Tag Archive for: Grant Professionals Foundation Scholarship

GPC Exam Scholarship Reflection, by Liz Forster

GPC logo

Since I first started writing grants as a side gig in 2017 and met Diane Leonard, GPC, I’ve been dreaming of the day when I’d take my GPC exam. By 2023, I knew I was qualified but I still wasn’t sure I was ready to take the exam. I was busy with a full client load and the exam fee was prohibitively expensive after a year of intentionally sparse work as I transitioned to motherhood. So I applied for a scholarship and was blown away to be selected as one of only a handful of recipients! 

As someone who was mostly self-taught as a grant consultant, I was doing well but knew there was still SO MUCH I didn’t know. I knew that preparing for the exam would help me position my consulting business on a more solid foundation. I knew that it would give me credibility among fellow grant pros. And I also wanted to gain knowledge and credibility to advance equity in my local United Way’s grantmaking procedures (I had joined the board and felt that our process was much too complicated and was leaving out deserving nonprofits). 

After participating in a study group led graciously by Isabel Milkovich and studying as time allowed over several months, I took the exam on an exhausting day in November. In January, I heard that I passed! 

Taking the exam provided all the benefits that I expected, plus some unexpected gains! Since adding my credential to my GPA Consultant Directory Listing, I’ve received more new client inquiries from the directory in ONE month than I typically get in a year! I’m not positive if my GPC is the only factor in this new demand, but I’m certainly feeling a lot more confident these days as I continue to refine my business strategies. 

Thanks to the scholarship that enabled me to earn my GPC, I’m looking forward to an upcoming year filled with meaningful work with great clients. I remain so grateful and indebted to the many people who donated to make this scholarship possible – THANK YOU! 

2023 GPA GrantSummit – Scholarship Reflection, by Liz Forster

I was honored to receive a scholarship to attend GrantSummit in Kansas City this past November. 2023 was a big year for me professionally, and attending GrantSummit was the pinnacle. It was my first GPA conference! 

I was originally hesitant to commit to the conference, so I decided to apply for a scholarship. As a solo grant consultant, I wasn’t sure it would be worth the cost. And I wasn’t sure how my toddler would handle the separation! I ended up winning a partial scholarship and it was just the push I needed to make the trip happen. 

Knowing that other grant pros donated their hard-earned income to this scholarship was SO meaningful. I felt like each dollar they donated was their way of saying; “Yes, you are one of us and you belong at this conference!” 

From the moment I stepped on the bus from the airport, I knew immediately that this was my place: two other grant pros were already on the bus (Emily Blue and Robin Simpson). They took one look at me and said “GrantSummit?” I guess I just had that grant writer ‘look’ – and I felt immediately welcome! 

Some highlights from my favorite sessions: 

  • My first session, with Annie Kurowski on the “Politics of Grants” made my jaw drop! As one of 15+ people sitting on the floor, I quickly realized why it was so packed. She was a brilliant cognitive ultramarathoner sharing decades of knowledge freely and openly, eager to answer our rapid-fire questions. I realized from this very first session that GrantSummit presenters are on another level. 
  • Laura Cochran’s session about Neurodiversity in the grants profession was an eye-opener. I had no idea that so many incredible, accomplished professionals considered themselves “neurodiverse” – but clearly our unique brains are part of the reason we are successful in this work. 
  • Tonia Brown’s session on Winning Congressional Earmarks was dynamite. I was blown away by her level of knowledge, her persona, and her gracious sharing of “insider” information. Here was this woman who was clearly one of the most knowledgeable on this topic, willingly sharing valuable secrets with us! She was bada**!
  • Kimberly Hayes de Muga, Amanda Day, and Allison Boyd reassured me in “Consulting Metamorphosis” that I don’t need to know all the answers right now – that my business might take different forms throughout my time with it and that’s okay and keeps it interesting! 
  • Ellen Gugel’s session on Capital Campaigns was so relevant to the type of work I do. She is so honest, authentic, ethical, and approachable. I want to be just like Ellen one day.  
  • Julie Boll and Dana Patterson brought out our deep emotions in “Vision Casting”– our table of three all cried as we connected so authentically over one of their prompts.  

The best part of GrantSummit was the networking, which ended up being easy even though there were almost 900 people there! 

  • The Consultants Dinner, organized by Carol Bornstein, was an absolute highlight. I asked for advice… I gave advice…. I ate a piece of pizza the size of my laptop! It’s the #1 thing I’m looking forward to at GrantSummit next year.   
  • I loved attending the GPF scholarship/donor breakfast. I knew ahead of time that all of the superstar grant pros would be there and was thrilled to have the chance to meet them. I can’t wait to return to the breakfast as a donor!  
  • Volunteering was a fantastic networking tool. I helped at the GPF table during the welcome session and served as a facilitator for several sessions. This helped me connect with some amazing grant pros and even get a little exercise (by running around to pass the mic!). 
  • I even found a fellow full-time RV/digital nomad grant consultant, Erin Tatum, and we shared BBQ and swapped travel stories and consulting tips.  
  • I accosted Keri McDonald like paparazzi in the airport as I waited for my flight home. I hadn’t been able to attend her session but still wanted to talk to her. She was probably exhausted like all of us, but graciously shared her knowledge about working with subcontractors. I felt warm and fuzzy all over as I sat on the plane ride home.  

