The gift of professional development

I know what I am getting for Christmas. I’ve already given myself this great gift. In the past few weeks, I have indulged myself in education around fundraising, thanks to the gift I give myself each year — a membership in Grant Professionals Association (GPA) and in Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). Both these organizations reward me all year long with resources for professional growth, but especially at this time of year, I am reminded how beneficial these groups are to my advancement within the profession of fundraising.

Nothing rewards and reinvigorates like professional development. Having the opportunity to recharge and remind myself of best practices — and learn some new ways to do what we do better — is so stimulating and rewarding.

Just last month, GPA held their national conference. I attended four days of back-to-back workshops, general sessions and keynote addresses. The wealth of knowledge, and tips and tricks I picked up from all the other professionals in the grants world amazed me — so many people willing to share what they do best.

I even had the chance to co-present a workshop with my GPA mentor, Scot Scala of Scala and Associates, on Maximizing the Mentor-Mentee Relationship. Scot is yet another example of a true professional willing to do whatever he can to advance the fundraising profession, whether through presenting at conference, teaching, or mentoring.

Highlights of conference for me were hearing fron two different panels of seasoned grant consultants (thanks to Columbus, OH’s Michelle Cramer of Cramer and Associates, et al, and the team of Assel Consulting and Encore Grant Services). I learned some sweet tricks on funder research (my favorite thing) — thanks Nathan Medina and Jerri Kamicker. And I of course got a ton from peers in the Consultant’s SIG (Special Interest Group).

At my next GPA chapter meeting, conference attendees from Central Ohio will share “Golden Nuggets,” enriching the experience for everyone, whether they were able to get to Baltimore or not.

Meanwhile, last night I had the distinct pleasure of hearing fundraising analyst and author Penelope Burk at my AFP chapter’s Speaker Series. Penelope shared all the learnings from her years of in-depth and comprehensive surveys of donors to uncover what we as fundraisers can do to be more effective. She’s got a book full of all the take-aways, but we were witness to the vibrant and engaging Penelope live and in the flesh, which was wonderful. It was so great to see fundraisers — those both new to the profession and seasoned — inspired by Penelope’s advice, backed up by undeniable stats.

It will be a Merry Christmas, and the future will be stronger than ever. I wish all the best for you in 2014.

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