I always think of the last quarter of the year as the “learning season” when I attend the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) National Conference and begin thinking about the year past and ahead. This is not an easy process for me. As a grants professional, it is so easy to get bogged down in the daily grind, but this season really forces me and gives me permission to think about my own learning and goals. It reminds me of the Dr. Suess book Oh, The Places You’ll Go. A friend gave me this to me when I graduated college with my bachelor’s degree. At the young age of 20, I could not even begin to imagine where I would go. Some 20 years later, after working as an in-house grant professional and now working in a consultant role, I am using this learning season in 2020 to really reflect on where I have been and where I will still go. There are so many different paths in the grant professional’s work. This just one example – my journey.

As a grant professional and GPC holder who has spent the majority of my career in youth development, I cannot help but consider how earning my GPC has shaped my ability to impact this sector. Sure, having a GPC raises ethical standards and increases knowledge and skill sets in key areas like research, project design, and writing to improve quality and efficiency, but what about a deeper level of impact? I truly believe having a GPC can significantly advance a grant professional’s ability to drive meaningful change, not only within their organizations but also within their broader sector. I have experienced this firsthand in my work with youth-serving organizations.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about relationships. Perhaps it is all the talk of social distancing, self-quarantine, and isolation. As a seasoned grant professional working at my home office for more than ten years, I can honestly say this is the first time I have ever felt “alone.” One might wonder how I could feel lonely with my new “co-workers”; my once-quiet office is now interrupted by two kids, markers, paint, notepads, and maybe even yesterday’s fruit snacks stuck to my desk (don’t judge)! But I desperately miss face-to-face meetings with clients, board and committee meetings, and live trainings that provide valuable in-person adult time to connect and build or strengthen relationships.

With summer in full swing, vacation planning is or has been on everyone’s mind, including mine! As I booked reservations for a family road trip with my husband and three kids along with five other families, it got me thinking – this vacation planning is a lot like grants management planning. There are some key strategies used in vacation planning that can and should be used in grants management to answer the dreadful question, “Are we there yet?” with a confident “yes.”   Whether you are a grants professional working with a university managing lots of complex federal grants or a small nonprofit agency managing several foundation grants, there are some simple strategies we all can employ to alleviate bumps in the road.

You are knee deep in a large government grant proposal and… The executive director calls you on the way to another meeting and quickly ambles off a new strategy the agency will be embarking on that must be included in the proposal. The finance person sends you an email with three new expenses to include in the budget. As you are leaving a meeting with the evaluation team, you are told about a new assessment tool the agency will be implementing…

Cultivating Buy-In by Tracey Diefenbach, GPC I will never forget the day I took a grant approval form to the vice president of programs I worked with at the time. She took one look at it and said, “We are back to using this thing again?” The form required the team’s signatures on a statement of whether we decided to pursue a grant. At the time, I was fairly new to the position and while I thought what she said was cynical, a part of me agreed and questioned how a piece of paper could serve as full consensus and buy-in. I went with it and started using the form.