also provided me with the little nudge I needed to explore launching my own part-time grant consulting business. I have always wanted to share my knowledge and passion in a consulting capacity, but I will admit that I am scared to take the leap. I want to be a supportive and guiding resource for non-profits, but I simply don’t know where to begin. Attending a few of the sessions on grant consulting, helped me realize that I am certainly not alone in my hesitations about moving forward with this business venture, but I also appreciated that the presenters were willing to provide support to newcomer consultants even after the conference ended. I feel like I have some resources to help me along once I am ready to take on my own business. Even saying the words, “my own business” feels uplifting and empowering. 

My sincerest appreciation to all those who were part of helping me to secure this scholarship to attend the 2020 Grant Professionals Association conference. It was an absolute pleasure that has fueled my energy and passion to do more in this field and participate more actively with GPA going forward.

More information about Conference Scholarships, including application dates and eligibility criteria, is available here.

GPA 2020 Annual Conference Scholarship Essay, by Sara Wagner

Arizona Founding Chapter Jerry Dillehay Scholarship

I was honored to receive a scholarship to attend the annual GPA conference. Since it was my sixth conference, I was fully aware of its value. When I became a GPA member in 2012, my employer always sent me (being a county employee, I attended three conferences this way, focusing upon all-things-government); then, in 2016, I ventured out on my own as a consultant. I didn’t attend that transitional year but returned (paying my own way) the next two years. I again missed the conference in 2019 and felt it was time to reconnect.

While I was initially apprehensive about a virtual conference, I was pleasantly surprised! There were countless silver linings to this format, the best being that we no longer had to agonize over which breakout sessions to attend (since one can now participate in ALL of them!). Having access to every session (including handouts, in context) for an entire year is an incredible bonus. I was impressed by how smoothly things went. Meaningful interpersonal connections were also a highlight­­. In these ways, the format alone (it was my first virtual conference) taught me a lot.

Making these kinds of opportunities available to grant professionals from all walks of life (including income brackets) is a wonderful thing to do. The scholarship’s value is hard to quantify. Interacting with peers helps one to affirm what s/he already knows, as well as points to skills one can work on. This particular conference left me eager to continue refining my craft––underscoring the importance of networking. Colleagues I met in sessions/exhibit breaks/lunches reached out on LinkedIn, too. GPA conferences connect us to those who not only understand us, but lift us up and energize us to continue on this path.

The biggest conference takeaway for me was to “only do what you love” (said so genuinely in a session I attended). Seeing the enthusiasm of other consultants spilling over made we wonder why I wasn’t as effusive as they were…soon afterward, I asked myself what my favorite part of my own work is. I wanted to weave more fun into grant projects.

I reflected upon aspects of my consulting practice I could let go of, what I could breathe life into, and how I could more clearly connect my passion with my work. I wanted to be more like these peers I so admired. With this newfound clarity, I was amazed by how easy it was to sit down one morning and succinctly convey (on my website) what I offer, and why (I’m still riding this wave, in creating new/improved materials for new clients, and so much more!).

Most importantly, the 2020 conference has inspired me to give back. I began spearheading the establishment of a new GPA chapter, one that will connect a rural/frontier half of my state with these vital resources that we have all found so valuable. In January 2021, I began serving as the Governance Committee Chair. Neither of these roles was even on my radar a year ago! Something clicked for me at our recent GPA conference, wherein I had a new desire to contribute to my current field (professionally, I tended to volunteer within my original realm of public health). Now I am seeing GPA––those who run it, those who belong to it, and especially those we have the potential to reach––with new eyes.

The generosity of those who contributed to my conference scholarship makes me want to do my part, to ensure we continue building this reliable, altruistic community. So THANK YOU––I really appreciated that scholarship, made possible by the Grant Professionals Foundation, Arizona Founding Chapter, and untold others. I am excited to see what manifests, as I continue sharing what I learned. As a result of attending the recent conference, I feel more confident asserting myself as a quasi-expert, after sharpening my skills amidst women and men who are truly committed to a standard of excellence that none of us could achieve alone.

