2022 GPA Conference Scholar Essay, by Gregory Stewart

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It’s been about two weeks since the 2022 Annual Grant Professionals Association Conference finished. In these weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to tell my peers about my experience and to reflect upon what I learned and experienced during my few days in Louisville, Kentucky.

My biggest takeaway was that the Grants Industry is much more robust than I had ever imagined. I learned so much from all of the wonderful presenters and practitioners that were in attendance. I’m grateful for the opportunity to gather information about the realm of consulting and to connect with my peers on topics such as ethics, client relationships, proposal development, and grant management. As the Senior Manager of Programs for the Alaska Native Heritage Center I am continuously engaged with all aspects of the grant lifecycle, stewarding funds from federal, foundational, and corporate entities. The conference allowed me to expand my understanding of topics such as the federal appropriations process and the production of charts for data visualization.

The scholarship from the Grants Professional Foundation was critically important for me to attend the conference. The organization I work for does not have an allocated budget for things like this, and we can only attend if funding is available based on our social enterprise activities. The scholarship made it so that this was accessible for me, as COVID had negatively impacted our organization’s revenue streams.

The GPA conference is such an important professional development opportunity for those who engage in the craft of grants. This conference is so valuable because it helps individuals grow through the improvement of skills and deepening of knowledge surrounding the field. By the end of the conference, I had made several new connections, found someone from my local community who I aim to collaborate with, and so many documents, presentations, and hand outs that will advance my ability to fundraise for my organization.

I found it particularly interesting to see how individuals responded to my contributions in conversations. I work for an Indigenous institution that focuses on the advancement and preservation of culture, and part of our mission is focused on advocacy. Wearing the advocate hat is a part of my everyday job, so when I was able to participate in conversations by contributing information about cultural responsiveness, awareness of backgrounds and identities, and the systemic inequities which are a part of the systems of government and philanthropy, it was received very positively. This was heartening, as many individuals in the field are not very aware of the unique circumstances which may impact individuals who do not fit comfortably into the American cultural landscape.

I can’t wait for next year, and I’m hopeful to remain engaged with the Grants Professional Association throughout the next twelve months to learn from this incredible group of peers.

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