Oh, The Places You’ll Go (And Have Been)! By Tracey Diefenbach, GPC

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 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.

Where I have been:

  • Earned Masters Degree in Public Administration – While I was studying for a master’s degree, I received an internship that really led me into the grants field. This was the starting point for my grants learning. It was also the time I was introduced to the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) or for those of you who may remember….American Association of Grant Professionals (AAGP). Am I showing my age yet?
  • Earned Grant Professionals Certification (GPC) – Somewhere near mid-career (about seven years in the field), I was challenged by a leader to “master my profession.” At this time, I served on my local GPA chapter (shout out to the St. Louis GPA Chapter!) board and was very active in the chapter. I knew the value of the GPC, and it was clear that certification was my next step.
  • Earned Grant Professionals Association Approved Trainer – Within the last year, I have become a GPA Approved Trainer and begun conducting more presentations and trainings. As part of this work, I joined a local Toastmasters club to grow my public speaking and leadership skills.

Where I will go:

  • Training Mastery – I have just begun my journey in conducting trainings and presentations. I seek to complete pathways and certifications in Toastmasters to really hone my presentation skills. I am also seeking training on topics typically not thought of in the grants world, such as motivational interviewing and applying this to working with clients.
  • On-the-job Training – This is huge to me. I learn best by doing. I am laser-focused on building a strong, diverse portfolio of grant projects. Give me the big, complex, and complicated projects. (Wait…is my boss going to read this?!? Maybe not ALL complicated projects. I still need a few easy projects to remind me I do know what I am doing!) Over the years, I have completed many state and federal grants, but I am always amazed at how many new and different grant opportunities and programs I see pop up and am eager to gain exposure.

So, there you have it. This is just one journey of the millions of others out there in the grant professional world. I encourage all of you reading this (if I haven’t lost you yet!) to embrace this as the learning season and, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss, consider the places YOU’LL go. According to the funny character in the tall red and white hat, “There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won,” (and so much more grant learning to be done)!

GPC Competency #7: Knowledge of practices and services that raise the level of professionalism of grant developers.

Skill 01: Identify advantages of participating in continuing education and various grant review processes.

Skill 02: Identify advantages of participating in professional organizations that offer grant developers growth opportunities and advance the profession.

Skill 03: Identify strategies that grant developers user in building social capital to benefit their communities and society at large.

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