by Jackie Beyer – Tracey Potter Doe Memorial Scholar
“View yourselves as the product.” Attending the National Grant Professionals Association Conference in San Diego, California definitely changed my way of thinking about myself. I had never viewed myself in this way before. I learned I am responsible for the success of my career by taking mindful, careful steps. Attending this conference was my first big step towards a successful career. The value I received and impact of the scholarship were exponential.
My attendance at the conference could not have come at a better time. I have been in the Grants field for a little over two years and sometimes feel like I am still getting my feet wet. Attending the conference provided me with exposure to the grant field, time to network with other professionals, access to products and services that I had no idea even existed, and ideas on how I can grow professionally. Being surrounded by like-minded people was encouraging and helpful, because I now know I have an army of people behind me, supporting me, and willing to share their knowledge with me. The first day, when I was volunteering at the Wine Pull, I realized I was with people like me who were thrilled that I was a “First-timer.” People kept telling me I was lucky to be so young in the field because I had more time to learn and hone my craft. I had never looked at my current status in that way and appreciated the encouraging statements.
The value of the conference, to me as a Grant Professional, was more than I expected! I had anticipated gaining some new ideas, maybe meeting a few people, and learning a couple of tricks and tips. I received all of that, times ten. I connected with many Grant Professionals in some of my sessions and even stayed after a few sessions to talk and swap stories. Beyond the professional connections I made, I was also offered tools that I can use going forward in the field. In addition to useful tools, I discovered there is so much more I can be doing to further my career. Something I did not anticipate receiving was a nice, long list of book recommendations offering excellent career advice, stress relief, and problem-solving ideas.
Workshops I attended added the most value to my experience at the conference. “Crafting Great Grant Budgets,” lead by Cheryl Kester was an excellent session. Being a person who is more English-major orientated, budgets are often a foreign language for me. Ms. Kester provided an excellent breakdown on how to simplify big budgets into an easier to use summary. I also appreciated her many different examples from different kinds of businesses, as well as her budget checklist. I plan to use the checklist every time I have a budget come across my desk.
The most beneficial session to me was the workshop titled, “Be Your Own Career CEO-How to Develop Your Grant Professional Portfolio.” Scott Scala led this workshop and made me realize that I was going about my professional development in a way that may not necessarily produce results I want. I thought that working my 9-5 job, attending Grant Professional Association (GPA) chapter meetings regularly, and various training offered through work would be enough. Mr. Scala opened my eyes to other avenues of professional development that I had not considered before. He stated that an online presence is very important for career development because it assists with cultivating recognition, resources, and networking that may be needed in the future. I had never considered using social media for my career before this workshop. Another point that stuck with me was Mr. Scala’s PowerPoint quote, “If you want others to care about you, care about others.” In this field, competitiveness with fellow writers is easy, but doing so inhibits you as a professional, your colleagues, and the profession, as a whole. Grant Professionals should be willing to help others, teach others, and share resources in order to grow to our fullest. Following this session, I am determined to be known as the professional that is willing to help and connect people with what they need.
Another workshop I enjoyed was the “Ignite the Grant Profession-8 Topics from 8 Successful Grant Pros.” The style of presentation was altogether new to me. Five minutes per four people and then a break for questions and then five minutes for another four people with questions at the end. Excellent way to hold attention and present on many different topics in one sitting. I loved learning how each Grant Professional had completed very different things in each of their careers from the other. This presentation highlighted the fact that a Grant Writer does not have just one set definition of what they do; rather, the field is fluid, and the opportunities are endless. Topics that were covered ranged from phone apps as grant writing tools, getting out of your comfort zone in order to grow, is consulting for you?, and standing in a reviewer’s shoes.
The last workshop I attended at the GPA Conference was “Why Grant Professionals Really ARE Superheros” by Amy Shankland. The presentation discussed all the crazy turns Ms. Shankland’s professional career took and how sometimes she had to take a chance in order to get where she is today. I feel like this session was enlightening because it demonstrates anything is possible in this field and in order to grow professionally, you have to be willing to adapt to changes. Ms. Shankland also allowed time for each person to tell their own story about a time when they were a superhero in this field. I loved hearing about all the different agencies in the U.S., the good things they are doing, and the people who are behind all the good work.
This memorable experience would not have been possible without the financial assistance the Tracey Potter Doe Memorial Scholarship had offered me. The impact of the Tracey Potter Doe Memorial Scholarship is tri-fold. The scholarship helped me, but it also helped my agency, and therefore our clients we serve. By applying for this scholarship, I reminded my agency that I care about the cost of my professional development and want to save the agency money when I can. I understand that professional development is necessary to learn and grow in the field, but I don’t want to be a financial burden to my agency who does so much good in our community. This scholarship helped me feel less guilty about going to the conference because I knew that the cost would be mostly taken care of. I was able to relax and enjoy myself and focus on the information I was provided, rather than how much the conference was costing my agency. The money saved can be used towards our homeless, domestic violence victims, or low-to-moderate income earning clients we serve who need it the most.
Overall, attending the National Grant Professionals Association Conference in San Diego, California was worth the days out of the office, the money spent, and the time it took to drive there. I walked away with a new mindset about what it means to be a Grant Professional, I learned I am in charge of my career and my growth, and I took away information from each workshop I attended. Although the experience is over, the training I received will follow me throughout my career and impact many. None of this would have been possible without the assistance offered through the Tracey Potter Doe Memorial Scholarship. Thank you to the Grant Professionals Foundation for considering me and for investing in my future.