Tag Archive for: Grant Expectations

At GPA, We Seem to Get Each Other

by Catherine High, GPC; Rosemary West Scholar

This was my first time at the GPA National Conference, and my scholarship from GPF was certainly a great help in persuading my agency to let me go. I don’t think that will be a problem in the future! I came back with so much information, and so much renewed enthusiasm for my job, that I am certain to be a regular attendee.

As a one-person grants office, I do it all, and my duties are expanding as we receive more grants from differing sources. So, I attended break-out sessions on all sorts of topics, from managing federal grants to fine-tuning my role within the organization. I even managed to attend a session on improving my writing skills. I only wish I could have learned more, but often, the sessions I wanted to attend were running concurrently.

I was very reassured that, although I am quite an anomaly within my organization, there are many people just like me in the grants field! Sometimes I feel a bit of a freak at work, but at GPA, we seem to get each other. My only real complaint was that the weather was not as warm as I would have liked – I did make it to the beach, but it was definitely not sunbathing weather.

I most certainly recommend the conference to anyone who is considering attending next year. I plan to be there. Within a few years, I hope to have built our grants office to the point where I can bring a colleague with me.

By the way, I have put my favorite ribbons outside my office, and people love them. I like them because they help me look more social, which isn’t always easy.

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)

Turning Your Conference Experience into a GPC Study Group

by Fielding Jezreel, St. Louis Chapter Scholar

First, a huge thank you to GPF for providing a conference scholarship that enabled me to attend the 2017 GPA Conference. As a second-time conference participant, I had the luxury of knowing what to expect and how to plan out my schedule to maximize professional development and networking opportunities. For the 2017 conference, that plan primarily centered on two aspects for growth. The first is that I recently started consulting full time and know that I still have a lot to learn from my colleagues across the country. I attended sessions on determining consultant rates and dealing with the ebb and flow of work. Individual conversations with other consultants revealed tips and tricks of the trade that will strengthen my business. To the many GPA members who shared insights with me, thank you.

The second area for growth centered around my goal of sitting for the GPC during the spring of 2018. With several years of experience, and after taking full advantage of the professional development opportunities provided through the St. Louis Chapter, I feel prepared in many of the competency areas. In advance of the conference, I identified that my weakest competency area was around post-award management, particularly as it relates to federal grants. Using the conference app, I chose sessions that provided insight and skill building in this area. I left the conference feeling confident in post-award competencies and am on track to take the GPC exam in the spring.

The conference inspired me to return to St. Louis with a renewed desire to support other GPA members in obtaining their GPC credential. The conference reinforced that learning as a group holds more value than learning alone, with group members sharing diverse experiences that enrich conversations and understanding of the material. A group of five St. Louis Chapter members met for the first time in early December and are scheduled to continue meeting through early February. As a group, we will be prepared for the GPC exam, will have strengthened relationships with one another, and will have built the capacity of our chapter.

The scholarship from GPF jump-started this process, igniting the drive within to get serious about studying for the GPC exam and to learn through group processing and sharing.

What are your goals? How can the GPA conference jump start your next big idea?

Quality and Quantity of Sessions was Abundant

by Jane Arney, Peach State Scholar

The 2017 Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Conference, held at Paradise Point Resort in San Diego, was an incredible gathering of grant professionals in a spectacular setting! I was grateful to receive the Peach State Scholarship from the GPF, which covered my registration fees and made it possible for me to attend. My lodgings were at the off-site Hyatt Hotel since Paradise Point was full, but with a marina view and harbor seals outside my window, as well as a convenient shuttle to the conference every day, this was no hardship at all. The kickoff reception was friendly, the opening session included a hilarious rap, “Baby Got Grants,” and the keynote speaker, Tom Ahern, reminded us with humor to simplify our language.

My biggest challenge was narrowing down which sessions to attend since the quality and quantity of selections were so abundant. I decided to focus on the area of grants management. The choice of sessions in this area was especially rich, so sometimes I had to make tough decisions at the last minute. With the help of the handy conference app, I set my schedule on my iPhone, and viewing the presenters’ slides and supporting materials ahead of time helped me hone in on my choices. Some of the sessions I enjoyed were “Creating Order Out of Chaos,” “Field of Dreams: How to Build a Winning Grant Team,” “Nobody Knows the Troubles We’ve Seen: how to artfully educate colleagues and bosses on what we do.” Each of these sessions had amazing presenters with impressive credentials and stellar presentation skills, engaging their audiences with both humor and clarity. I learned a lot and took home several great tips and techniques that I will definitely apply to my job.

