Fresh Start for a New Year

By Teri Blandon, Vice President for Development at PAI – Champions of Global Reproductive Rights

GPF Marketing Committee Member


It is the end of December, and I have just finished my first week at a new job after four years at my previous employer. Six months ago when I volunteered to write this blog, a new adventure wasn’t even on my radar screen. Life has a way of throwing opportunities at you when you least expect them.


With this experience occurring at the end of the calendar year, I have been thinking a lot lately about changes. Changes can be planned or unplanned, good or bad, professional or personal, etc. But sometimes we need to be purposeful in making changes to keep growing and developing as grant professionals. So here are some ideas for big and small changes to jumpstart your 2016.


Do something else.

Do you believe in your organization’s mission? Do you believe in the ability of its leaders to fulfill the mission? Are you happy in your job? If your answers to any of these are “no,” then you might want to think about changing jobs. A good way to start is by paying attention to open positions posted on the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Job Center.


Broaden your perspective.

As grant professionals, we can often feel isolated. I work in the Washington, DC metro area, home to hundreds of grant specialists, and even I can feel alone at times. If you’re feeling this way, definitely consider attending the 2016 Grant Professionals Association conference in Atlanta, where you will meet hundreds of other people who speak the grants language fluently. If cost is an issue, apply for a scholarship through the Grant Professionals Foundation (GPF). But don’t just attend – participate! Apply to be a presenter, volunteer to help out with registration or a session, or lend a hand at the GPF silent auction.

Can’t make it to Atlanta? See if there is a GPA chapter close to you. Chapters organize events and social opportunities throughout the year. Not only can you network and learn new skills, but you can also volunteer and serve in leadership positions.


Expand your network.

If you can’t attend the national conference and there are no GPA chapters close to you, you can still get involved and meet people by volunteering throughout the year. All of the various committees work remotely, so you can participate in meetings from the comfort of your office or home! For GPA, check out the volunteer page on the GPA website (you must be a member to access it) and contact Barb Boggs, Volunteer Relations Manager, at for more information. Also, the Foundation has a sign-up page on its website with information on volunteering for a committee or applying to run for the National Board. Likewise, the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI) has various roles for volunteers; contact to find out more.


Change your knowledge base.

Do you have your GPC yet? If not, commit to working on it this year. If you think it has no value to you because you’ve been in the field for a long time, I politely and emphatically disagree. I was a grizzled grants veteran of 15+ years when I decided to apply and sit for the exam. For me, the value was two-fold: recognition of my expertise and an opportunity to learn about areas of professional practice in which I didn’t have as much experience. I used the literature review provided on the GPCI website to identify resources for brushing up on my weak areas. All in all, the process of preparing for the exam made me a much stronger grant professional. And don’t forget that the Foundation offers scholarships to help with the cost of applying and sitting for the GPC exam.

If you already have your GPC, continuing education is crucial, not just for maintaining your GPC but also to keep your skills sharp. In addition to sessions offered through the GPA chapters and at the GPA Annual Conference, there are over 70 on-demand webinars provided through GPA, and more live webinars to come in 2016. The webinars provide GPC Continuing Education Units (CEUs), and many are also eligible for Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) CEUs. Both the live and on-demand webinars are free for GPA members.


Give back.

When I attended my first GPA conference (Boston, 2004), I felt like I had found a home. I had spent years of attending conferences that were somewhat helpful but didn’t completely address the challenges and questions that I had as someone who focused on grants. In GPA, then in the Foundation and GPCI, I found my professional family – people who understood exactly what I was talking about. The bonding was immediate, and I left Boston with a renewed sense of purpose. For the first time, I realized that I could make a career out of focusing on grants.

I want to give that experience for other people as well. That’s why I donate to the Grant Professional Foundation. I invite you to join me and help our community of dedicated professionals to grow and flourish.