I left the conference with so many new friends and colleagues I know I can call on when I need help. In fact, only two days after I got home, I asked Fiona Matthew (a fellow New York State grant consultant) for advice on a DOT grant, and she quickly responded with the reassurance and knowledge I needed! 

It’s impossible to place an accurate value on what I gained at GrantSummit, but I can say for certain that it far exceeds the cost of attendance.

Thanks to GPF and my conference scholarship, I know that this was the start of decades of attendance at GrantSummit. I saved my name badge from the conference and told myself, “One day when I’m at GPA’s 50th anniversary and decked out in sparkles like Johna Rodgers, I’ll whip out this badge and say “Look, I was there at the 25th anniversary!” 

2023 GPA GrantSummit – Scholarship Reflection, by Allison Harrison

Allison Harrison and Reagan

Allison Harrison and Reagan

Being a grant professional can, at times, feel a bit lonely, especially when a lot of one’s work is done remotely, and after some tough years of pandemic distancing. My spouse is in the U.S. Army, and I have been working remotely as an in-house grant writer for an Indiana youth-serving nonprofit since 2017. We even lived overseas from 2019 – 2022 (rough time to be in Europe, honestly), so time zones also factored into my work. When my family moved back to the United States in 2022, I knew I wanted to get more involved with in-person professional development. What a delight to discover that the 2023 GrantSummit was planned for Kansas City – just a short drive from my husband’s current duty station! 


My organization covers the cost of my GPA membership each year, but I wasn’t sure a full conference was going to be in the professional development budget! Through a series of “small world” type coincidences, I was encouraged to apply for a GPF scholarship to attend GrantSummit, and I was so delighted to be a recipient! 


There truly is nothing more exhilarating than being around a group of people who truly understands what you do, some of the nuances of the profession, and shares the struggles that come along with being grant professionals. I drove down to Kansas City on November 1st and helped at the GPF table for a couple of hours, chatting with people while helping wrap up books for the blind date with a book fundraiser. 


After helping at the GPF table, I got checked in and settled into the hotel before venturing down to the Newcomer’s Reception. While I do lament at times that being a remote grant professional can be lonely at times, I am also an introvert, so part of me was worried about all of the people-ing that I was about to do over the next few days. 


The Newcomer’s Reception was a fun event with a musical icebreaker and mixer type game, and I was delighted that we all got special GrantSummit friendship bracelets. Afterward, I headed up to the Expo Hall to enjoy some bingo and learn about the vendors. I happened to see a chicken trophy at the Grant Holster table that was intriguing – and I discovered there was a typing speed contest! Well, I’m nothing if not competitive and a fast typer, so I signed myself right up to participate. I was delighted to meet people I had seen on Zoom or various webinars and from whom I had already learned so much in remote professional development. The highlight of the first day was getting to hug Mandy Day in person – we had connected in the Fundraising HayDay Facebook group and had a connection with a mutual friend. 


Thursday bright and early I headed to the GPF Scholar & Donor Breakfast where I met other Scholarship recipients as well as donors and ate incredibly well! Many business cards were exchanged and lots of networking done at the breakfast before it was time for the opening session of the conference. The ballroom was packed with grant professionals, all ready to learn and grow! 


The first breakout session I attended was “No Unsolicited Proposals: How to Get That Date to the Prom”. There are so many small foundations in my organization’s service area that do not accept unsolicited proposals, so I took copious notes on strategies to research more on these funders, plus how to build relationships and hopefully, eventually, be invited to apply for funding. In the time since GrantSummit, I have put these skills to use, finding some connections between our employees or Board members and people who are connected to local foundations – so we hope to see fruit from this at some point! 


After lunch, I was delighted to be surrounded by other data nerds in the “Latest Census Bureau Data & Tools for Grant Professionals” session. Knowing how to access the most up-to-date data is so important in working to compose compelling needs statements and in knowing what is going on in one’s service area! 


The final breakout session I attended on Thursday was “I Signed Up for What?” There have definitely been some horror stories about organizations that were not prepared for the follow up required after being awarded funding, so this was very helpful! Sometimes staff members and Board members can get enthusiastic about opportunities without thinking about the capacity for the post-award management phase, and this session helped me feel more confident in my ability to communicate with them that sometimes our capacity is not where it needs to be for certain opportunities. 


Having achieved my GPC credential earlier in 2023, I attended the GPCI Reception in the evening. It was a nice event with lots of good food and more wonderful networking opportunities! I learned a lot about the process for documenting continuing education credentials for the CMP from others sitting at my table – I know this will serve me well as a new GPC! 


Friday morning brought with it the breakout session I was most anticipating – “Work With Your Brain, Not Against It – How to Accommodate Your Neurodiversity.” Just weeks before GrantSummit, I received a later in life ADHD diagnosis that both intensely rocked my world and also made a lot of things make sense. I left the session with a sense of camaraderie with my fellow neurospicy grant professionals as well as a better understanding of my brain and some tools and tips to help overcome some hurdles faced by those of us in the neurodivergent community. 


