I’m attending and presenting at the upcoming Grant Professional Association (GPA) Conference.
Now I admit it. I was slow to join any type of professional organization. It seemed impossible to fit into my already busy schedule. But I took a chance on the GPA and what I discovered is that connecting with other grant professionals not only is a great way to meet other people that speak “grant” but through the association, I gain exposure to best practices, emerging issues and sides of the profession that I didn’t connect with in my position as a grant manager and trainer.
As I travel off to this year’s conference, I am reminded of five things I learned at during my days at past events.
#1: Nothing Beats Nice
As a GPA member, I knew we had some nice people working in the grants field, but as a past presenter and exhibitor, I was struck by the genuine “niceness” of all the people that I encountered. Often times as an exhibitor (and even a presenter) you are treated with disinterest or worse, downright rudeness. Not here. I met interesting people, had great conversations, made new friends and renewed old relationships. I was treated with respect even when there was nothing to be gained. Coach John Wooden said “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” And I can tell you everyone I interacted demonstrated that statement.
#2: Opportunities Abound
What do you want to learn? Where do you want to go in your career? The opportunities are endless. All you have to do is that that first step.
- Sit in on the presentation.
- Listen to that panel discussion.
- Ask someone at your table about how to connect with the right people.
This is a profession where there are many opportunities. Think of just the over $700 billion dollars in federal funding that goes out each year in awards. And that’s not even counting the private funding from small local foundations to large ones like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Some of the brightest and most supportive minds are in attendance. All you have to do is seize the day! Carpe diem!
#3: Ask and You Shall Receive
I witnessed many experienced grant professionals reach out to help their colleagues time and time again. But more importantly I saw a culture that supported asking questions. When I see organizations that support questions and encourage questioners, I know I am seeing an organization that has a serving mindset. This culture of supporting new members started from the new member reception and continued all the way to the return trip in the shuttle as I overhead a member helping another with career advice. But this is not the place to be a wall flower.
- Take a risk.
- Ask a question.
- Introduce yourself to people at your table.
- Join in on the activities outside the conference center to explore the area around the convention center.
Ask people questions and you’ll get to know people on a different level.
#4: Respect Met Openness
Many presenters shared new approaches, different ideas about common problems and best practices from real-life experiences. I witnessed participants willing to listen and process the information with an open mind. In some cases, it wasn’t the right solution for that particular person or circumstances. But still presenters were treated with respect as participants processed the new information and considered the solutions offered.
Respect is not a new concept, though of late it seems to have gone out of fashion. Dwight D. Eisenhower who saw people at their worst and best as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in WWII and as the 34th President of the United States said “This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.” This proud confluence of respect and openness was in evidence each day at the conference.
#5: Offer What People Want and You’ll Go Far
The conference offered a selection of workshops about a variety of topics for grant managers and grant writers. I was amazed in talking to people how many are broad-based grant professionals doing BOTH grant writing and grant management. I heard people collaborating on ideas, approaches and resources throughout the conference. Seeing the overflow crowds at some of the workshops reminded me that if you offer relevant information, services and skills you will go far in this profession. This is a lesson for all of us regardless of where our future path takes us.
Listen to what people want. Really listen. It’s a skill that often gets glossed over as we charge ahead with what people “need” and then wonder why we can’t reach as many people as we aspire to. Like the lyrics from the Mary Poppins song observed: “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Connecting your own mission, goals and activities with what funders want, what the people we serve want and what our organizations want to achieve can put you in demand as a grant professional. Yes, sometimes it will feel like these three groups are in conflict, but if you remember each one in their own way wants to make a difference in the world you’ll go far!
Hope to see you at this year’s GPA Conference!
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Hope to see you there!
Lucy Morgan CPA, MBA
CEO, Compliance Warrior
Author of “Decoding Grant Management-The Ultimate Success Guide to the Federal Grant Regulations in 2 CFR Part 200” The 2nd Edition is now available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle versions.