GPA Conference 2022 Scholar Essay by Terry Beigie

“Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.”–Sylvia Plath

I don’t think there’s a better quote that sums up my entire career—first in print journalism and now as a grants professional for a local government. I have deeply loved words and I have cursed words (using real curse words, ironically). After 25 years in community print journalism, I knew I needed a “Second Act,” and the locality where I worked and lived approved a grant writing professional in its fiscal year 2022 budget. I leapt for the opportunity to remain in the community where I had raised and educated my children and fought—sometimes with blood, sweat, and tears—to bring about positive change.

I started this journey in December 2021 and joining Grant Professionals Association almost immediately was one of the smartest things I did. I also joined my local chapter in Central Virginia, and while meetings have been virtual to date, I have learned so much. It was through that group that I learned about the GPA Conference Scholarship, which was perfect because we hadn’t planned for conference expenses during the previous budget season. I spent the 2022 conference attending the educational seminars virtually and even after three years of virtual meetings I still had a little trepidation about it. I’m still very new and there is so much to know regarding grants that I worried whether I would select the correct seminars and if information could translate well virtually. I’m thrilled to say I need not have worried. Every course I attended was incredibly beneficial and in the past two months I’ve utilized them often.

This is the first time this locality has utilized a full-time grants professional and we’re all learning together. While I’m a department of one, I know I’m not a team of one. I have received support from every department and Constitutional office in my locality. I gained greater understanding how to harness that participation through “Lead, Follow, Or Get Out of the Way” and “How to Manage a One-Person Grant Office.” Prior to the conference, I was not as forthcoming with what I needed from people and would not always ask until I received it. Some of that is a newbie way of thinking, and as I gain more experience that is changing.

As a local government, we apply mainly for Federal and State grant funds, so I learned the most from the courses that highlighted that. However, I do work with community nonprofits, the school system, volunteer fire departments, and others in search of grant funding to make a difference in our community. I already focused a lot on First Responder grant opportunities, but the course on public safety funding was invaluable. Congressional Appropriation funding is something that this locality has never worked toward and I found that information game-changing us.

I already knew that we would never receive every grant we applied for but hearing from other participants at the conference that it happens to them, too, helps heal any confidence bruising. Learning how to better develop grant proposals and evaluation plans will benefit every opportunity we seek. I want to thank the committee for honoring me with this scholarship opportunity. I cannot wait to learn more as I grow in this profession.