The next session I attended was “Do I Need a Lean Agile Scrum? Find a Strategy to Improve Your Grants Process” – first, I learned what a “lean agile scrum” was, which was helpful! I had heard about scrum and lean and agile in various emails advertising courses and webinars, but it always seemed complicated and inaccessible. Turns out I was just intimidated, and it’s not actually inaccessible! I loved the ideas about making your grants process work better by finding the pain points, and brainstorming with a team to figure out what would work better. We certainly have a couple of pain points in our grants process we are actively working to smooth out, and this session helped me feel informed and empowered!


The plenary session with Beth Z (everyone’s nerdy best friend!) was so interesting! I loved seeing the real-time demonstrations of ChatGPT as well as some other AI technology and discussing its impact on the grants field. 


My organization is gearing up for a capital campaign in the next few years, so my first afternoon session was “Capital Campaigns – Grants Can Lead!” I took many notes that I am sure will come in handy once we get the ball rolling for our future education building!


The last session of the day for me was “Powered Productivity: Super Tech Tools to Get Stuff Done” with Beth Z – boy, was this one packed! I took copious notes and have utilized several of the tools Beth discussed. Right after GrantSummit ended, the Development team started interviewing our program staff leaders about their paperwork process so that we can get started with a new cloud-based case management software in 2024. Thanks to this session, I knew we could turn on Zoom’s AI assistant which took meeting notes for us so that we could really pay attention to what the staff were saying and ask good questions instead of getting lost in the weeds taking notes! 


Saturday morning I checked out of my lovely hotel room and packed up the car before attending “Voila! Transforming Services into Projects.” This session was so helpful – it can be hard to translate an organization’s services into fundable projects, and I gleaned many tips from Mark. 


The final breakout session I attended was “Top 10 Tech Tools, Tips, and Tricks That Take Away the Tension.” This session was also packed full of great ideas and tips and I have tried out several of the tech tools Melanie discussed. 


After the final session, I got a text that I had WON the Grant Holster “Hunt and Peck” typing speed competition! Needless to say, I was delighted, and the lovely chicken trophy I won is proudly displayed in my office! She’s a great conversation starter. 


Then it was time for the closing session of GrantSummit. What an incredible several days it was, learning so much and meeting other grant pros in person! The learning hasn’t stopped with the in-person conference, though. I attended mostly in-person only sessions during GrantSummit knowing that I would have a chance to catch the hybrid and online-only sessions on the online platform after GrantSummit wrapped up. I have saved all the handouts from each session and have been working my way methodically through the recordings of sessions that are of interest and relevance. GrantSummit is just the conference that keeps on educating! 


I went into GrantSummit excited but a little nervous and I left with my head full of new ideas, business card case full of new contacts, and my heart full of happiness and contentment from spending time sharing space and ideas with so many other grant pros who just “get it.” It was a wonderful reminder that while sitting in my home office with just my cats for company and the glow of my dual monitors, I am not a lonely little grant professional – I am connected to a wide variety of people who share my passion for helping others through grants. Thank you once again to the Grant Professional Foundation for providing me with the opportunity to attend GrantSummit! I know the experience will be yielding returns for years, and I hope to attend again in the future!

2023 GPA GrantSummit – Scholarship Reflection, by Nataly Terry

Nataly Terry and Reagan

Nataly Terry and Reagan

This was my first year attending the GPA Conference in person, and wow, what an experience! I’m immensely grateful for the scholarship opportunities that the Grant Professional Foundation works to provide to bring grant professionals to this space. Also, a heartfelt thank you to all of the donors who make these scholarships possible! 

This year, I have been preparing to take the GPC exam to establish myself as a knowledgeable and credible grant professional. I knew that the conference would be an excellent setting to reinforce areas where I felt less secure in preparation for the exam. I tried to prioritize sessions that would either complement areas I wanted to study or cement my understanding in areas related to federal regulations and guidelines. I found sessions that were a great balance of these two priorities, so I believe my attendance was a success in terms of my personal goals. 

One of the key sessions I attended was titled Subrecipient Determination and Monitoring since I so often find myself working with teams to determine if a partner should be a subcontractor or a subawardee. It was reassuring to hear that I’m not alone in struggling with this determination, and it was very helpful to hear the perspectives of the presenters and others in the room. I also attended a session titled Pursuing Federal Grants: What to Know About the Budget and I wish I could take a semester-long class on this topic. Hearing the presenters talk about the timeline for the federal budget and how appropriations work made a lot of things click for me in terms of federal forecasting and why opportunities post when they do. Another session that I found to be very valuable was titled Writing Good Evaluation Questions—this was definitely the session that I took the most notes from and I immediately put these notes to use in grant proposals I worked on in the following weeks. I liked that the presenter discussed the types of change that can occur (in knowledge, attitudes, skills, opinions, conditions, or status) and how you should connect both your project plan and the evaluation plan to the types of changes you are aiming for. It was helpful to hear the presenter talk about how the evaluation plan should be situated within the overall aims of the proposal. 

In-person attendance allowed me to connect with other grant professionals in my region, which gave me the push I needed to explore participating in a regional chapter. While I was vaguely aware of the support GPA offers in terms of networking, regional connections, and education, the conference really illuminated how eager other grant professionals are to connect with you and support your professional pathway. Everyone that I chatted with during meals or in between sessions was very kind—some of the best notes I took from this conference were just from conversations with my peers. 

