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Getting Certified: One Candidate's Study Plan

I recently sat for and passed the Grant Professional Certified exam. GPCs are bound by ethics not to discuss the content of the exam, but we can certainly offer advice about how to approach the process of becoming certified. If the thought of committing the time for preparation and study is daunting, maybe the study plan I used will be helpful to you.

I started with the Study Guide and Bibliography: Support for the Grant Professionals Certification Exam, Second Edition, available in the GPA store and the free downloadable study guides from the Grants Collaborative of Tampa Bay (Study Guide #1 and Study Guide #2). Both study guides' nine chapters correspond to the nine competencies of the GPC exam, so I set my study schedule for nine weeks with one week dedicated to each competency. I inserted a week after every third chapter to review and research topics I wanted to understand better. For example, in the “Additional Background Information” section of the study guide, there were bullet points about the categories of review in research programs and the concept of tipping to qualify for 501(c)(3) status. I wanted to know more about each topic, so I spent extra time studying these specific elements of the study guide.
However, I did not just rely on study guides. In some weeks, I supplemented the guides with books, most of which were listed in the References section of the Study Guide and Bibliography. There is a similar list on the GPCI Preparation page in Literature Review: Major Trends and Current Concepts by Michael Wells, GPC, CFRE, MA of Portland State University. I found several of Mr. Wells' books in the “Grantwriting” series very useful at this stage, especially the ones on nonprofit finances and program evaluation. I used these books to brush up on the theory behind some of the activities I have done as a grant professional, like developing budgets and writing objectives. Several titles are available in the GPA Store, but I was able to borrow all these books from my local public library because it is part of the Foundation Center's Funding Information Network. Maryland also has a robust interlibrary loan system, so several books that were not available locally came from far-flung locations across the state.
With those key elements of my study plan in place, I found I still had available review time before my exam. I doubled up on the chapters for review each week and added other credible resources, including:
The last resource deserves special mention, as there is so much high-quality information available through Grant Space. You can look at information by subject, e.g. health care or social services, or by skill, e.g. collaboration or fiscal sponsorship. There are sample documents, such as successful cover letters, proposals and budgets to actual foundations. There are videos of actual training sessions and free and fee-based webinars. Irrespective of the GPC exam, I wanted to hone my skills in stewardship and found the stewardship webinar series “After the Grant” especially enlightening.
I encourage you to take the plunge and approach GPC preparation with a sense of curiosity about your profession. Best wishes on the exam and in your career!