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The Importance of the Grant Profession

Merriam-Webster defines a profession as:
  • A type of job that requires special education, training, or skill
  • A calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation
  • A principal calling, vocation, or employment
  • The whole body of persons engaged in a calling

In reviewing these definitions, we discover a reference to why the grant profession is important to each of us, to our employers or clients, to our communities, and to our world. In honor of the second annual International Grant Professionals Week and Day in March 2016, here is why our profession is important to me.
A job requiring special training/skills. Robert Cormier said, “The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping smile.” The grant profession offers writers an artistic outlet, ongoing practice, a way to change the world, and a chance to improve each time. If a grant proposal is not funded one year, a writer can usually use feedback from reviewers and make the proposal stronger the next year. Writing skill can be natural but can always be improved through practice and professional development opportunities, such as classes, webinars, and online courses.
But writing is only one part of the grant profession. Grant professionals also need skills in accounting, leadership, management, organization, research, ethical practices, and legal requirements. There are grant professionals who get as excited about a perfect budget and crunching numbers as I do about a beautiful story or quote. While experience in the subject we're writing about is important, it is equally important to be self-motivated and to research areas that aren't familiar. The grant profession is important for encouraging lifelong learning through books, articles, mentoring, teaching, classes, and networking with professional groups in the field. We are lucky to have so many resources available to us.
A calling or vocation requiring specialized knowledge and intense academic preparation. Like most grant professionals, I didn't dream of being a grant writer as a little girl but fell into the profession after a career in PK-12 education and a doctorate in higher education leadership. Three college degrees, deep understanding of research methods, and experience in the field of education as a teacher and administrator undoubtedly help me craft compelling, competitive proposals and win grants.
When I first volunteered to write a grant as a teacher, my passion for helping students guided me. But I still needed to learn the mechanics of grant writing. I always loved writing, and assumed my dissertation experience would support me with grant proposal development. When that first rejection letter arrived, I cried for two hours due to the late nights, long days, feeling I had disappointed the district, and intense work dedicated to the project and application. Later, when I learned 12 grants had been awarded and my grant application was ranked 13, it was bitter icing on the cake.
Eight years later, I completely understand the importance of the grant profession. When I wrote that first grant, I wish I had known about the Grant Professionals Association and the helpful resources they provide. I found myself in a silo---teaching myself, figuring out solutions alone, and not realizing there were thousands of other grant professionals with the same frustrations. Since joining GPA, I am amazed at how generous other grant professionals are with their time and advice. If I am stressed about a situation or don't have an answer, I have others to turn to who are happy to assist. That is the way a profession should operate and one of the reasons it is needed.
In addition, the grant profession now has an earned credential through the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI). According to GPCI, a certification is important because there is no nationally recognized degree for grant professionals. A certification also assists with job marketability, helps all understand the role of a grant professional, and portrays grant professionals as knowledgeable and trustworthy. It also prepares us for future government regulation in the grant field. Just like fields such as medicine, law, or nursing, certification lends credence to the profession.    
People engaged in a calling. Peter Guber says, “Sometimes, a well-crafted story can even transform a seemingly hopeless situation into an unexpected triumph” (Guber, December 2007, HBR). Grant professionals are social activists determined to change the world for the better. We are called to do this, and it's certainly not a way to get rich. Personally, the causes I choose to support are so close to my heart that I'm willing to work for them on a pro bono basis. That urge to help those in need spurs me on daily. This is also true for most of the grant professionals I know.
I am proud to be a part of the grant profession, and I know I have found my calling. Similar to Merriam-Webster, I interpret the grant profession as a group of talented, diverse, skilled people with one common goal, courtesy of the Grant Professionals Foundation: making the world a better place, one grant at a time.