More information about Conference Scholarships, including application dates and eligibility criteria, is available here.

GPA 2020 Annual Conference Scholarship Essay, by Lynda Weigel-Firor

Arizona Southern Chapter Conference Scholarship

When I found out the 2020 GPA Annual Conference was going to be held virtually, I was thrilled because it would possibly give me the opportunity to participate for the first time. However, funds were an issue as I work less than part-time as an independent grant-writer and consultant to care for my special needs’ daughter. I am so grateful to GPA for selecting me to receive a conference scholarship that allowed me the opportunity to hone my skills and learn from other grant professionals.

Working as an independent contractor can be very isolating and I often feel like I am working in a vacuum. It does not allow the opportunity to easily confer with colleagues. I have three main clients who, while they have different missions and needs, are sometimes eligible for the same funding opportunity. It is a challenge at times to write creatively for each when answering the same questions three times over. I registered for the conference with the expectation that I would gain fresh perspective, renewed insight, and practical skills that I could use immediately to help my clients realize their grant goals. I also longed for an influx of energy from others who understand the challenges of being a grant professional.

However, could this all happen in a virtual conference? Could GPA, or any organization for that matter, possibly pull off an interesting, interactive conference that would keep one engaged for not one, but three days? I am a veteran of other conferences including the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the YWCA Leadership Conference, and several conferences hosted by the University of Arizona, and have come to anticipate a level of excitement, engagement, and networking that I thought could only happen on site.

Well, all I can say is congratulations to GPA for hosting an extremely well-run, interesting, thought provoking conference that provided ample opportunity for attendees to network. And if that were not enough to celebrate, attendees also received a swag bag that contained a door hanger that says “Amazing Grant Professional at Work: Please do not Disturb (cool, right?)  and the most amazing caramels I have ever had in my life. Thank you for introducing me to Bequet Caramels!

Each morning attendees were greeted by opening remarks from Jess Pettitt. If you do not know who this ball of energy is, do yourself a favor and look her up. She clearly did her homework to understand her audience and was delightful while also delivering poignant and relevant messages.

 For me, one of the most difficult conference tasks is to create a personal agenda when there are too many interesting sessions to choose from. As a seasoned professional with 25 years of experience, I was a bit apprehensive at first that the sessions would overwhelmingly be geared towards those who are new to grant writing or have just a few years under their belt. However, the conference offered an ample selection of sessions for those more advanced in their careers. I was humbled by how much I gained from these sessions. The level of expertise and excellence of the presenters was impressive, and I walked away with new strategies confident that I had learned from the best of the best.

As an added, and surprising bonus, was the selection of sessions that were for the early and mid-career professionals that caught my interest. For example, I sat in on Make it “Worth 1000 Words”: Maximizing Effectiveness of your Graphics and Tables which was geared for those early in their career. Knowing that I have a deficit in this area I added this to my agenda.

Amanda Paveglio took participants step by step through the process of creating graphics and tables that were interesting to read and relevant for the information being relayed. Many participants learned for the first time, including me, how to attach or link them to online applications and other hacks that while simple enough to execute could take some time to figure out on your own. While Amanda did an amazing job with her presentation, participants would need time to practice the techniques taught. GPA in their wisdom has allowed access to all the presentations for a full year after the conference. Thank you, GPA, for that added benefit. It is like winning the grant lottery!

Having a year of access to the presentations also alleviated some of the pressure of choosing which sessions to attend knowing that I could view what I missed later. It also allows, as I alluded to previously, the opportunity to watch some of the sessions over again.

Another excellent presentation was Marginalized Communities Need Data Too: How to Get it? What to do When You Don’t Have It? by Michelle Molina and K. Scott Nelson. I confess I am not an enthusiastic researcher, due in part to many of the challenges that Michelle and K. Scott brought up in their presentation, such as finding data that you know would support your case but is simply not available or is difficult to find. I was so impressed with this presentation that as a board member of the Southern Arizona GPA Chapter I hired them to present to our membership a month later.