Even better than the sessions (if that’s possible!) was networking – actually meeting the people I’ve met virtually in #GrantChat and GrantZone!! A group of us who started a GrantZone discussion about Raiser’s Edge were able to schedule a meeting in the conference app and enjoyed a conversation about possible alternatives to the use of multiple spreadsheets, etc. The Georgia chapter enjoyed a convivial dinner out in Old Town San Diego, with Chapter President Meghann Adams leading us to a fun Mexican restaurant.

Overall, the GPA Conference far exceeded my expectations, and I recommend that everyone try to attend the next one!



by Shannon Northorp, South Florida Chapter Scholar

In 2011, I became a member of GPA and quickly learned that GPA was my go to professional development resource. At that time, there was not a local chapter that I could get involved in. Fast forward a couple of years and the Broward County Chapter became the South Florida Chapter. The president at the time, Alan Tiano, incorporated technology into the meetings allowing all of South Florida to participate in a local chapter from the comfort of their office. Despite being over a hundred miles away from the majority of the members, I was welcomed into the Chapter via WebEx. In November 2015, I was elected the Chapter’s Treasurer. I have remained in that role for the past two years.

Attending the GPA conference is never a given for myself and my organization. It all depends on the budget during any given year. Knowing that our Department was making cuts to the budget and restricting travel (especially out of state), I knew that without a scholarship, my chances of attending the conference were slim to none. Professional development is important in our profession, and I was in need of some. Fortunately, my Chapter funds up to two scholarships for South Florida members through the GPF. So, I went for it.

Next thing I knew I was making travel arrangements and picking out what workshops I wanted to attend. I don’t know about you, but there were so many workshops that interested me, I wish I were able to clone myself to attend several workshops at one time. I did the next best thing, my chapter colleagues, as well as, other conference attendees, and I shared workshop information during the breaks and at the end of the day. Having all the workshop materials online was/is a great resource to learn, long after the conference is over. Just as technology was an intricate part of my involvement with my chapter, the new conference app, allowed me to be all in at the conference. The app allowed me to connect with other attendees; pick out my workshops; map out where I was going; check in to my workshop; complete workshop evaluations; and so much more right at my fingertips on my smartphone.

I came back rejuvenated with new ideas and goals for the year. When you are the only grant writer in your organization, attending the national conference with ‘your people’ provides an invaluable experience to learn, share and grow, that you can’t get elsewhere. I am grateful to the South Florida Chapter and GPF, for this opportunity, and I am a better grant professional for attending the 2017 National GPA Conference.



GPA annual conference will be in San Diego! You just have to attend!

by Holly Craw, Arizona Founding Chapter Scholar

I heard this from several of my colleagues at the GPA-AZ Founding Chapter meetings for the past two years. Although I had been quite involved with the chapter for a couple of years, I had not really given much thought to attending the conference. I usually had other things scheduled for that time, and it seemed like a large outlay of funds for the combined expenses, which I wasn’t sure my organization was willing to pay. But San Diego with the possibility of a scholarship? That seemed much more workable than across the country. I was all in!

About the time I received word about the scholarship award, Barb Boggs and Kelli Romero started a Conference thread on Grant Zone. I eagerly read each post, making a note of the MANY great resources and spontaneous group dates being set for a variety of topics. Quickly realizing that the Conference App was the key to success at the event, I capitulated to downloading it on both my laptop and my phone. As a reluctant owner of a smartphone for the past six months, I really don’t want to get caught up in the incredible array of apps and gadgets. However, once loaded, I started to poke around with all the selections, somewhat ignoring the conference games. How fun to see that I could find people I knew among the list of 800 attendees, and I could set my schedule and have the app remind me where I needed to be. There are always so many great breakout topics at conferences that I often feel frustrated in choosing at the event, and I loved making those choices in the quiet of my home ahead of time. I also looked at sponsors and speakers, and finally looked at the games, and was shocked to find out that I already had enough points to be in 32nd place!

