I Drank the Kool-Aid: Learning Best Practices from Seasoned Pros at GPA National Conference

By Jayson Babel – Strategic Non-profit Consultant at Florida Academy of Professional Mediators, Inc.

South Florida Chapter Scholar


As a relatively new grant writer, seeking best practices is a top priority to enhance skills and make our applications as competitive as possible. The opportunity to attend the Grant Professionals Association Conference 2015 in St. Louis presented itself as a chance to not only receive the hard facts and application guidance that is required, but it was also the opening to speak directly with the veteran grant writers whose experience is often untranslatable to text. I knew going into the conference that their experience, tips and, advice would be a great asset; however, their willingness to share and coach was more than I could have hoped. When arriving back at my workplace, post conference and working through a debrief with my superior, the two most significant “takeaways” from the conference were the Federal grants guidance and the wealth of knowledge from seasoned professionals.


Arriving at the Conference, I was excited to participate in the Special Interest Group (SIG) for Human Services. But before the SIG, I met a participant at breakfast who worked on similar disability issues. She was absolutely fantastic. We spoke at great length regarding the challenges and opportunities for grant funding and I must say, I was a sponge! This introduction to the conference was absolutely fantastic. Here I was, not even in my first session and with two pages of notes on where I should be looking for opportunities and how to navigate the vast expanse of information and resources. The conference continued on this high note working with the team from the Grant Professionals Foundation as a scholarship recipient, the staff were very kind in assisting in navigating the different sessions and dissecting what each session would offer me as a new writer. I then attended the First Timer’s Welcome and Breakfast where I learned I was not the only one who was working through the challenges of being a first-time attendee.


Needless to say, by the time I attended the SIG Human Services session, I had “drank the Kool-aid!” In my limited experience as a grant writer, I’ve experienced challenges…and as the only grant writer in my agency, I’ve often felt alone in the process. Listening to other professionals indicate they had the similar challenges and sharing our methods of navigating those challenges was invaluable. Not only did it offer guidance, but a shared experience that somehow invigorated my zeal for securing funding for the individuals with disabilities that I serve.


Overall, this was an exceptional experience with a plethora of information and grant coaching from the presenters AND the participants. I look forward to attending next year’s conference and continuing the relationship with the connections I made during my first GPA Conference experience.