Category Archives: Conferences

Last week I attended the Grant Professionals Association Annual Conference in Chicago and was able to learn from and facilitate conversations with grant professionals all over the country. I always learn something new each time I go, and as I reflect on the conference, I wanted to share some key takeaways:

  1. Building funder and grantee relationships: During the keynote panel, there were many conversations about bridging the divide between grantees and funders. How can we build sustainable partnerships without an imbalanced power dynamic? One speaker brought up a site that allows grantees to rate funders on a number of different criteria: Check it out for more information.
  2. Overcoming inequality barriers: There are more dedicated measures by the nonprofit and philanthropic communities to overcome racial/ethnic and income equalities in our communities. There are more collaborative community-based partnerships taking place to address these systemic inequalities through wraparound service models. Also, funders are more cognizant of these models and holding nonprofits accountable to maintain boards that are more reflective of the constituencies they serve.
  3. Strategic Planning: I found out some more tools that we can use during strategic planning processes:
    1. SOAR – Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results (same as the traditional SWOT analysis but with more of a positive spin)
    2. PESTEL – Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal (spreadsheet of various elements that impact the organization)
    3. Boston Matrix – Matrix of profitability and impact (helps us understand what should be a priority
  4. Using digital platforms: Through the use of social media, nonprofits and public sector agencies and are able to share their stories and become more connected to the communities they serve. It also allows a baseline level of equity with a common platform to share this information, regardless of the size and scope of the organization or agency.
  5. Abundant Resources Available: There are wonderful podcasts, books, newsletters and websites that provide information on best practices and also case studies from the field. Some highly recommended ones (not necessarily just about nonprofits) include:
    1. Newsletters: and
    2. Podcasts: Successful Nonprofits and Nonprofits are Messy
    3. Books: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman), The Art of Gathering (Priya Parker) and The Power of Moments (Chip Heath and Dan Heath)


What will you be able to use today?

Each year, hundreds of grant professionals descend upon a chosen city in November to discuss all things grants for our annual Grant Professionals Association Conference. This year, the conference was held at the Paradise Point Resort and Spa in San Diego. At the onset, I thought that trying to participate in valuable professional development sessions, demonstrations and networking opportunities while also at a resort spa in 70-degree weather, would be a challenge, it was also a positive. My next thought it, why do we have to separate business and pleasure? Here’s why:

1) Deepen Connections: Engaging with colleagues on a personal level allows them to get to know you and vice versa. Perhaps you are able to establish a connection when one did not exist before. This opens the door to further conversations (and hopefully collaborations) and shared learning.

2) Clear your Head: You might be able to think more clearly when you have some relaxation time – perhaps a blank slate will help generate some useful ideas.

3) Loosen Up: When you are more relaxed, you might be more open to feedback and ideas. This can include those who you might not have been on your radar.

4) A Family Affair: I know a number of people who brought family members to the conference. This helps engage people you love with the work that you love. I know it is difficult to explain to others about the work that you do (we do not simply just write grants….), so this is a good way to get them involved.

How can you make your work more personal and engage more people at the same time? I hope you can get more out of your next upcoming professional development or networking opportunity.


Last week I had the pleasure of attending (and presenting at) the Grant Professionals Association Annual Conference in St. Louis. You can check out my amazing view from the room.

While going to industry focused conference can be hectic, time consuming, and exhausting, they also serve as amazing growth opportunities (both personally and professionally). Here is why I think these types of conferences are so rewarding.

Professional Development – When are you ever in the same room with people who care as deeply about the same subject matter?! Take advantage to learn something new from the plethora of sessions that are offered – we can all benefit from skill enhancement.

Networking – Connect with new and old friends and colleagues. Given this virtual working environment, we are often scattered across the globe and it is great to have people in one room to reconnect.

Opportunities – There are always exhibitors, sponsors and colleagues who may be able to provide support, feedback, or even potential business development opportunities at such conferences. It is always important to carry a stack of business cards – they serve as your best resource!

Learning Credits – You can often earn valuable learning credits towards certifications that need to be maintained. These credits can ensure you remain active and do not have to seek out other means to maintain your credential(s).

Fun Travel – I try to take advantage of at least one local activity/mainstay when I travel. This time it was going to the top of the St. Louis Arch and eating at Pappy’s (which was amazing barbeque).

The next GPA Conference will be in Atlanta – November 2016. Will I see you there?