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Who Are The Grant Professionals?

One of my daily struggles is helping people understand the work that grant professionals do and how it is so much more than writing.

As I see it, grant professionals are involved at every point in what I call the “Grant Continuum” which starts with an organizational assessment to determine if the organization is ready for grants and continues through researching opportunities, preparing a proposal. If there is a good match with the funder, they are managing the grant funds and completing the reporting requirements for the grant. Clearly, there is writing involved, yet there is so much more in terms of collaboration, evaluation, budget development, program design, fund management, and report development. These are skills that every grant professional uses on a regular basis.

The GPA Board of Directors

The GPA Board of Directors recently discussed this question. One common theme from the conversation was the diversity of backgrounds in the grant profession and that most people did not start out intending to be a grant professional. Grant professionals come from all types of jobs including teachers, firefighters, authors, social workers, and military veterans. Another common theme was around the sectors and industries where grant professionals work. Most people equate grant professionals with charitable nonprofit organizations, however, we know that there are grant professionals in all the sectors of our economy, including those who work in all levels in education and government. 

Salary Survey (Infographic)

As many of you know, GPA conducts an annual compensation survey. As a part of that survey, we collect information about those who participate. This provides information for the survey results including data by several demographic categories and job responsibilities. The top five responsibilities were: Writing Grant Proposals, Researching Grant Opportunities, Managing Grants, Coordinating Projects, and Networking. This year, GPA developed an infographic to give people a glance at who a grant professional is - their background, education, where they work and what they earn.

Grant Professionals Certification Institute

Our colleagues at the Grant Professionals Certification Institute ( have developed a list of core competencies for grant professionals which form the basis for the exam for the Grant Professional Certified credential. These core competencies include the following functions:

  • Craft, construct, and submit a grant proposal;
  • Effectively design programs and projects;
  • Matching funding resources to meet specific needs;
  • Practice ethical grantsmanship;
  • Cultivate and maintain relationships with funders;
  • Knowledge of post-award grant management practices.

Once again, credentialed grant professionals do much more than write. It is easy for me to see that grant professionals are so much more than writers, even though writing is an important and critical skill for grant professionals. I do, however, have the unique perspective of getting to know GPA members and learn from you. I get to find out what you do and the types of organizations and people that benefit from your work. Knowing that, makes my struggle a little easier when I encounter someone who asks “What is a grant professional?”  


So who do you say you are?

Leave a note in the comments below.


By: Allison McMillan-Lee
On: 07/18/2017 15:31:12
Yes, we come from all backgrounds! I am a writer/editor/researcher from the toy/game/publishing industry. My knowledge of children's learning needs/skill levels and my personal experiences with those with cancer, disabilities, and diseases of the elderly as well as those who are unemployed, career change challenged, and at-risk low-income elders/single moms/dads in my affluent SoCal area combine to strongly influence my grant writing!
By: Katherine F. H. Heart, GPC, M.Ed.
On: 07/18/2017 18:41:38
I think this is more of an article than comment. Feel free to title it, “Send Me All Your Writing.” From what I can tell after 15 years in the grants field, writing is an inescapable core essential skill in working with all aspects of grants. No matter what else we talk about doing in our jobs (consulting, collaborating, planning, developing, etc), we are not going to be effective in communicating the needs of the organization or constituents into a fundable proposal without strong writing skills. Not only that, we have to be really careful and specific about what we write so that it is not misinterpreted. If awarded, grant proposals become the plan for implementation. I'm sincerely trying to understand what's behind the "but" in the statement and debate around “we are more than just writers.” To me, it sounds like the groaning pains of a profession or movement that has outgrown its shoes and is looking to become something bigger or better. If that is so, I would appreciate it if we could find more non-disparaging words for this place. When I teach, coach and review proposals, I suggest replacing the "buts" with "whats" - in other words, when we as humans (including funders) encounter the words "but" or "however" in a proposal, our brains say "uh oh" or "oh no, what's the problem here." Disparagement is a negative, and not entirely accurate. There’s an unexpressed put down in it. Those of us who love the writing part of our job are left with a less valuable feeling. If I had one wish for my profession, it would be to amend our thinking in a more positive direction by replacing the "buts" with "and" so that I don't have to defend the work that I love as a writer at every turn. One of my early career mentors once said, our proposals should "sing" and instead of supervision, we held "readings" in which we took turns reading aloud parts of our proposals like great literature. I love this work SO MUCH that I spent 8 years in between projects writing a book about the beautiful calling of the grants profession that allows us to use all of our skills to make a meaningful impact in our community. As a former founding chapter president, I was shocked to discover that a significant number of members expressed dislike for the amount of writing in their jobs. I realize that many people are drawn accidentally to this profession as a result of working for a cause and community, or just needed a job. I came to this profession on purpose because I wanted to be paid well for my valuable writing. I would really appreciate it if we could stop shooting ourselves in the foot, and celebrate every skill and motivation that advances our profession. Personally and professionally, I feel great about the work I do as a grant business owner in which the majority of my billable hours are spent writing inquiries, concept papers, grant proposals and reports that result in funding for high impact projects that improve quality of life in my region. I'm paid very, very well for this skill. Instead of groaning, I wish those in our profession who really detest doing it could just go ahead and send me all your writing.
By: Jerri Kamicker
On: 07/20/2017 08:41:00
I am a Grants Consultant. For several of my major clients, I would guess that 50% of my work with them is NOT grant writing but rather research, program design discussions and working with staff on the grants process.
By: John Holmes
On: 03/05/2019 16:50:32 just awarded me a grant of $30,000 to pay my daughter's medical bills.

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