A Conference for My Career Path

By Rachel Smoka-Richardson, MFA, CFRE; Senior Development Officer, Institutional Giving at Minnesota Public Radio

2016 Conference Scholar

Graduating from college with a double major of theater and English, I knew two things – that I wanted to write for a living and that I needed to work in the arts. But although I love performing and writing, I also enjoy critical analysis, and started looking for a career that provided that balance.

Grant writing seemed to be a perfect meld of creative and analytical thinking, and over the past 16 years I’ve been lucky and grateful to work for two large theaters and a public radio station. I use my talents and passions to support organizations I truly believe in. And I get to write and solve problems every day.

Last summer I attended a marketing and development conference for public media, and I was disappointed that most of the fundraising sessions were geared towards membership and individual giving. I was hungry for professional development in my own field, and it seems most grant writing classes are aimed at beginners.

The conference had just concluded, and I was in my hotel room waiting to go to dinner, when I received an email that I had been selected for a 2016 GPA Conference scholarship. I was both shocked and delighted. My frustration for the just-concluded conference quickly turned to excitement for the upcoming conference aimed specifically for my career path.

In true grant writer fashion, I submitted a federal grant application about 30 minutes prior to my ride to the airport. The two weeks prior to the conference had been a frenzy of meetings, draft approvals, and budgeting – with little sleep. But it was wonderful to meet new friends who understood exactly what I had been going through.

My favorite part of the conference was the very first session when we broke into our special interest groups. I met so many arts and cultural grant writers in a short amount of time, and since the session took place so early in the conference, I could connect with my peers in every session and at dinner.

Overall the conference was outstanding, filled with excellent breakout sessions, incredibly smart and talented people, and delicious food. I went back to Minnesota with new ideas and a fresh outlook. Thank you so much to GPA and the foundation for offering this experience – and for making grant writing a priority.