A significant highlight for me from the conference was discovering that many other grant professionals share similar emotions (nervousness, uncertainty, and curiosity) regarding the potential impacts of artificial intelligence on our industry. It was very reassuring to see that I am not alone in these anxieties and encouraging to know that GPA is actively working to keep grant professionals up to speed in potential industry changes. In the coming weeks, I intend to watch the recordings of the sessions focused on artificial intelligence and tech tools that can be used to increase productivity. That’s also one of the main highlights for me about this conference—it’s great that you can continue to benefit from these sessions for months afterwards! 

I’d like to reiterate my gratitude to the Grant Professional Foundation for managing scholarship opportunities for grant professionals. This type of professional development is invaluable to me as a young grant professional. My self-assigned post-conference goal is to learn how to be more involved with this organization, given its significant contributions to the industry. 

2023 GPA GrantSummit – Scholarship Reflection, by Brenda Perino

Brenda and Reagan

Brenda and Reagan

Thanks to the scholarship that I received from the Grants Professional Foundation (GPF), I was able to attend my first GPA conference, the 2023 Grant Summit in Kansas City. I did not have the money to attend this year, it wasn’t in my department budget, and I really wanted to go. I submitted a scholarship application with hopes of receiving the award. I was ecstatic when I received the news that I was selected as a scholar this year!

For months, I was looking forward to the conference because I am new to the field and wanted to learn more skills to help me become a better grant writer from seasoned professionals. I taught Physical Education and was a year-round, four sport coach for over 20 years. At the beginning of this new journey, I took every free webinar and read all the blogs I could find. I value professional development and feel like I could spend my days just attending webinars and not even writing grants, but I don’t always make time for it now that I am over a year and a half into my new career . I knew if I could attend this conference, I would be laser focused on learning and get a lot out of it.  What I left with was a ton of information to help me write better grants and far more knowledge than I ever expected to gain about myself. First off, I had no idea how to get to the hotel from the airport in Kansas City. I don’t have a rideshare app and wasn’t sure about public transportation. During the week of the conference I connected with someone on a GPA forum who was arriving at the airport around the same time as I was, and we organized a meetup and rideshare . Networking for this event began before I even left Florida and I made a new friend right away. On day one, I settled into my fancy room then went to register and check out the vendors. I attended the Newcomers Reception and instantly started having a great time! I was super excited to receive an “I Love Grants” bracelet as soon as I walked in the door. The MC, Jess, was hilarious, and I found some of my rock people with the musical mixer.  A couple days later, a woman from the mixer sat with me at a table for lunch and lead the conversation with, “I also love to rock, and loved your energy at the newbies reception.” I was able to connect with another Goodwill attendee at the mixer, and we were able to hang out, even in the airport while waiting to go home.

After that, I went upstairs for the welcome reception and to more closely check out the vendors to start collecting stamps with hopes of being one of the first people to turn it in, possibly increasing my chances of winning the free one-year membership. They had tons of information and free goodies and since I am all about free office supplies, stickers, chocolate snacks, t-shirts, magnets and more, I was in heaven! My prized possession from this trip, other than the grants bracelet that I wear every day now, is the unicorn duck for my jeep!  I had signed up to work at the GPA Foundation booth, but when I checked in twice, they insisted that I wasn’t needed. I had also volunteered for two sessions, so I wasn’t worried about meeting the requirements. It was neat to see faces behind organizations like Foundant and Instrumentl since I have taken many of their webinars and read their newsletters. I have scheduled demos with some of them now that I am back in the office .

The opening session was the perfect kickoff to a great summit! WOW! There’s Jess again! She is outstanding at hosting!  At the welcome reception (and throughout the conference), I was dealing with a team back home who just started working on a report and grant due by November 2nd, even though I sent it out two months ago with weekly reminders ever since. I was able to vent to my new friends, and instantly knew I was in the right place around over 1,000 people who understood me, my frustrations and stress. I was around folks who know what the oxford comma is, and the difference between objectives, outcomes and outputs! I love how Jess and everyone else kept the comedy throughout the whole conference! I haven’t laughed that much in a long time, and it was much needed. I honestly expected the conference to be dry, and while informational, mundane. It was anything BUT that! I appreciate how GPA put real, funny people in charge of leading the conference. I saw brightly colored hair, creative outfits, amazing purses and shoes and appreciated every single bit of it! I realized that I didn’t get the memo to bring my sparkly glitter boots when I saw our President and others wearing them throughout the conference. They will be in my suitcase next year!

On day two, I attended the Scholar Breakfast and was honored to receive the certificate, the first grants related certificate that I can proudly hang in my office! The food for breakfast was amazing, too! I met some donors and other scholars. The first session I attended was “No Unsolicited Proposals” How to Get that Date to the Prom” and I received instant action items to start putting into practice and share with my development team. After that, they had a spectacular lunch ready for us and I realized that GPA is going to be feeding us very well! During lunch I assembled 28 goodie bags for the children’s hospital, and recruited two others to join me. The next session was the “Combating Grant Myths” and I learned strategies to demystify some of the common myths.

