How My GPA Membership Scholarship Advanced My Professional Development Goals

By Carolyn Caldwell, GPC; Raising Awareness, Raising Funds, LLC
2016 Membership Scholar

We all write proposals and complete applications as part of our daily work, so what makes applying for a scholarship from the Grant Professionals Foundation different from the rest? In my case, completing the application for a membership scholarship from GPF required me to think hard about my time with GPA, back to the beginning. It forced me to take stock of what GPA has meant to me in the past.

When I first joined GPA in 2010, my career path wasn’t so certain. I started in grant writing with enthusiasm, but success wasn’t a foregone conclusion, or sudden, by any stretch. I needed experience, I needed a mentor, and I needed to learn the “hard and fast,” as well as “soft,” rules of the road. I have a tenacious nature, and I can say I’m glad I stuck with it. GPA was with me the entire way.

Being a GPA member opened doors for me that otherwise would have stayed closed. When I think about my time in GPA, I think about the colleagues and friends I have made along the way, I think about the advice they have given me, and the chances they have taken with me. It has all paid off. I feel like a knowledgeable professional, I can offer my clients sound advice, and I can genuinely call myself a grant professional.

Answering the scholarship application questions required me to write about my commitment to the grants field, which made me think back through all the years I have been with GPA. I felt like I could finally answer that question, not just with the naive enthusiasm I had back in 2010, but truly as a grants professional who has committed to the profession. I recalled all the frustration and doubt I felt in the early years, when it wasn’t completely certain I would succeed. What a difference my involvement in GPA has made! I have not only gained in knowledge, and understanding of best practices, but I now have a highly-tuned radar for ethical land mines.

Every day in our work, we ask for money, and tell our prospective funders how deserving our organizations are. I had to think about what my story was, what was unique about my circumstances, and what about my application was compelling. But it was difficult to tell why I should receive a scholarship because it meant remembering a time when there were more questions than answers. I thought back to the missteps I made, and to all the things I did to advance my career that didn’t pay off. What did pay off was my membership in GPA.

If you took all the monthly sessions my chapter offers, the GPA webinars, and sessions at the 2011-2016 conferences I attended,  and laid them end to end, I am SURE there’s a master’s degree in there (or at least a bachelor’s). Between all the educational opportunities GPA affords me, I can say that I have an advanced degree in grantsmanship! Add to that the mentor I met through GPA, and we may be able to say I have a PhD!

This past year was even more fruitful because I studied for, and took, my GPC exam. Testament to how much I’ve learned over the years is the fact that I passed! To me, that was proof positive that I’ve absorbed everything I’ve been exposed to through GPA.

I have so much to be thankful for through the years with GPA. I appreciate the Grant Professional Foundation awarding me this membership scholarship. It guarantees another year of professional advancement for me, and another year of growth as a grants professional.