by Holly Craw, Arizona Founding Chapter Scholar
I heard this from several of my colleagues at the GPA-AZ Founding Chapter meetings for the past two years. Although I had been quite involved with the chapter for a couple of years, I had not really given much thought to attending the conference. I usually had other things scheduled for that time, and it seemed like a large outlay of funds for the combined expenses, which I wasn’t sure my organization was willing to pay. But San Diego with the possibility of a scholarship? That seemed much more workable than across the country. I was all in!
About the time I received word about the scholarship award, Barb Boggs and Kelli Romero started a Conference thread on Grant Zone. I eagerly read each post, making a note of the MANY great resources and spontaneous group dates being set for a variety of topics. Quickly realizing that the Conference App was the key to success at the event, I capitulated to downloading it on both my laptop and my phone. As a reluctant owner of a smartphone for the past six months, I really don’t want to get caught up in the incredible array of apps and gadgets. However, once loaded, I started to poke around with all the selections, somewhat ignoring the conference games. How fun to see that I could find people I knew among the list of 800 attendees, and I could set my schedule and have the app remind me where I needed to be. There are always so many great breakout topics at conferences that I often feel frustrated in choosing at the event, and I loved making those choices in the quiet of my home ahead of time. I also looked at sponsors and speakers, and finally looked at the games, and was shocked to find out that I already had enough points to be in 32nd place!
Suddenly my competitive side was ignited, and I clicked around a bit more and maxed out at 10th place. Uploading pictures were the only thing holding me back, and my novice skills with the smartphone didn’t take me there yet. When I checked the day before the conference, I still held my place, and I considered what it would take to remain competitive. I did upload one selfie with URL the Squirrel (with an assist from Shelly Wales to set up Facebook on my phone), and that was the extent of my competitive edge with the technology side.
The conference itself was first-rate with a wealth of topics, resources and practical information. After the session which focused on helping the non-grant co-workers to understand what the grants department does and readily supplying needed information, I could see the tremendous value in many of the tips that were shared. I also realized that setting up those processes would take a good bit of work. (May I write a grant for a clone of myself, please?)
I think my greatest takeaway from the conference is that grant professionals truly are wonderful, caring people who desire to stand together with colleagues to make the profession and the world a better place. Sharing of knowledge and expertise seems to flow easily without a sense of territoriality, and it is heartwarming to be part of discussions about the challenges we face to find mutually satisfying solutions.
Thank you so much, GPA National and GPA-AZ, for the scholarship opportunity to attend the conference. I highly recommend applying for the scholarship for first-timers who may be unsure if the time and expense are worth it. You truly won’t regret the decision to attend this great event.