When I wrote my scholarship application, I mentioned specifically that I hoped there would be a session on answering the sustainability question.  Grants4Good provided an excellent session that addressed this sticky question. Content provided a fresh perspective on how to break down this question by defining it and de-constructing it and was a great reminder about the importance of being clear and concise in your answer. To me, this provided some excellent materials that will help me with clients who have a hard time articulating a good answer to this question.

Each day there were lunch break-out sessions on different topics. This allowed the opportunity to network informally while discussing topics that were of mutual interest.

In every aspect of the conference, it was evident that GPA was meticulous in their planning and selected topics that were relevant for the times. COVID has changed the landscape of the grant world and attention was paid to this topic.

Every one of the professionals I encountered during the conference were gracious in sharing their ideas and were willing to help others. The congeniality and energy were just what was needed during these unprecedented times when we are so isolated from each other.

Thank you again for the opportunity to participate. I deeply appreciate GPA staff and board and the care they took in creating this conference.

More information about Conference Scholarships, including application dates and eligibility criteria, is available here.

GPA 2020 Annual Conference Scholarship Essay, by Molly Peterson

Arizona Founding Chapter Jerry Dillehay Scholarship

In our lives, we all experience numerous firsts. Our first steps, first kiss, first job, first time eating (and possibly abhorring) sushi. Some we reflect on for years to come, and some pass the very moment with little significance, never stamping our memory with the lasting mark of a new experience. I have had a number of the latter. Though, November 4th was a momentous beginning. Not only for our country as we began our journey through an unprecedented election process, but for my career. This year, I attended my first Grant Professionals Conference.

I first entered the grant writing industry because of a sincere fascination with grant writers as people. The wide range of expertise, personal history, and passion in the grants industry inspires me to appreciate the various colors of grant writers that paint different strengths, united towards a shared goal of kindling positive change. The richness of depth in the grant industry represents one of the most stirring reasons why my first Grant Professionals Conference provided lasting value to me.

At Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, I am the only individual with grant writing expertise. When I first began with the organization at the ripe age of 22, my assignment as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America included transferring grant writing from the professional hands of a contracted grant writer into the shaking yet willing hands of a new college graduate. In undertaking this responsibility, I virtually attended many webinars since workshops were not readily available in my rural corner of Arizona (insert my well-versed needs assessment for rural Arizona). These virtual webinars did not instill the same feeling of community as I had hoped. Where were the captivating individuals who inspired me to join them in a career of grant writing?

I often felt alone as I pioneered a grant process that was foreign to both my team and me. Before the Grant Professional Conference, I struggled to feel confident and resilient in the COVID urgency and new remote working environments. Shortly after the beginning of the state-mandated quarantine, I was on the precipice of my largest grant request yet: $1,192,655.00. To prepare the grant application for this federal RFGA, I was responsible for managing input from four other program staff and organization leaders in the new virtual realm. I scheduled twice-weekly meetings with the program manager to stay on track and communicate progress, but I still felt alone tackling such a massive grant. Though, that feeling would not compare to the loneliness I felt when I received news from the grantor. The grantor funded the project, though they had significantly fewer funds to distribute; thus, they cut funding for my application’s less justified areas. The program manager was devastated (rightly so, as she cares passionately about the cause she serves) and channeled her disappointment towards me. Working alone in my home, I struggled to manage my frustration as I contemplated how weeks of unseen hard work made me vulnerable to blame from my colleague.

Entering the Grant Professionals Conference only a couple of months later, I felt misunderstood, underappreciated, and alone. In the first half-day of the conference, I was overwhelmed by the opposite: understanding, appreciativeness, and community. I did not realize how alone I was until the recent Grant Professional Conference illuminated a crowd of comrades gathered within reach of my self-contained isolation. In workshops and discussions, grant peers described the veil between grant writers and program managers. How often, program managers and staff misunderstand the role of the grant writer. Who has been asked to write a grant for a vaguely conceptualized program, thus necessitating that the grant writer also generate the program and evaluation plans? Who has written for fourteen hours straight, unbeknownst to their team members? In openly answering these questions, my heart signed in relief: these are my people.