I signed up to volunteer in the last session of the night, “I signed up for What?”. Since the title was so vague, I had to go and find out what it was about.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the tech to cooperate for me to be able to monitor the chat. This session was more about Federal Grants and common challenges. This session helped me understand the risks of accepting grants. They even let us out early to see the puppies! When I found out there were going to be puppies, I couldn’t wait to go snuggle with them! In my mind, I was alone on the floor with about six puppies playing all over me, but when I got out there, there was a huge crowd already waiting in lines to get their hands on those darlings. Even though it didn’t go as planned, I was able to briefly hold one of those sweet babies, which was the perfect ending to a great day! I vote horses and ponies for next year’s conference!

On day 3, GPA provided another slam dunk breakfast buffet! No one told me I was going to gain 10 pounds on this trip eating all this unlimited delicious food! (Disclaimer, once home, I only had only gained 2 pounds). I volunteered to work this session and I was not prepared for it to change my life. I’ve always known my brain operates differently than other peoples’ brains do, so I wondered what the “Work with Your Brain, not Against it-How to Accommodate your Neurodiversity” session was about, so I volunteered in advance for this one. I wasn’t prepared to learn more about myself in that hour than I had learned in almost five decades, as well as meet other people like me!  I learned how and why my brain works that way and left with strategies to help me.  For the first time in my life, especially now, I did not feel alone, or “quirky and weird” as my boss and other coworkers often tell me I am. I feel like I belong!  I left that session with a new outlook on my brain, my work, and my life, almost in disbelief like, where was Laura Cochran all my life?  I noticed that people were leaving their cups and trash all over the water tables in each room and decided in an effort to make up for lost volunteer time, I would clean up every water table in each room I was in for the remainder of the conference.

The next session was “Vulnerabilities in Grants Work: Set Yourself (and others) Free.” This was another session where I learned more about myself, and strategies to deal with my own emotions. I also won a book and old school stickers that brought back 80s memories of my old sticker book. Then, of course, another delicious lunch was waiting for us to enjoy while participating in the plenary Session with Beth Z. I had to look up the word plenary to know it was a meeting for everyone. Once I saw Beth Z, Lady Nerd, on the schedule, I was super excited because I was in one of her webinars a couple months ago and receive her e-newsletters. She is an amazing presenter and so knowledgeable on all things tech. I enjoyed learning the ABC’s of AI in her humorous presentation and about fell out of my chair laughing at the “Gen Z” voiceover!  I Changed my last session of the day after seeing her in person and finding out she was presenting because I knew it would be good. I enjoy her, and her content, and I was hoping to get the rest of the alphabet in her session! I learned that Alice Runke was also there! I have taken so many of her webinars and was happy to see her in person. I looked for her the rest of the conference but never ran into her to thank her for all the knowledge she had given me start my grant writing career. She reminded me  how grateful I am to have begun this career in the digital age with the internet and instant access to data!

In Beth Z’s “Powered Productivity: Super Tech Tools to get stuff done”, I ended up meeting her and thanking her for her webinars and newsletters, and she gave me a NERD card! It’s official, and if anyone argues with me about being too nerdy, I will proudly show them my card! I also won her ABC book and a cool Lady Nerd bracelet! I was able to bring back tech to my team and they are very interested in most of it, especially the LipDub app because we serve large Hispanic and Haitian populations.

I had been looking forward to the next session, “Captial Campaigns, Grants can lead”, since the schedule came out before the conference. We just began a 50-million-dollar capital campaign and I needed to know how I can contribute. I learned many ways that I can help my team with this campaign and am happy with the knowledge I received. 

On the last night in the hotel, I received a text from Kelly Romero that I had, in fact, won the free year membership from Vendor bingo and I was beyond excited to spend my last night knowing I was most likely the luckiest attendee that ever attended a GPA conference with all the goodies I had won, not to mention winning the scholarship, too! 

The next morning, I was sad to be leaving but was looking forward to one more super delicious breakfast and the last sessions of the conference. Another session I was excited about was “How to Craft a Detailed Budget” because that is one area I have struggled with. I am tasked with all things grant budget related and math isn’t a strong quality that I possess.  I learned some new ways to craft our budgets and will put those strategies into practice right away, just in time to begin preparing 2024 budgets.

Then, the physical education teacher in me needed to attend “Become a #HealthyGrantPro: Anti-Burnout Strategies for the Grant Professional.” I am not burnt out, but I know it’s realistic to expect it could happen one day, so I wanted to be prepared with strategies to combat burn out before it happened. I learned strategies for better self-care which I am hoping will help diminish the sicknesses and physical ailments that I’ve experienced in the last two years, which I attributed to being almost 50 years old. I realized that much of it comes from the stress of deadlines and dealing with a team who delivers information at the last minute, and my own anxiety causes a lot of it. I am excited to start using these strategies right away. I was also inspired to possibly put together a session in this category for a future conference, using over 20 years of knowledge from my previous career. 

