GPA 2021 Annual Conference Scholarship Essay by Elizabeth Wilkinson

I was delighted to receive the Arizona Founding Chapter Jerry Dillehay Conference Scholarship. Thank you to the Grant Professionals Foundation and my beloved Arizona Founding Chapter! I have been a GPA member for nearly 15 years, and I have attended many GPA conferences. The 2021 Seattle conference was especially sweet after the long isolation of the pandemic.

During the pandemic, I transitioned into consulting, and while it is gratifying, working alone can be isolating. Getting together with like-minded grant professionals was a wonderful treat. My focus in attending this conference was to learn about consulting best practices and build a personal network of independent consultants to draw upon for advice when issues arise. I also wanted to learn about consulting services other than grant writing to broaden my service to the community.

Here is a sampling of the workshops I attended:

  •  Mindset, Hiring and Mentorship – Insights and Tools for Scaling Your Consulting Business

This panel of presenters discussed their experiences scaling up their businesses.  They talked about the importance of focusing on a niche that highlights your expertise and passion. This focus will help you to find your ideal client and focus on the exact kind of work you’re most interested in doing.

  • Taking the Plunge ~ Transitioning from Grant Writer to Consultant

This session spoke to me as a new consultant. Scot Scala, GPC, discussed his experience starting a consulting business and offered tips to new consultants. He suggested that we each think about our strengths and only do what we love. The idea of only taking on projects and clients that resonate with you was eye-opening for me. We don’t have to chase the money; we need to be clear about our values and stay true to them.

  • Lead or Follow: The Delicate Dance Between Consultant and Client

Lisa McAloney and Lisa Stofan, GPC, discussed the importance of ensuring that you are a good match with your client. The fit could be based on mission, organizational structure, personality, skill, or goals—this idea built upon my previous learnings about doing what you love. If your skillset or personality fits the client, you will likely be more successful.

The theme of abundance – that there is enough work for everyone – was apparent in many of the workshops I attended. It was a wonderful message for me to hear since I am new to consulting. I am more determined than ever to follow this advice and only work with clients that are a good fit for me.

It was nice to see so many grant professionals in person again. I loved the option of having both virtual and in-person workshops. It never fails; there are always two workshops that I want to attend scheduled simultaneously, so it’s nice to be able to access the recordings at home.

Thank you to everyone that made this scholarship available to me!