When I was a kid, I loved Halloween. I loved dressing up and pretending to be someone else - someone that was better, stronger, and more capable than I felt I would ever be. Fast forward through the decades and I recognize there are times when I want to pretend to be someone else - someone who is better, stronger, and more capable than I sometimes feel. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized what I was feeling was imposter syndrome. During my tenure with the Grant Professionals Certification Institute board of directors, I started to see that many grant professionals feel the same way.

by Rosie Brennan, GPC, and guest blogger Jennifer Murphy, GPC, Manager of Institutional Giving, Lyric Opera of Kansas City   Spooky season is upon us, and at AGS we’ve been thinking about what keeps us up at night when it comes to grants. As grant pros, we are skilled at anticipating challenges and putting controls in place to mitigate negative outcomes in our grant programs. Here are some eerie grant scenarios with suggested actions that’ll have you sleeping like a baby.

I am a grant professional for whom the written word is a more comfortable form of communication than face-to-face communication. Once I understood the concepts and intent of grant proposal writing, I fell in love with it. The majority of my time is spent alone in my office writing or in one-on-one conversations with program, financial, and executive leadership staff. Given that my learning style is also visual text, reading RFPs, gathering the information needed, and conducting the research is all easy for me to understand. Recently though, I have needed to be involved in meetings with program officers. These are not my favorite activity. Oh, I love hearing all the things funders have to say about their organization that help me better understand their mission. I also love to hear all the things about the program that my organizations say to the funder that I have not heard before in quite the same way. (Haven’t we all been here?) If my only task was to listen, these meetings would be easy, but these were conversations in which I was the lead for a significant portion of the conversation.

Like all things in life, we humans get better with practice. We make mistakes, we learn from them, we seek to improve. As professionals, we continuously work to be the best versions of ourselves. Many of us are grants pros because our hearts led us here, so why not nurture your talents and fortify your craft? That’s right, folks – I’m talking about practicing #selfcare, professionally.

It can be difficult to find positive aspects to this year. I don’t need to remind you of all of the unprecedented challenges we’ve experienced so far and will likely continue to live through well into the coming year. Instead, let’s focus on something more hopeful! Let’s spend the rest of this year (and early 2021) on something we may not have found much time for in the past: LEARNING!

I recently attended my first-ever Grant Professionals Association (GPA) national conference – virtually, at that (because, you know, the pandemic). It was three days of absorbing information, dialoguing with colleagues, and notating my personal takeaways. I’m what I’d call, an inbetweener in the grant profession; I’m on the cusp of entering the mid-career mark but not quite there yet years-wise. I went into this conference with excitement and hope and left with certain unanticipated lessons learned. During the opening session, our emcee (Jess Pettitt) encouraged conference attendees to record our ‘circles.’ Although she gave a definition, I took this to basically mean, review our session notes and reflect on lessons learned at the end of each day, and circle the ones that personally resonated the most. I made countless observations and learned a ton, but here’s a snippet of what spoke loudest to me.

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.