The closing ceremony was enlightening and entertaining, and it was then I learned there had been afternoon snacks upstairs every day! I missed it because I was downstairs every day except for lunch but was happy to enjoy the snacks that day. Again, I don’t have a ride share app so I had wondered how I would get back to the airport, but my chapter President was leaving at the same time so I could ride with her and have some post-conference chit chat on the way. I was sad to be leaving, but I was very motivated, inspired and re-energized to put into practice the knowledge I gained. I am not accidental; I chose this profession. I am not a robot, and I am more than just a grant writer; I am a freaking grants professional with feelings, hopes and goals and at this conference, I gained the strength to advocate for myself and this profession. I left feeling validated about my profession and the conference gave me hope and confidence. I am not an afterthought. I am needed, valued, important and I do have a purpose to help make this world a better place.

In all, I had a wonderful experience and walked away with a renewed glow, and a winner in more ways than I can count! I am grateful to the GPA Foundation for selecting me as a scholar recipient and I am already looking forward to next year and beyond, where I can be around my people. In the meantime, I will attend South Florida Chapter events and GPA webinars and attempt to build in time to view the sessions that I missed. Thank you for organizing an outstanding conference and providing continuous opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

2023 GPA GrantSummit – Scholarship Reflection, by Brody Terry

Brody and Reagan

Brody and Reagan

Throughout the Kansas City Grants Professional Conference, I had a wonderful experience! On top of the great location, variety in food/refreshments, and the large group events, the atmosphere and experience as a first-time attendee was very exciting. The event center was very tidy, easy to navigate, and the staff were always around to help with any technical difficulties making the conference run very smoothly. The conference had grant professionals from all walks of life and provided a lively and bustling environment. With booths and stands lining the hallways, everything felt very inviting and approachable. I especially appreciated the optional activities such as the puppy break and the spelling bee as they added additional fun without having to miss educational sessions. As a first-time attendee, sitting in the large group ballroom and participating in a group survey where you physically move around the room based on your response was a novel experience. This experience allowed me to really visualize myself in the context of the grant profession. I could see my years of experience, preferences in software, and my general personality with all the other attendees. In addition to the first large group session, I also appreciated that we covered topical subjects like AI in the grant world. The presenter for AI turned a subject that fills a lot of grants professionals with existential anxiety, into an interactive experience where an audience member was able to participate and add their own spin on the information given to the AI bot, creating a dynamic and impromptu presentation. In addition to the group sessions and amenities, I took away the greatest value from the networking and small group education sessions.

While attending the conference, I have been able to gain value through networking and education. On my first day of the conference, I accidentally sat down with all the grant writers in my geographical chapter. I work remotely so it was a pretty big coincidence that out of all the attendees, I sat at a table with four people who live within a half-an-hour drive from me. They mentioned that I should join their state chapter and we chatted over the course of breakfast. Aside from the attendees that were more local to me, I also learned a lot about what other grant professionals do in organizations of all shapes and sizes across the country. I met with a lady who writes grants for a very rural native tribe in Alaska, another who worked for a religious non-profit in Salt Lake City, and a group of professionals around Council Bluffs and Omaha. These connections do not even summarize my conversations with the presenters. These experiences provided by the conference were important to me as I can also put some names on the faces of people I have worked with over the years, but never had communication with aside from emails. Finally, I was particularly excited that I was able to meet one of the individuals responsible for the scholarship I was provided with in person. Typically, in the past, any scholarship or award I have received has been the name of someone I’ll never meet for various reasons, but it was impactful for me to be able to shake their hand and give my thanks for the opportunity.

Regarding the training sessions, I was able to learn new skills and gain new perspectives within the world of grants. Each training session varied widely in the scope of knowledge and expertise, but each session provided me with information that I value. The variety of presenters created an atmosphere of professionalism that spanned across the entire field of grants. Whether they were presenting or in the audience, I was able to see mentor and mentees relationships, a grant lawyer, previous program officers, board trustees, federal reviewers, and more. For the sake of brevity, I will highlight my two favorite sessions. Without ranking one over the other, I really gained from a session discussing federally funded grants presented by a lawyer of grants. His presentation skills were fast and upbeat for the morning and set a great tone for the rest of the day. He also provided extreme competence in the understanding of federal grant knowledge and broke down complex topics in an easy-to-understand way, all in the course of about an hour. He even tied specific cases of grant law decisions to contemporary issues to answer audience questions. I would listen to a whole credited course from him if he provided it! My other favorite session was run by a grant professional on the east coast. She presented on the topic of how to get into the funding list of foundations that typically fund similar people or are hard to solicit but are open to solicitation. On top of her fun to listen to presenting skills, this presentation was very valuable as she provided an actionable plan for each step of the process. Additionally, she was very realistic with the cost-benefit analysis and variability for a complex situation like this. I have been to previous training courses where I am told that something is possible, but very few courses bridge the gap from theory to application. This presentation excelled at being media to not only educate, but also to guide those who attended. I was very grateful to experience a session such as this, and one of the advantages to my in-person attendance was that I had the opportunity to approach her after the session and thank her for the experience. To reiterate, there were many helpful presentations provided throughout the conference, and I hope to use the knowledge I gained to better myself and my organization in the profession of grants.

