GPA 2021 Annual Conference Scholarship Essay by Denise Henry

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Giving, growing and learning. These three words aptly define my career and approach to being the best grants professional and fundraiser I can be. I believe career growth starts with being a lifelong learner, listener, and collaborator to add strong team value for community good.


For me, 2021 began with a new job in higher education grants management after previous grants and development positions at small, community-based nonprofits. Early in my new role, I came across a Grants Professional Association email, and read it with great interest. I hadn’t heard of GPA before, but was so glad it came across my radar because I knew it would be a great way for me to grow and learn.


This past summer, I saw a few emails about the upcoming GPA conference and decided to take a deeper look at the website to learn more. I knew I needed assistance to attend, so I looked for scholarship opportunities and noticed The Dr. Bev Browning/Dr. Bernard Turner African American Conference Scholarship from the Grant Professional Association Foundation to attend the Annual Conference virtually. What a prestigious opportunity!


I applied and the rest is history! When I received my award notification, I was elated, deeply humbled and couldn’t wait for the GPA 2021 Conference to begin. Needless to say, when it did, it was everything I thought it would be and more!


My Key GPA 2021 Takeaways

First, the Opening Keynote Session set the stage for me. Although I was a virtual conference participant, I felt like I was right there in the room when Johna Rogers created a great rallying and encouraging moment for us all with “stand up!” or “hands up!” as we proudly shared the parts we all play in serving our communities through our grants work! All I could think was: look at the reach of our collective impact!


I was also impacted by Kia Jarmon’s keynote when she discussed Storytelling, my favorite aspect of grant writing. She asked a powerful question: “Based on the stories within my work, am I helping or hindering those we serve?” Her presentation solidified my personal commitment to respectful, community-informed storytelling.


Secondly, Kim Richardson’s workshop on Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Your Grant Proposal helped me see the need to look at DEI not just in our organization and those we serve, but also in partnerships, consultants, and recruitment.


Thirdly, I really appreciated the Matchmaker Webinar Funder Opportunity Rubric that was a great tool for Cost/Benefit Analysis and determining if a funder is a good conceptual match. Apples to Apples, or Apples to Oranges?


Lastly, I’m grateful for the Conference Connect Higher Education discussion where we talked about grant expectations and timeline processes for grant project participants. I loved connecting with and learning from other grants professionals!


Overall, I am so grateful to the Grants Professional Association Foundation for The Dr. Bev Browning/Dr. Bernard Turner African American Conference Scholarship to attend GPA 2021 Conference. It was a great opportunity to learn, grow, and connect, and I very much look forward to the GPA 2022 in Louisville!!

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