By Ashlee Lambert, Development Specialist at Caritas Family Solutions
St. Louis Chapter Scholar
The day I received the news that I was a recipient of the St. Louis Chapter – Grant Professionals Association Scholarship, to attend the 2015 GPA National conference, the excitement began! I was excited to gain knowledge from the best in our profession and to network with grant professionals from all levels, from all special interest groups, and from all over the United States. When the conference arrived, I was able to do just that.
The first day, I met colleagues from Alaska to Hawaii, to California and New York! The most interesting thing about meeting others from all over the country was that we were experiencing the same difficulties and trying to overcome the same obstacles. We were all trying to do more with less, to solicit funds from foundations that receive hundreds of proposals, to educate program staff on the importance of grants, reporting, and ethics, and to meet deadlines and word count restrictions. Networking allowed me not to feel alone in a profession that is not always understood.
The sessions provided some of the most useful knowledge of any workshop I have attended thus far! My favorite was “Answering the Sustainability Question.” It was the favorite of many—several of us even sat on the floor to be able to hear the insightful advice on what sustainability really means to funders!
During the SIG sessions I was able to network with other grant professionals in my field and also within my target location. I gained new foundation targets for funding our programs and capital campaign. Without the SIGs I would have never had the opportunity to meet these colleagues.
In addition, I volunteered at the Grants Professionals Foundation Silent Auction two different times during the conference. The time volunteering allowed for me to network once again with other grant professionals. It also afforded me the opportunity to see how other organizations create their silent auctions. Much like other grant professionals, I wear many hats in my position and organize my agency’s special events and auctions. Anytime I can learn new tricks of the trade—it’s a great day!
The 2015 GPA conference was an amazing learning and networking experience! The conference left me feeling motivated, energized, and understood, and it was fun! We all shared many smiles and laughs, and by the end of the conference it was like we were all old friends. I would encourage any and all grant professionals to attend the 2016 GPA conference in Atlanta!