I attended a session during the second full day talking about mentor and mentee relationships. Although the session was geared toward mentors and mentees in the GPA, I learned additional strategies that will greatly improve my approach to mentoring new hires at my organization. Seeing a presentation with a real mentor and mentee, how they work together, and what they have learned over the years provided me with new insight for coming back to my organization with a strong game plan. This is just one of the many examples of how I am going to take the information I learned and turn it into a benefit in my professional day-to-day life. Throughout the sessions, I was also impacted by learning what I do not know. Along with the session education, many attendees had questions to specific grant examples they have experienced. Whether or not the answer was provided on the spot, I have been able to reflect on what was asked and ponder what I would do if I was in that situation. This strategy has allowed me to generate ideas of where to focus some of my future investigations to strengthen my overall knowledge of the grant profession. On the other hand, this conference acted as a confidence booster as well. As someone who had very little knowledge and experience related to grants prior to my current position, it was very easy to fall into the trap of thinking I am not as knowledgeable as I am. Over the past few years in my position, I have learned many skills and have gained a decent understanding of the field. Attending certain sessions allowed me to realize that I am much more capable and knowledgeable than I thought (or at least how I viewed myself in a vacuum). This realization has served as a reminder to myself that despite the seemingly endless well of knowledge one can gain in the profession of grants, I am well on my way through the journey. Who knows? In just a little while longer, I may be giving my own presentations. Whether directly from creating actionable plans and learning about where to strengthen my knowledge, or indirectly from confidence boosts and skills generalizable to day-to-day life, the Kansas City Grants Professional Conference has been a wonderful experience. I fully intend to dig deeper into the information I have learned and bring this value back into my organization as well as my personal career. 

I am very excited to see what the future holds for these conferences as I intend to use the knowledge and skills I have learned as a springboard for my future career in the world of grants. For a first-time and in-person attendee, this conference consisted of everything needed to make a great conference. I made new connections with people I never knew I would meet. I learned about topics I did not know I wanted to learn about. I had plenty of accommodation and the location of downtown Kansas City provided plenty of fun after the conference hours passed. When I shook the hand of my scholarship donor, he told me that he hopes that this conference is not my last. With these positive experiences and valuable sessions, I definitely do not plan on this conference being my last and I am grateful for my opportunity to attend this year.


Brody and Dr. Turner

Brody and Dr. Turner

GPA Conference Scholarship Reflection, by Katie Maurer

This past fall, I had the great honor of attending the Grant Professionals Association Conference in Louisville, KY. While this was my first time attending the conference, having been raised in Kentucky, it felt like returning home in several different ways.

I love learning and being introduced to new concepts, it’s part of what I love about grant writing. The profession requires you to develop a comprehensive understanding of the program or organization you are writing for, its clients and constituents, its challenges and roadblocks, and how it can help make the world a better place. The often-frenetic pace of drafting, deadlines, and administration – all the while prospecting for new opportunities – can make it all too easy to compress the required learning that helps to make a great grant writer. As we know, these challenges were wildly exacerbated by the onset of the pandemic, which suddenly transformed nearly every grant into an emergency grant, particularly in the arts when the entire industry was shut down for 18 months.

In the spring of 2022, as my industry was beginning to see the light of how our business model might be transformed in a “post-pandemic” world, I began to consider how I could capitalize on these new skills learned through experience with intentional professional development opportunities that could not only help build my skills but connect me to others in my position across the sector and from around the country.

I was fortunate to receive a 2022 GPA Conference Scholarship through the DC Metro Area Chapter and began benefiting from the conference experience straightaway. From the GPF Scholar breakfast on the first morning of the conference, to my very first session, I immediately began making the connections I so value and learning new skills and best practices to improve my work in the profession. The inspiring people I met opened my eyes to new ways that I can continue to grow, and how I can channel the skills developed as a grant writer into future career prospects.

One of the most impactful aspects of the conference was the hybrid format. There is no substitute for attending in-person, particularly from my experience as a first-time attendee. But of course, in person, you can generally only attend one session at a time. I attended the conference with the intent to be a sponge, soaking up as much experience and as many fascinating sessions as possible (#FOMO). The ability to continue to view online conference sessions long after returning home has helped maintain my connection to the conference and the talented people I met there, and has continued to shape my work and my appetite for learning amidst my daily work and has truly maximized the value of my conference experience.

I continue to be incredibly grateful to the Grant Professionals Foundation, the DC Metro Chapter of GPA, and the organizers, staff, and countless others who made the conference and my experience possible. 

2022 GPA Conference Experience, by Madison Shampine

While, I’ve had many years of experience in development, I began my grant writing career in December 2021. Shortly after my arrival, my predecessor and grants mentor decided it was time to retire. I stepped into the Grants Manager role mid-2022 and knew I wanted to absorb as much information as possible in order to excel in this new role. The Grant Professionals Association became an important tool to my success. I was beyond excited to receive the GPA Conference Scholarship and was looking forward to attending my first GPA Annual Conference. What I did not anticipate was the networking this opportunity afforded me. As a self-described introvert, networking is not something I typically enjoy; however, this felt different. As a conference scholar we were given opportunities to engage with other scholars and GPA and GPF board members on a smaller and more personal scale. The networking breakfast was intimate and let us chat with other scholars, some just as new to the profession, as well as with board members and more experienced grant professionals.

The volunteer opportunity gave me a chance to give back to the foundation and to work side by side with others in the industry. The conference itself was incredible. The sessions were all led by professionals in their own field and provided attendees the opportunity to learn a variety of topics to increase our own capacity. I am still reeling at all of the people I met, making connections across the country (and beyond), and having conversations about our own niche in the grants world.

