I don’t usually yell across the table or offer hints when I meet folks in social settings. The conversation turns to jobs and inevitably someone asks, “What do you do?” I look them square in the eyes and state, in as matter-of-fact tone as possible, “I’m a grant professional.” Locking eyes, I stare and wait. Some smile coyly, looking away for someone else to talk to. Others laugh nervously, shuffling off to the restroom, and a few act as if they need a minute to process what I just said. I let the comment fall like a frozen comet from outer space.
Occasionally, I meet a tenured college professor, a police sergeant, or nonprofit executive director. They immediately infer that I must write grants for a living. Ah yes, writing all day. In my bookshelf-lined study. At my whirling typewriter. I must seem a dreadful bore. They often make sour faces, joke how sorry they are for me, or tell me they work with someone who is a “grant writer.” They might say, “Do you know Jane Bean? She works with me.” I usually reply, “Oh yes, we write stuff together all the time.”
I’m a Grant Professional
It’s not that I am embarrassed or don’t want to talk to people about my job. It’s just that only a limited few will understand what I do. Being a grant professional isn’t like being a firefighter, a doctor, or an attorney. But, then again, there are many jobs in the fire service and a firefighter is only one. Other jobs are fire marshal, paramedic, rescue/search/recovery specialist, and of course, fire chief. Doctors might work in the emergency room while others serve as primary-care physicians. There are specialists, general practitioners, oncologists, and surgeons—all doctors. Lawyers prosecute criminals for years and then become defense attorneys. They start a firm with other lawyers and handle torts, civil and criminal litigation, or go into real estate law. Others work at the capitol as lobbyists—just before “retiring” to the bench as a judge.
I think it is time to coin a new phrase, similar to firefighters, doctors, and attorneys. How about “GPCs”? We would pronounce it “GeePeeCees,” just like the accounting profession has CPAs or “CeePeeAs.” Everyone knows pretty much what a CPA does for a living! Grant professionals of all manner and types can earn their Grant Professional Certified credential.
Grant professionals are writers, change agents, and thought leaders. We develop grant projects and sustain grant programs. Grantmakers, funders, agencies and their program officers do work for donors, legislators, and taxpayers. We seek grants and give grants. We serve constituents and beneficiaries.
Grant researchers find the grant opportunities. Grant managers implement the projects and programs. Grant accountants track the budget and manage the reporting processes. Program evaluators review and analyze outcomes and output data. Grant professionals do it all again by putting into words the need, the solution, and the expected results.
Grantsmanship Is a Career
Grantsmanship is a career. If you don’t believe me, just look in the job want ads. Sure, you will find a few jobs with grant or grants in the title, while many job listings won’t mention the word grant. Either way, the job candidate had better know a little something about grantsmanship. City managers, executive directors, chief executive officers, city attorneys, finance directors, budget directors, development directors, directors of institutional research, auditors, accountants, community development directors, etc. all need to have grantsmanship skills or, at least, know a grant professional.
Think of all the grant professionals you know who are also city managers, executive directors, chief executive officers, or attorneys. Yep, it’s a career.
Meanwhile, as I sit there, socializing, waiting for the frozen comet to hit, I wonder if these folks were asked in their last job interview about grants? What exactly did they say to the hiring manager? I imagine they said, “You know Jane Bean. She used to work with me.”
Prepare for the GPC Exam
Show off your skills by earning your credential. The Grant Professional Certified (GPC) is administered by the Grant Professionals Certification Institute and is the premier credential in the grant profession.
Three of my colleagues and I wrote a book about preparing for the GPC exam. The manual, Prepare for the GPC Exam: Earn Your Grant Professional Certified Credential, is a fun and upbeat In the Trenches manual published by CharityChannel Press. I’d love to hear what you think of the manual!