This past fall, I had the great honor of attending the Grant Professionals Association Conference in Louisville, KY. While this was my first time attending the conference, having been raised in Kentucky, it felt like returning home in several different ways.
I love learning and being introduced to new concepts, it’s part of what I love about grant writing. The profession requires you to develop a comprehensive understanding of the program or organization you are writing for, its clients and constituents, its challenges and roadblocks, and how it can help make the world a better place. The often-frenetic pace of drafting, deadlines, and administration – all the while prospecting for new opportunities – can make it all too easy to compress the required learning that helps to make a great grant writer. As we know, these challenges were wildly exacerbated by the onset of the pandemic, which suddenly transformed nearly every grant into an emergency grant, particularly in the arts when the entire industry was shut down for 18 months.
In the spring of 2022, as my industry was beginning to see the light of how our business model might be transformed in a “post-pandemic” world, I began to consider how I could capitalize on these new skills learned through experience with intentional professional development opportunities that could not only help build my skills but connect me to others in my position across the sector and from around the country.
I was fortunate to receive a 2022 GPA Conference Scholarship through the DC Metro Area Chapter and began benefiting from the conference experience straightaway. From the GPF Scholar breakfast on the first morning of the conference, to my very first session, I immediately began making the connections I so value and learning new skills and best practices to improve my work in the profession. The inspiring people I met opened my eyes to new ways that I can continue to grow, and how I can channel the skills developed as a grant writer into future career prospects.
One of the most impactful aspects of the conference was the hybrid format. There is no substitute for attending in-person, particularly from my experience as a first-time attendee. But of course, in person, you can generally only attend one session at a time. I attended the conference with the intent to be a sponge, soaking up as much experience and as many fascinating sessions as possible (#FOMO). The ability to continue to view online conference sessions long after returning home has helped maintain my connection to the conference and the talented people I met there, and has continued to shape my work and my appetite for learning amidst my daily work and has truly maximized the value of my conference experience.
I continue to be incredibly grateful to the Grant Professionals Foundation, the DC Metro Chapter of GPA, and the organizers, staff, and countless others who made the conference and my experience possible.