This was a wonderful opportunity and I’m grateful for the GPA and the GPA Foundation for providing this to us. I am looking forward to many more years of attending this conference. Thank you!

GPA Conference Scholarship Essay, by Dan Rubins

As the executive director of a small nonprofit in its second year as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the grant application and research process can often feel isolating and solitary.  So often in this work small nonprofit leaders long for the sense of community. In the grants process, especially, nonprofit leaders are often made to feel that they are in competition with one another for the limited resources available in the sector. So it is with extraordinary gratitude and fervent optimism for the future that I reflect upon my rich and community-building experience as a scholarship recipient at the Grant Professionals Association Conference.

Hear Your Song is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission of empowering children and teens with serious illnesses and complex health needs to make their voices heard through collaborative songwriting. At the heart of our work, we strive to give power and choice to youth are so often experience little of either in managing their day-to-day journeys.  

One of the aspects of the Grant Professionals Association Conference of 2022 that I found to be most rewarding and distinctive from my previous experiences in fundraising-focused spaces is the diversity of nonprofit size and scope within the GPF. It can be profoundly useful both to learn from the contexts and questions surrounding nonprofits of similar size and trajectory to Hear Your Song and to glean stronger understanding of the challenges and potentialities experienced by larger nonprofits that may lie ahead for our nonprofit organization. I was particularly grateful for the warmth and geniality exhibited by all Conference presenters and attendees. How often it felt as if I was right in the room there with them!  I appreciated the levity, for example, that the co-presenters of a session exploring the grant application process through the lens of The Bachelor brought to the proceedings. Understanding that the stresses and toils of grant application apply to leaders throughout the sector made for a transformational experience of sharing a laugh with these new-found compatriots and colleagues, which allowed me to feel less alone and to find sparks of joy that will stay with me as I move forward in my grant application work.

Curiously, one of the most valuable experiences I had at the Grant Professionals Conference was when I volunteered as a session ambassador for Maureen Bonnefin’s presentation on Trends in Research Grants. Although the topic did not specifically pertain to the current grants that I am seeking in my role as executive director of Hear Your Song, having the responsibility for facilitating the chat and subsequent Q & A made me listen closely to the ways in which the leaders in this field were thinking about their approaches to grants. Conversations surrounding diversity and equity work within the grant-making space are, of course, universal, and hearing these discussions in a context that was new to me challenged me to think more deeply and critically about the implications within my own work.

However, the experience that was most meaningful and impactful for me was Kristin Raack’s session on Appreciative Inquiry. Kristin’s supportive and generous methodology for building strategy from an organization’s strengths and combating the “scarcity mentality” from which so many nonprofits timorously operate buoyed my belief in Hear Your Song’s capacity to harness our victories and assets towards more successful grant opportunities. There were pieces of this presentation that I returned to watch multiple times because the “Appreciative Inquiry” approach, and its close affiliation with Hear Your Song’s focus on youth-driven creative experiences that center the community’s needs and visions, continue to inspire me.  It is new methodologies and frameworks like these that make participation in conferences and communities such as the Grant Professionals Association so imperative for young nonprofit leaders. 

Thank you so much, on behalf of the entire Hear Your Song community, for the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop new skills as a grant professional in the early stages of my career.

As a side note, in weeks of stress, the book of word searches in the welcome box that I received brought much relaxation!  

2022 GPA Conference Scholarship Reflection, by Christine Heft

It was both an honor and a privilege to receive a scholarship from the GPA South Florida Chapter to attend the GPA National Conference. The City of Louisville, the Omni Hotel, the GPA Staff and the incredible Vendors and Volunteers were friendly and welcoming. From the “Call to Post” Bugler who was featured on stage from the Kentucky Derby to the annual spelling bee to great rap songs about the grants profession, I enjoyed it ALL.

The GPA conference was an excellent opportunity to spend time with current vendors (including Tammy Tilzey from Foundant) while meeting new grant consultants and vendors. The event also provided a venue to network with grant professionals from across the United States and Canada who spoke my “grant” language and understood my day-to-day challenges. Each of us had great stories to share about our trials and tribulations of working in the field of grants.

At the GPCI reception at the hotel’s Speakeasy, I felt a strong sense of camaraderie and felt very fortunate to attend the event in person. I enjoyed spending time with the experienced professionals who have each given so much to the profession.  I also enjoyed participating in the GPA South Florida Chapter Dinner which also included additional friends from Canada.

I focused very heavily on professional development to support the maintenance of my GPC.  I found the following sessions to be very helpful: “Navigating the Federal Budget Maze,” “The Cost of Doing Business: Does your Budget Tell Funders the Whole Story?” “Latest Census Bureau Data and Tools for Your Grant Applications,” “Adobe Pro as an Essential Tool for Grant Professionals.” and “Become a Healthy Grant Pro: Anti Burnout Strategies for the Advanced Grant Professional.”   These sessions provided excellent information and the speakers were highly engaging and knowledgeable.

The impact of this scholarship is that I am invigorated and excited about being in the grants profession, the South Florida Chapter and the Grants Professional Association.