Suddenly my competitive side was ignited, and I clicked around a bit more and maxed out at 10th place. Uploading pictures were the only thing holding me back, and my novice skills with the smartphone didn’t take me there yet. When I checked the day before the conference, I still held my place, and I considered what it would take to remain competitive. I did upload one selfie with URL the Squirrel (with an assist from Shelly Wales to set up Facebook on my phone), and that was the extent of my competitive edge with the technology side.

The conference itself was first-rate with a wealth of topics, resources and practical information. After the session which focused on helping the non-grant co-workers to understand what the grants department does and readily supplying needed information, I could see the tremendous value in many of the tips that were shared. I also realized that setting up those processes would take a good bit of work. (May I write a grant for a clone of myself, please?)

I think my greatest takeaway from the conference is that grant professionals truly are wonderful, caring people who desire to stand together with colleagues to make the profession and the world a better place. Sharing of knowledge and expertise seems to flow easily without a sense of territoriality, and it is heartwarming to be part of discussions about the challenges we face to find mutually satisfying solutions.

Thank you so much, GPA National and GPA-AZ, for the scholarship opportunity to attend the conference. I highly recommend applying for the scholarship for first-timers who may be unsure if the time and expense are worth it. You truly won’t regret the decision to attend this great event.

A Completely Different Conference Experience

by Wendy Strain – Chuck Howard Scholar

When I was first hired into a grants office, having little to no idea what I was doing (how many of us have been there?), I was sent to a different organization’s grant writing conference. It was my only true initiation into this new world I was entering.

It was a learning experience, and I did come home with some helpful information, but hadn’t made any significant new connections or felt I’d received any profound insights into this profession in any way. What I learned about grant writing had to be done on the job and through my efforts.

Going into the consulting space several years later, I knew joining an organization of grant writers would be important for my continued growth and development, so I purposely sought out something different from what I had been led to in the past. I was looking for something more engaged, more devoted to furthering the profession, and more supportive of its members.

Because of my experience with GPA membership so far this year (through my local chapter and the online portal), I felt certain my conference experience would be completely different from that other one and boy, was it ever!

I honestly can’t tell you if I learned more from the sessions I attended or from the individual conversations I had with other attendees. I believe I made some connections that will blossom into potential collaborations, frequent associations, and maybe even long-term friendships.

Truthfully, I had trouble deciding which of the sessions to go to in any given time slot. Often, there were two or three I was thinking of. It says a lot about a conference and the involvement of its members when so much value is being placed on the table.

Something I really appreciated was the availability of the conference app. I promptly lost the printed schedule I was given some time on the first day, but I was able to keep track of the several sessions that looked interesting to me by favoriting them in the app and checking them often on my phone. Plus, I could always download the handouts from the sessions I couldn’t attend and at least have access to the main points offered.

Being able to access the map to each meeting room was a huge bonus as well. I confess I failed to enter session evaluations after each one – too busy talking with people I’d met during the session or at other sessions, then rushing off to the next event – but I did remember to check in for many of them by the second day.

It was also wonderful to know the handouts for each session could be downloaded right from the app. Rather than trying to scribble down everything on the slides as well as catching any additional insight the speaker had to offer, I was able to relax and really pay attention to their knowledge, only making notes when I wanted to highlight something said that didn’t appear on the slides.

I know this helped others relax as well because every session I attended was full of interested and engaged audience members asking intelligent questions and contributing to a broader or more focused discussion, depending on the case in question. That the speakers were all open to this and even encouraged, it was another welcome and significant indicator of the quality of this organization and the people who are members.

As surprised as I was to receive my scholarship to attend the conference, I expected quality and engagement, expectations set in place by my local chapter leaders. Yet the conference still managed to exceed all those expectations. I returned home with much to think about, much to do, re-energized and excited about the next steps on my journey toward serving my community and my profession.

A Scholarship of Exponential Value and Impact

by Jackie Beyer – Tracey Potter Doe Memorial Scholar

“View yourselves as the product.” Attending the National Grant Professionals Association Conference in San Diego, California definitely changed my way of thinking about myself. I had never viewed myself in this way before. I learned I am responsible for the success of my career by taking mindful, careful steps. Attending this conference was my first big step towards a successful career. The value I received and impact of the scholarship were exponential.