The daily and casual lunch meetings became one of my favorite ways to connect with “my people.” I connected more personally with other attendees outside of the formal constructs of workshops. Honestly, I was not sure that these sorts of opportunities would be available at a virtual conference. It was here that I shared some of my struggles concerning grant management. Several experienced grant writers shared what I needed most: empathy. Of course, they offered their advice, but they also provided their understanding and reaffirmed my value as a grant writer. When I first began my role, my organization wanted to bring grant writing in-house but did not realize what it took to do that. I had to convince the program managers that I was worth their time when discussing program details for the application. Thus, I created a Grant Procedures Manual that outlined each individuals’ roles, communication preferences, and expectations. I hosted several organization-wide meetings to build buy-in and understanding. Though, I often found myself sacrificing my own needs to ensure that the program manager would provide what I needed: “You need a 48-hour editing window to review the grant? Oh, and you, too? Sure, I can do that.” I found myself sacrificing a substantial chunk of the grant window to provide each of the three editors with a 48-hour window to edit before submission. The grant was entirely out of my hands for six days before the deadline. When I shared this with my lunch group, several grant writers provided their recommendations and contact information and assured me that I could reach out any time.

They also encouraged me to attend a specific workshop: Tips for Surviving a Group Grants Process by Andrea Hoffman. Hoffman’s workshop was my favorite of the entire conference. She spoke to individuals like me: grant managers who balance many other roles within an organization. I felt seen amidst a sea of experienced grant consultants. I had to stand while I watched because I was so excited listening to Andrea’s solutions for managing a team grant process. I only wish I had attended her session sooner to spare my mistakes.

While mistakes are critical to the learning process, so is community. In my young years as a grant writer, I boast a youthful enthusiasm for the field. I love writing grants. Each application feels like a puzzle. I often feel daunted when the pieces spill out of the box, but each click of a piece feeds my motivation to track down the next piece of missing information. I have channeled that energy in moving forward, even if I have stumbled along the way. I have pulled myself out of the trenches and tried again. But the Grant Professionals Conference showed me that there are hands to help me up and point me in another direction that I had not considered. I will continue to stumble, but I have faith in knowing I am at least headed in the most efficient direction to help me reach my goals. The Grant Professionals Conference provides a golden path that does not necessarily help us reach our goals more easily but more quickly. I have full faith in knowing that, despite networking amongst those who could be considered competitors, the entire Grant Professionals Conference wants you to succeed.

The Grant Professionals Conference was my foray into the greater Grant Professionals Association. I found the Grant Professionals Conference while looking for opportunities to learn a more holistic approach to grant management, but I found I appreciated the community even more. Now, I am a few months into participating in my local Arizona Founding Chapter, and I am helping bring a new chapter, the Northern Arizona Chapter, into existence. Within these smaller groups, I feel the same understanding, empathy, and support as I felt at the conference. Now, I do not feel so alone. November 4th has become sentimental to me for many reasons, which will motivate me to return year after year. I hope to continue to forge bonds that will help to forge my career, also. Someday, years from now, I hope to return to the Grant Professionals Conference and find an opportunity to help a green new grant writer like I was in 2020.

Thank you, Grant Professionals Association, for helping lift me out of the darkness of solidarity. You provided the warmth and hope that I so desperately needed while navigating the challenges of 2020. You restored my confidence in myself and my future. By helping me, you have also ignited a spark for me to give back to my grant writing community. You have stamped my memory deeply, for which I will refer back to with admiration throughout my career. Thank you.

More information about Conference Scholarships, including application dates and eligibility criteria, is available here.

GPA 2020 Annual Conference Scholarship Essay, by Jennifer Deering

Arkansas Chapter Conference Scholarship

In late February 2020, I went into my bank to discuss opening a business account for my freshly minted consulting firm of one employee (me). When I was called into the customer-service representative’s office, I remember we almost shook hands. We joked about the novel coronavirus and how that exchange of germs might not be such a good idea.

