GPA 2019 Annual Conference Scholarship Essay, By Diane Demarest

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I want to express my gratitude to the GPA Foundation for the honor of being selected as a Scholar and gifting me with a lovely medal and support to attend the conference!  Additionally, I left the conference with a string of pearls!

After 40+ years of writing grants, I’ve found that professional education can sometimes be a disappointment when the content is for beginners or presenters do their very best to include all levels.  But, I love learning and there is something I can learn every day.  So, when I invest my time in a training, a webinar or a conference, I consider it time well spent if I leave with one pearl of wisdom – one new idea, one new strategy, one new connection or even one new perspective.  This year I left the GPA conference with a whole string of pearls!!

Some of my conference pearls were sheer enjoyment – the Hamilton performance – Bravo! Bravo! – who needed theater tickets????   I haven’t seen it uploaded on the GPA site, but it is certainly worthy of an encore!  

Vu Le, there IS a lot of humor in the non-profit world and unlike winning grants (which makes us smile 😊), humor helps us do our job better because the number of mental connections between the information and emotional responses (laughter) are greater and help us retain new info! Thank you Vu for reminding all of us not to take ourselves and maybe the world too seriously!

Even before the conference kicked off it was super to meet with fellow chapter leaders. Great ideas, encouragement and a boost to go home and energize our members. Also, terrific to meet Shelly in person – thanks for all you do for us!

The pearls I picked up from sessions are creating a very long string, but here are just a few –

  • Build the credibility of your organization – great tips from Susan Schaeffer.  I’m a grant writer for an organization that has attracted a few ‘big fish’ funders but we’re working hard to catch others. Susan said aspirational funding is competitive not necessarily merit based– everyone who is a finalist has presented a great proposal, but what can make you stand out?   A great organizational resume – not just leader resumes.  
  • Were you ever stumped by indirect rates and process?  Karen Norris knew her topic inside and out. Did you know that if a federal agency limits the indirect to say 10% instead of your federally approved rate, it must be codified in law that the agency and program has the right to do that? I’ve never questioned an RFP, but it could be wrong.
  • The ‘Grant Consulting Models’ gave me some new insights into what grant writing as a freelancer in retirement might look like.  Should grant writers volunteer their time – or not?  Hearing from a successful group of grant business women expanded my thinking.
  • ‘Ignite the GPC Competencies’ – Wow.  Speed learning on steroids! Each speaker fit tons into 5 minutes. A great overview of the competencies that got my wheels turning and convinced me that getting my GPC is a goal for 2020.

Since this will be shared in a blog, how about bloggers Amanda and Kimberly from fundraising Hay Day!  I loved getting to know them and how they got started during Discussion Den – Lend Me Your Earbuds.  If you want to impress your young adult children, blog speak is it!  I love that they bring humor to our work (you might be sensing a theme here).  I’ll be plugging into Fundraising Hay Day on my treadmill!

I collected so many pearls but here is one for anyone going to next year’s conference in Denver.  Bring your mittens and sign up to volunteer some time during the conference. As a first-time conference goer, volunteering at the Welcome Desk for just a few hours helped me meet so many great folks up close and personal!   I left DC feeling very connected and I can’t wait to see you all next year in Denver!


Scholarship applications for the GPA 2020 Annual Conference will open soon. More information is available here.

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