My attendance at the conference could not have come at a better time. I have been in the Grants field for a little over two years and sometimes feel like I am still getting my feet wet. Attending the conference provided me with exposure to the grant field, time to network with other professionals, access to products and services that I had no idea even existed, and ideas on how I can grow professionally. Being surrounded by like-minded people was encouraging and helpful, because I now know I have an army of people behind me, supporting me, and willing to share their knowledge with me. The first day, when I was volunteering at the Wine Pull, I realized I was with people like me who were thrilled that I was a “First-timer.” People kept telling me I was lucky to be so young in the field because I had more time to learn and hone my craft. I had never looked at my current status in that way and appreciated the encouraging statements.

The value of the conference, to me as a Grant Professional, was more than I expected! I had anticipated gaining some new ideas, maybe meeting a few people, and learning a couple of tricks and tips. I received all of that, times ten. I connected with many Grant Professionals in some of my sessions and even stayed after a few sessions to talk and swap stories. Beyond the professional connections I made, I was also offered tools that I can use going forward in the field. In addition to useful tools, I discovered there is so much more I can be doing to further my career. Something I did not anticipate receiving was a nice, long list of book recommendations offering excellent career advice, stress relief, and problem-solving ideas.

Workshops I attended added the most value to my experience at the conference. “Crafting Great Grant Budgets,” lead by Cheryl Kester was an excellent session. Being a person who is more English-major orientated, budgets are often a foreign language for me. Ms. Kester provided an excellent breakdown on how to simplify big budgets into an easier to use summary. I also appreciated her many different examples from different kinds of businesses, as well as her budget checklist. I plan to use the checklist every time I have a budget come across my desk.

The most beneficial session to me was the workshop titled, “Be Your Own Career CEO-How to Develop Your Grant Professional Portfolio.” Scott Scala led this workshop and made me realize that I was going about my professional development in a way that may not necessarily produce results I want. I thought that working my 9-5 job, attending Grant Professional Association (GPA) chapter meetings regularly, and various training offered through work would be enough. Mr. Scala opened my eyes to other avenues of professional development that I had not considered before. He stated that an online presence is very important for career development because it assists with cultivating recognition, resources, and networking that may be needed in the future. I had never considered using social media for my career before this workshop. Another point that stuck with me was Mr. Scala’s PowerPoint quote, “If you want others to care about you, care about others.” In this field, competitiveness with fellow writers is easy, but doing so inhibits you as a professional, your colleagues, and the profession, as a whole. Grant Professionals should be willing to help others, teach others, and share resources in order to grow to our fullest. Following this session, I am determined to be known as the professional that is willing to help and connect people with what they need.

Another workshop I enjoyed was the “Ignite the Grant Profession-8 Topics from 8 Successful Grant Pros.” The style of presentation was altogether new to me. Five minutes per four people and then a break for questions and then five minutes for another four people with questions at the end. Excellent way to hold attention and present on many different topics in one sitting. I loved learning how each Grant Professional had completed very different things in each of their careers from the other. This presentation highlighted the fact that a Grant Writer does not have just one set definition of what they do; rather, the field is fluid, and the opportunities are endless. Topics that were covered ranged from phone apps as grant writing tools, getting out of your comfort zone in order to grow, is consulting for you?, and standing in a reviewer’s shoes.

The last workshop I attended at the GPA Conference was “Why Grant Professionals Really ARE Superheros” by Amy Shankland. The presentation discussed all the crazy turns Ms. Shankland’s professional career took and how sometimes she had to take a chance in order to get where she is today. I feel like this session was enlightening because it demonstrates anything is possible in this field and in order to grow professionally, you have to be willing to adapt to changes. Ms. Shankland also allowed time for each person to tell their own story about a time when they were a superhero in this field. I loved hearing about all the different agencies in the U.S., the good things they are doing, and the people who are behind all the good work.

This memorable experience would not have been possible without the financial assistance the Tracey Potter Doe Memorial Scholarship had offered me. The impact of the Tracey Potter Doe Memorial Scholarship is tri-fold. The scholarship helped me, but it also helped my agency, and therefore our clients we serve. By applying for this scholarship, I reminded my agency that I care about the cost of my professional development and want to save the agency money when I can. I understand that professional development is necessary to learn and grow in the field, but I don’t want to be a financial burden to my agency who does so much good in our community. This scholarship helped me feel less guilty about going to the conference because I knew that the cost would be mostly taken care of. I was able to relax and enjoy myself and focus on the information I was provided, rather than how much the conference was costing my agency. The money saved can be used towards our homeless, domestic violence victims, or low-to-moderate income earning clients we serve who need it the most.