The rep explained he needed a copy of my letter of determination and the operating agreement. As a former grant writer, I knew exactly what he was talking about and promised to bring those documents in the next day, wanting to head out to the Arkansas river for a hike on an unusually warm and bright winter afternoon. The next morning, I saw a message from the bank in my e-mail, not something that happens very often. I immediately opened it and read that, due to concerns around COVID-19, the lobby would be closed for all business until further notice. I guess the rep and I were almost literally whistling past the graveyard when we greeted each other jokingly.

I’ve been working on grants from application to closeout since 2009 when I was the assistant director of the University of Central Arkansas’s (UCA) Writing Center. Most of these were small grants to support guest speakers from other, more famous, writing centers around the country. In 2012, I was recruited by the director of UCA’s Sponsored Programs to become the grant writer for the university. I loved the work as much as I loved teaching because I could see my position gave me the opportunity to change the world, to make it a better place for others whether through an NIH grant I was editing or an NEA grant I was writing as a co-PI. After I sold a house in another state, I had quite a bit of savings built up, and I realized that this might be a chance to go it alone, an opportunity that would allow me to work toward funding of projects I was really invested in. Having taught a graduate-level grant writing class in a community and economic development program, I was interested in working with nonprofits and municipalities to improve the quality of life for underserved populations. When I saw the chance to work for myself, I took it!

My operating agreement is quite clear: any income I receive as a grants consultant must first go into a business account. I can then pay myself out of the account. So now what was I to do? I had money saved from the sale of the house, so I knew I could get by for a little while, but not forever. My GPA membership was coming due, and I knew I wanted to attend the annual conference. As reasonable as these costs are, I didn’t see how I would be able to make money to offset them. So I applied for the scholarships available through the Grant Professionals Foundation. Fortunately, I won both the membership and the conference scholarships, which tided me over until my bank pivoted to a new reality where I managed to open my business account from the comfort of my own vehicle. With that, I was able to start doing business.

I wasn’t too concerned with the shift from in-person to online sessions, for the grant writing classes I taught in two different graduate-level programs for five years were completely virtual. I adjusted easily to the new format. In fact, since I’m not able to be in two places at once, I was relieved not to have to choose one session over another: I could go back and listen to the recordings of those sessions I missed and have been since November.

I mentioned in my applications that if I won the scholarships, I could promise a high return on investment for the Grant Professionals Association, the Arkansas Chapter, and the communities I serve. By attending the conference, I can honestly say I have returned the favor of the scholarship many times over. For one, I am the vice president of the Arkansas Chapter of GPA. As a member of our Communications and Membership Committee, I have managed to pull together a communications plan, schedule, and set of procedures for all the channels of communication we have at our disposal, reviving dormant Facebook and Twitter accounts.

I could go into detail about the various tips and tricks, references to OMB guidance I was unaware of, or the growth mindsets I established through different kinds of sessions. But I think the main takeaway for me is the re-affirmation that I am a professional: I know what I’m doing, I’m successful at my vocation, and my instincts will guide me in the right direction. I could also provide several examples of how this has played out since the end of the conference. I’ll leave you with one.

I had my first consultation with a potential client in the nonprofit world a few weeks ago. I have a list of questions I send in advance to keep the initial discussion on track and ensure both parties have the information they need. As the conversation unfolded, I began to feel something wasn’t quite right. The client had worked with a previous grant professional (not a member of GPA) who had, he was confident, ensured he was grant-ready. Except he kept mentioning “articles of incorporation.” I was honest with him: “I’m not quite sure what you mean by that term.” Because I had attended several sessions devoted to working with nonprofits and starting one’s own consulting agency, I knew the minute I saw the letter of determination that someone had made a mistake. As far as the IRS was concerned, his nonprofit was an S-corporation. I dug a little deeper to discover that it was listed with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office as a domestic nonprofit corporation…not a 501(c)(3). I shared the bad news and suggested he work with a tax attorney to dissolve both the S-corporation and the domestic nonprofit corporation and start afresh pursuing the 501(c)(3) status that would ensure his organization can apply for federal, state, foundation, and corporate grants.

