I Was With My People

by Lauren Petersen, 2017 Pamela Van Pelt Scholar

As the holidays quickly approach, and many nonprofit professionals reflect on the year past, it is the 2017 Annual Grant Professional Conference that comes to my mind first. It isn’t very often you get to spend days on end devoted solely to learning to perfect your craft, reflecting on your own habits, and sharing stories of the good, the bad and the ugly, with like-mined peers from around the country. But at the Grant Professionals Conference, that’s what it’s all about!

As a new-comer to GPA and a first-timer to the Conference, I cannot thank the Grant Professionals Foundation enough for awarding me the 2017 Pamela Van Pelt Scholarship. Each day was jam-packed from pre-conference leadership workshops and networking receptions, to countless top-notch learning sessions with grant experts who I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Like many other attendees, I focused on attending sessions to fill my knowledge gaps and refuel my grant writing passion-tank. But choosing which session to attend was like being a kid in a candy shop – How could I possibly pick just one?  It wasn’t until after Tom Ahern’s Keynote, that it all clicked. It didn’t matter what sessions I attended, I was with my people, and every single offering was relevant to my day-to-day career.

Over the course of five days, 10+ sessions, and 18 pages of notes, the Grant Professional Association Conference in San Diego re-energized, renewed and got me ready to rock 2018.

I met peers from around the country who are dedicated to making the world a better place one grant at a time, just like me. (Crazy huh?) As the only grant writer in my organization, like many others I met, it’s often difficult to find local peers to reach out to for advice or just bounce an idea off of.  This conference provided opportunities to network and connect with other like-minded professionals, enabling me to take the pulse of what is trending amongst grant writers for tools, resources, technologies and best practices.

I picked-up countless new ways to describe my role: “Grant writers do more than collate information. We connect dots. We forge meaning.” or, “Grant writers are organizations legal and ethical hound dogs…”, and “We are professional scavenger hunters of past content”.

I identified and recommitted myself to my professional SMIT (Single Most Important Thing) – Balance. Because life is all about balance, both personally and professionally. It sounds simple, but especially in the world of grant writing, reality and theory are not always the same. Despite the externally perceived can-do spirit, flexibility and determination, balance requires fancy-footwork and an ability to know your own boundaries.

But most importantly, I was reminded why I continue to pine through pages of RFPs, scribble red ink on drafts for weeks on end and guzzle gallons of coffee (and wine): The world of a nonprofit grant professional is exciting; no two workdays are ever alike, and I love that about my career.  (And of course, I will never hear Sir Mix-A-Lot’s iconic song “Baby got Back” the same, thanks to a little grant writer magic! #BabygotGrants)