Overall, attending the National Grant Professionals Association Conference in San Diego, California was worth the days out of the office, the money spent, and the time it took to drive there. I walked away with a new mindset about what it means to be a Grant Professional, I learned I am in charge of my career and my growth, and I took away information from each workshop I attended. Although the experience is over, the training I received will follow me throughout my career and impact many. None of this would have been possible without the assistance offered through the Tracey Potter Doe Memorial Scholarship. Thank you to the Grant Professionals Foundation for considering me and for investing in my future.

San Diego and “Baby Got Grants”

By TJ Hansell – Arizona Founding Chapter Scholarship

I know what you’re thinking…San Diego is pretty awesome, but “Baby Got Grants” is even awesomer. Yes, awesomer is not a word, but can any word really describe how awesome of an intro that was? I am sure a few of you are looking through your thesauruses and/or scrabble word list as I type this. Speaking of Scrabble, my grandmother was a spelling machine and would repeatedly laugh when she schooled me in Scrabble. I digress, but sometimes you just got to write what comes to mind.

Getting back on track. “Baby Got Grants” was the perfect introduction for a first timer to the GPA National Conference. That experience alone made the trip worth it in many respects, but the rest of the conference was amazing as well. Not only did I get to meet new people; I ran into quite a few familiar faces there. Arizona was certainly represented well in San Diego.

As a first timer, it was great to see so many grant professionals in one area. The wealth of knowledge, experience, and talent was unbelievable at times. When you look at some of the presenters and individuals presenting (Lucy Morgan, Bev Browning, Sharon Skinner, and others) anyone, even a seasoned grant professional, could pick up something to help them in the future. I know I definitely soaked in as much as I could over the conference schedule. The sharing of information was one of the best aspects of the conference. As a seasoned grant professional, I tend to think I know a couple things about grants, but I also know I really don’t know that much at times. The conference proved that and got me really excited about talking to many of you who attended.

I would not have been able to participate without the generous support of the GPF scholarship. Before I knew I was a scholarship recipient, it was a decision between attending myself or sending my team. Luckily, I didn’t have to make that decision, and all of us were able to attend. The scholarship not only helped me, but it helped two others gain valuable knowledge and relationships that will help for years into the future.

Now back to that amazing intro. I would love to see GPA encourage more of their members to come up with ingenious ways to make the grant world fun. I’m thinking “Grants, Grants, Baby” could be a sequel to “Baby Got Grants.” Just throwing that out there.

Helping a Beginner Get Off to a Good Start!

By Jana Gowan – 2017 Nora Stombaugh Memorial Scholarship

Thanks to a scholarship from the Grant Professionals Foundation, I was able to attend the annual Grant Professionals Association Conference in San Diego this year (November 2017).

I accepted a position as a full-time grant writer at a public university in December 2016 with a beginner’s awareness of grants. I had years of experience in development, fundraising, and education, mostly at a small nonprofit with a mission very close to my heart and only about a dozen colleagues. Transitioning to a larger institution with over 600 employees and thousands of students while navigating federal grant applications for the first time has stretched me. Thankfully, my predecessor was a member of the GPA, so I was able to plug into this invaluable resource from the beginning.

The GPF scholarship made it possible for me to attend the annual conference. From the first event, I appreciated the sense of community encouraged by the association. Working as the only grants professional at my organization can be isolating, so one of my favorite parts of the conference was simply getting to meet fellow grants professionals and ask questions. I learned the most from these casual conversations during meals or mixers.

Of course, the conference sessions were beneficial too. In fact, there were so many offerings relevant to my work, that I am very grateful for the shared handouts on the Google Drive folder. From the sessions I was able to attend, I learned how to offer more effective training for my non-grants colleagues, build better relationships with the development team, and craft a stronger evaluation plan as just a few examples.

Thank you to the Grant Professionals Foundation for the scholarship and the opportunity to attend this conference. It was the perfect ending to my first year as a grants professional as it will help me start the second year on the right foot with sharper focus and a network of support.