GPA 2021 Annual Conference Scholarship Essay by Jillain Veil-Ehnert

What a joy and privilege it was to gather together in Seattle for the annual GPA conference. With the assistance of the Grant Professional’s Foundation scholarship, I attended my first in-person conference since the pandemic and it was an amazing opportunity to learn from industry leaders. I left the conference invigorated about our profession and ready to finish the year strong and embrace all that is to come in 2022. So many societal norms and the way we all do business has changed in the past two years that this year’s conference was even more valuable.

One of the advantages of the hybrid conference offered in person and online is that the sessions that were recorded are available after the conference itself. Whether I want to supplement my notes or view a session I could not attend, the recordings are valuable resources. I often use information I have gathered at the conference in my prospect research and being able to go back and cite a source or replay recommendations helps me better prepare for new funders and/or guidelines. Thank you to the staff and volunteers at GPA for providing this dual format.

The GPA conference is the best professional development opportunity for those serious about honing their craft. I value this conference because it helps me learn how to improve my skills and deepen my knowledge. By the end of the conference, I had numerous notes, new connections, and recommendations for technology to enhance my work.

The heart of the conference is the people. The planning committee and GPA staff included many opportunities to connect in informal and formal settings. In addition, there are those grant friends that I only see in person at the conference itself and catching up with them personally and professionally is a treat. Due to the online conference last year, I met in person many of those contacts that had been online only until now. The people are the heart of our organization and they illustrate the genuine care for each other and interest in welcoming newcomers. If you have not attended (in person or online) I encourage you to join us next year.