(This blog post is from Lauren Steiner, President, Grants Plus. Read her other posts here.)
A few years ago I was invited to speak at the Grants Professionals Association’s Midatlantic Conference in New Jersey. While I speak frequently on grant writing to a wide range of groups, this would be the first time I would speak to a group of my professional peers, people who did what I did every day. I did not know what to expect and walked in feeling trepidation about whether my tips on grant funder prospect research would be of any interest to my fellow grant writers.
From the moment I stepped into the conference center that day, I was overwhelmed with the camaraderie I felt. It was an instant sense of being among friends, where we could freely share knowledge, experiences, and information among each other on a deep and impactful level.
That day, I heard and took part in fruitful conversations about a range of topics including:
·Whether or not pursuing and attaining a professional credential (GPC) was worthwhile
·How grant professionals track and manage their grant project workloads
·Ways grant writers handle difficult conversations with their supervisors or clients
·Sources of lists of grant funders to use when prospecting new funding sources
Perhaps even more meaningful to me, though, was the realization that I was not alone. Grant writing can be an isolating endeavor. We often spend more time with our computers than with people, even within our organizations. It was like taking a deep breath of oxygen to realize that there were others like me, in fact there were many of them. We could start conversations in the middle, we could nearly finish each other’s sentences. We could commiserate about our daily challenges, realizing these are commonly faced and not due to any failings of our own. We could laugh about all of these things, talking like old friends even though many of us had just met.
While I knew a many people engaged in nonprofit organizations and philanthropy, my network did not contain very many grant writers. I was inspired when I returned to my home community of Cleveland, Ohio to explore whether we had a chapter of GPA there. I participated in a local effort to re-energize our Grant Professionals Association Northern Ohio Chapter and have been the Chapter president since 2014.
Since then we have begun to develop a phenomenal, supportive and growing learning community of grant writers in Northern Ohio. We meet monthly and communicate via social media, phone and e-mail in between. We use each other to troubleshoot, learn new things, and build a collective voice. We have planned social events, and I now count several of these people wonderful and valued friends. This year, we have begun to engage other associations, funders, and organizations in the sector in our work. I believe we are collectively elevating our field and the ability of the organizations we represent to change and improve our world.
If you are a grant writer or if grant writing is part of your vocation, I urge you to consider joining an association of professionals in the field for the benefit of yourself, each other, and your community.