My instincts are based on other people’s experiences. When someone at a conference shares a story, whether the outcome was positive or negative, I remember. I could read about tax code and nonprofit status for years; I would still find it difficult to apply in the real world. But when someone tells a story about how they almost submitted a grant for a nonprofit that was not in good standing with the IRS, I remember to check Guidestar before proceeding. Such was the case with this potential client.

When I first started thinking about opening my own consulting firm, I had hoped to work with institutions of higher education and municipalities since that’s where my experience is. What I’ve found is that I need to build up a reputation (another benefit of attending the annual conference) and subcontract until Grantfully Yours has name recognition. I also discovered there are a lot of struggling nonprofits in need of my expertise. As I work with each one, I notice they hang too much hope on grants to help with operating expenses. Several sessions I attended at the 2020 annual conference were focused on fundraising and development. Operating expenses aren’t usually eligible for grant funding. Because of what I learned at the conference, I’m able to advise these nonprofits on fund and friend raising and developing donations to pay for budget items ineligible for grant funding.

I am very thankful to the Grant Professionals Foundation for providing support for me to attend the conference. It boosted my self-esteem and helped me connect with others in the profession both during networking lunches and on LinkedIn. As a gesture of my thanks, I volunteered to moderate a session at the conference and hope to join the Grant Professionals Foundation board to help carry out the work you do to lift others. I am grateful to have attended the conference and to the individuals and organizations who donate for the cause.

More information about Conference Scholarships, including application dates and eligibility criteria, is available here.

GPA 2020 Annual Conference Scholarship Essay, by Georgia Carvalho

New England Chapter Chuck Howard Scholarship

Thanks to the scholarship I received from GPA, I was able to attend the Grant’s Professional Association’s Annual Conference in November 2020.  At a time when travel and professional development budgets were being cut, not only at my institution, I was extremely grateful for the opportunity I was granted.

My sincere thank you goes to the Grants Professional Foundation and others who worked tirelessly to raise funds for the scholarships. The scholarships that allowed many Grants Professionals to attend the first fully virtual GPA Conference.  The Conference program was engaging and offered so many opportunities for grants professionals to learn and grow as professionals.

This was my first time attending the GPA conference. Previously, I had focused on attending conferences aimed at grants and resource development professionals who work in community colleges, both through the now extinct Council for Resource Development and more recently through CASE.  Attending the GPA conference it became clear that the Grants Professional Association’s (GPA) National Conference serves a much wider and varied audience and addresses a great variety of interesting topics.  In addition to great sessions and opportunities to network and meet new colleagues, it was great seeing the camaraderie that exists in the community. People were very welcoming and helpful, collaborative and quite supportive of each other.

The conference content was balanced and offered both pre-awards and post-award professionals attending timely and interesting sessions. All the sessions and discussions I attended were excellent, with very professional presentations and solid content.  I learned much about various types of logic models, different approaches to program evaluation, budget strategies and formats, sub recipient monitoring and compliance, calculating return on investment and organizational tips for tracking pre-awards activities.  Many of the handouts from sessions were extremely helpful, and I have already had the opportunity to use one of the sample logic models as a base for a logic model required by a recent federal proposal submission.

I was also able to connect with colleagues from my chapter and region, and that is always a pleasant experience.  It is wonderful to see thoughtful and supportive colleagues interacting with each other and sharing experiences. I found the breakout and lunch sessions very informative and a great opportunity to connect with other grant professionals from around the country. During these times of social distancing and work from home, that felt like a real treat.

Although I am a seasoned mid-career professional, with over 20 years of experience related to grants, attending the GPA conference was a great opportunity to brush up on some skills and to enhance professional knowledge in new areas, especially in post-award administration, an area where I still have much to learn.

In short, I took away several lessons and was impressed at how the GPA conference was run.  I am sincerely grateful for the scholarship and the opportunity to join this virtual community of grants professionals. The small community college where I work is also very grateful that I had this opportunity and that what I learned will have a positive impact for the institution and the students.  I am looking forward to joining the GPA conference in person in the future.  Thank you so much for the scholarship and the opportunity.

More information about Conference Scholarships, including application dates and eligibility criteria, is available here.