Editor’s Note: Our appreciation to Grant Professionals Association (GPA) and to the author, Micki Vandeloo, for permission to publish this article simultaneously with its publication by GPA.
Last fall, I earned my Grant Professionals Certification (GPC) from GPA’s Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI). I am so proud to be in the company of a select group in the grant writing industry! I am only the seventh GPC in Illinois and the first certified south of the Chicago suburbs! This certificate is the result of dedication; studying the best practices of the profession; and a time commitment that I haven’t put into anything since I studied for my last round of finals in graduate school fifteen years ago!
There are many types of certifications, most represented by a series of letters after a person’s name. DMD signifies the individual is a dentist. CFP denotes a Certified Fundraising Professional. And, we all know what the letters MD represent. With all of the acronyms available, what makes any of them really special? With so many of them to choose from, does a certification really mean anything anymore?
Before I pursued my GPC, I have to admit feeling that there wasn’t really a strong significance to most certifications. Quite honestly, I believed that they were simply a way for a professional group to collect money and provide a service to its members. The only letters that I really paid heed to were the ones associated with the medical and legal professions.
What changed my mind? I started to hear the GPC buzz. I first heard about the GPC at the GPA conference in Indianapolis two years ago. I dismissed it as something that I would do “someday.”
Then I attended a GPA chapter meeting and talked to others who were GPC’s. The people who had obtained their GPC were well respected as grant writers and leaders both in the St. Louis area and for GPA nationally. As they spoke, I wanted to be more like them and began to see the GPC as a conduit to learn more about the profession where I was still a relative newbie.
As the idea rolled around in my mind (as many do), I turned to one of my mentors, who is also a GPC. She encouraged me, answered any of my questions, and nudged me to my final decision to sit for the exam.
I can honestly say, once I got committed to taking the exam and studying, I saw the real benefits of pursuing the GPC. I definitely didn’t know what I didn’t know. I learned so many new techniques and information about the grant writing profession. I had been writing grants for almost a decade, but didn’t know the nuances of the profession. I was becoming a better grant writer.
After I took the exam and passed, I realized how important obtaining this certification was to me. When I received my certificate, I thought back to how hard I had worked and the vast amounts of information I had learned. I realized that I would truly be a better grant writer for the experience. I was filled with pride.
That certificate looks pretty awesome on the wall in my office!
I have talked to many people who feel the same way I once did about certifications. They perceive a poor ROI on the investment in time and money it takes to pursue a certification. However, I truly believe that the GPC process and certificate will bring me business and the ROI will be strong.
Here are some reasons why I believe a person with a professional certification will garner more business:
Demonstrated level of commitment to the industry
When you look for medical treatment, would you dream of using someone without an MD, PA, RN, or NP? You know that all of these people have spent years (and sometimes decades) learning how to best perform their duties. It is not much different with the GPC. In addition to the writing competencies and four-hour multiple-choice test, you must demonstrate the proper education and experience to even qualify to take the exam. I estimate I spent over 100 hours qualifying, studying for, and taking the exam. That is commitment!
Recognition by an independent body that the work performed by the professional meets the standards of the profession
Similar to the Professional Engineers (PE) designation, the GPC certifying process involves working in the industry for a certain number of years, and then testing the candidate on the standards of the profession to ensure that there is a strong understanding. An outside party administers the test, not GPA or GPCI, to ensure that the process is not tainted. Expertise is also established independently by the qualification requirement to submit three reference letters testifying to the candidate’s knowledge of the craft and writing samples.
Evidence of the desire for continued learning
Would you like having an employee or contractor who just did their job at an adequate level, never searching for better ways to do it? Who never learned the newest techniques to produce better results for your company? I can tell you that I learned a LOT of new information about grant writing just from studying for the exam. In addition, in order to maintain my certification, I must either go through continuing education and document grant writing experience over the next three years or take the test again in that time frame. I will be attending GPA’s national conferences and various training seminars, as well as expanding my experience to ensure that this certification remains well deserved. My clients deserve no less!
So, why would anyone want to pursue those letters behind their name? I don’t know that everyone will. It takes effort and money, and these are not plentiful resources for all. If, however, you want to elevate the level of your work; be associated with the best of the best in your profession; and be a more proficient grant writer (or fundraising professional or financial planner) for your clients, you should consider a professional certification.
—Micki Vandeloo, GPC (and proud to have those letters behind my name!)