Thanks to the donors of the Dr. Bev Brown and Dr. Bernard Turner African American Professional scholarship, this was my 2nd year attending the GPA conference. I tuned into the conference virtually which was as fulfilling as I imagine being in person would have been. I applaud the GPA team for creating such a streamlined online experience with a custom conference app to coordinate sessions, sponsors, and networking. Through this experience, I gained a deeper understanding of best practices as a grant professional, as well as affirmation that I am headed in the right direction as a business owner.
Working from home as a freelancer can be incredibly isolating. Attending the GPA Conference was a reminder that although no one is in the room with me while I work, I am never alone. A friendly colleague is only one email, one GrantZone post, or one GPA Conference away, waiting to teach me new things and learn from me in return.
For a few months before attending the GPA conference, I experienced bouts of doubt and overwhelm, and I was slowly creeping toward burnout. However, because of hearing presentations from other experienced grant professionals, I ended the conference feeling more empowered to keep going. I am closing out 2022 with peace and heading into 2023 with eagerness to apply new knowledge, incorporate positive changes in my business, and continue building connections with my colleagues.
While I deeply enjoyed each session I attended, there were 3 sessions in particular that really stood out to me. The first session that stood out was “Success Starts at Square One – Leading Successful Initial Grant Meetings”. This session was great because it inspired me to be more confident when conducting meetings with clients so I can lead meetings well, get the necessary information to streamline my writing process, and set appropriate expectations with clients. Early on in my grant writing business, I struggled with asking the right questions and leading effective meetings. However, I overcame this over time and began to guide my clients through a more effective initial meeting to make our working relationship stronger. This session provided the affirmation I needed to continue leading meetings with boldness, expertise, and confidence. I also gained effective tips on how to navigate difficult conversations when they arise.
The second session that impacted me was titled “Grant Writing as Activism: Funding Movements for Social Change”. I enjoyed this session because it inspired attendees to support systemic change and address deep injustices in our society. The presenters did a great job giving practical and actionable techniques to use each grant proposal as an opportunity to challenge broken systems and call out inequitable practices, not only in the world at large but within our own profession directly. Sometimes, when people speak about creating change, the audience leaves feeling inspired and motivated, but they aren’t given steps they can truly implement. This session went beyond that. Not only did this session give practical tips on using grant writing as activism, but it also gave an honest snapshot of the challenges one could face by taking this approach. While introducing those challenges, the presenters also gave additional encouragement on how to overcome them and press forward in the fight for change. I left this session feeling introspective to consider how I can better implement their advice and use the additional resources provided.
Lastly, the 3rd session that stood out to me during the conference was “Planning for Life: Building A Consulting Business That Stands the Test of Time”. I loved this session because the panel of presenters was very vulnerable when speaking about their real lives outside of their work as grant consultants. It can be tempting to wear a mask and ignore the hard realities of our lives when we are around our work colleagues. However, these presenters leaned into the difficulties of being a full-time self-employed consultant or freelancer when tough times hit. It led me to believe that no consulting business is the same, and no one’s progress in this profession will be the same. Listening to the presenters tell their stories encouraged me to think more deeply about how flexible I want my business to be so it can accommodate me, instead of control me, when I need more space to be present with my family, take care of my own health, and face trials in life. This session caused me to have an honest conversation with myself about why I decided to become a freelance grant writer, what I want from my career, and also decide what I do not want.
These are just three sessions that I found invaluable, but there are many more which I do not have the space to write about here.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to sit, although virtually, among my colleagues and glean from the expertise of others in this industry.
Thank you, GPF and donors, for this kind contribution to my development as a grant professional. Your investment in my career will definitely pay off and produce lasting results in the years to come!