It’s More Than A Learning Opportunity: Make Friends & Build Networks at the GPA Annual Conference

By Rhonda McDonald, Owner of RM Grant Writing

Chuck Howard Memorial Scholar


Last November, I took a trip to St. Louis, Missouri to attend the Grant Professionals Association 17th Annual National Conference: Gateway to Grant Success. I attended as a Scholar, having received a scholarship from the Grant Professionals Foundation that paid for my conference fees. At home reflecting upon my attendance, roughly 3,000 miles away from St. Louis, I am contemplating what elements of the conference had the biggest impact on me.


The breakout workshops were extraordinary; the greatest problem was selecting just one each session. Reading the list of workshops over the summer is, after all, what led me to want to attend. But that is not the only reason I am excited to attend future GPA annual conferences. As important as all the information learned from the breakout sessions can be, they are not what will drive me to attend future gatherings. I look forward to being able to network with fellow grant professionals. To see my new grant friends again face to face. To work alongside or even attend workshops with, these new friends. To talk with and get feedback from those who have been in the trenches of the grant professionals.


I am an introvert by nature, and meeting new people is never easy for me. I started my conference attendance by volunteering to help set up the GPF’s Silent Auction booth. This simple activity provided me a jumpstart to the conference by meeting other grant professionals right out of the gate. Throughout the conference, the Silent Auction booth provided me an anchor: a place to go between workshops, to see familiar faces before rushing off to the next session. I enjoyed working alongside the members of GFP so much, that when I was asked if I would be a member of the Silent Auction Committee for the 2016 GPA Conference in Atlanta, I was more than happy to say, “Yes!”


In addition to volunteering, other opportunities to network with fellow grant professionals were numerous. Meals provided time to chat with and swap business cards with like-minded grant professionals. Meeting and chatting with vendors provided additional opportunities other meet fellow grant professionals. Workshops were yet another venue to network with those in the field. To make connections with those who have been there, done that, and who are willing to help someone new like me.


I look forward to attending next year’s GPA Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I anticipate continuing my professional development with the excellent workshops that will be available there. More than anything, I am excited to be able to network face to face with other grant professionals, and spend my spare time helping at the GFP Silent Auction!