Are You Scared at the Thought of Taking the GPC Exam? By Ashley Dooley, GPC

Taking the Grant Professional Certified (GPC) exam can be a scary thought for many. Bad memories of past standardized test experiences, fear of failure, not knowing where to start, or lack of time may be reasons that are holding you back from taking the GPC exam.

Earlier this year, I was in your shoes, because I took the GPC exam in July 2022. Let me help turn the big scary beast-the GPC exam-into a nice friendly teddy bear, figuratively at least.

I Do Not Know Where to Start

First, take a deep breath. As part of your job whether it is as a grant writer, a manager, or a program director responsible for raising money, you are expected to follow the guidance you have been given. So just like any new grant or assignment, start by reading the instructions that can be found on the Grant Professionals Certification Institute website.

What if I am Not Eligible

The best way to get your answer to this is to take the eligibility quiz. The quiz is a screening tool to ensure you have the initial experience to even be considered for sitting for the exam. Within five minutes, you will know if the combination of your degree(s), years of experience in the field of grants, current level of success, and your volunteer work in the community meet the eligibility requirements.

I am Afraid I Don’t Have Time to Study

This was a legitimate fear I had. As a busy, full-time working, single mom I already had enough on my plate, and my days seemed long just juggling the day-to-day tasks. I did not know how or when I would find time to study. I worked all day and was a chauffeur for my children every evening taking them to their various after-school activities.

I tackled studying for the GPC like preparing for a road race. There was no way I could cram all my training, nor studying, into one week. I needed to spread out my studying, so I did a little each week. I committed to attending a once-a-week virtual study group. Each week a different study group member or a GPC presented on the assigned core competencies for that week. Broken down this way made it easier to digest what each competency meant, and we collectively worked through answers to questions posed.

After the study group concluded, I blocked off time— about 1.5 hours per week—in my workday to study. Rarely did I have a solid block of time, so many weeks I had 20 minutes per day to study. I would find time while eating my lunch or after I finished a project and was waiting for a client to respond. I kept a packet of PowerPoint slides in my car for when I was waiting in the pick-up line at school. Since I took my GPC exam in the summer, I kept the In the Trenches book-I highly recommend it!-in my pool bag (instead of my fun novel) and would read it before getting in the water.

I Do Not Want to Trouble My Colleagues or Clients

Three reference letters are required as part of your GPC application. One person in my study group said she did not want to “trouble” her colleagues or past clients by asking for a reference letter. Others in the study group were quick to respond. The overwhelming majority of people that you work with or for are most likely very willing to write you a letter, especially if you provide them with guidance on what to include and sufficient time to write it.

It Frightens My Pocketbook

The price of exam is currently $639 for GPA members or $875 for non-GPA members. That can be steep for someone on a nonprofit salary or for a smaller nonprofit organization, especially one that does not financially support professional development. Here are a few ideas to help: 1) ask your employer to split the cost or pay the fee in its entirety, 2) apply for a scholarship from your GPA Chapter or the Grant Professionals Foundation (GPF), 3) bid on the exam price during the GPF silent auction at the GPA National Conference or 4) start a “Go Fund Me” page. Getting your GPC is making an investment in yourself! Some organization may offer you a raise after you pass, because you are more qualified after all your studying for the exam.

I am Terrified I Will Not Pass

Remember, the GPC exam is written based on someone with three years’ experience in the grants field. It is not written by the uber smart, brainiacs that write understand quantum physics. The intent is to ensure you are “experienced and competent in the fundamentals of grantsmanship.” Secondly, the success rate for passing the GPC is in the 90th percentile. According to GPCI’s 2021 annual report, 62 grant professionals that took the exam for the first time last year and 96% of them passed!

You have the skills to do your job so have confidence in yourself that you will pass the exam! It is not a big scary beast standing in your way. This is your opportunity to prove yourself and increase value in your organization.