GPA Annual Conference 2021: Going Places

The Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Annual Conference is always an event to be remembered, and this year’s was no exception. The 2021 GPA Annual Conference ran from November 3–6, 2021, and straddled multiple time zones – both on the ground in Seattle, Washington, and online through a virtual platform.

Sessions presented live in Seattle also allowed virtual attendees to join in real-time, with moderators keeping an eye on the chat to allow everyone to ask questions and participate. In addition, some sessions, including the Office of Management and Budget’s ever-popular update sessions, were presented entirely virtually. Seattle offered a small onsite expo hall while additional exhibitors and sponsors (including Management Concepts!) hosted virtual booths, allowing participants to chat and ‘leave their cards’ as they navigated the conference. But whether attending online or in person, all attendees who registered early received a “swag box” filled with all of the goodies they would have picked up from exhibitors who were not physically in the expo hall, plus Seattle-themed treats in recognition of the unique culture of the host city.

Getting Started

The event kicked off virtually on the evening of November 3, with the “officially unofficial” comedy duo making their annual appearance – GPA CEO Mike Chamberlain and speaker and consultant Jess Pettitt. Several hundred attendees tuned in for a “backstage” pass, where Mike and Jess “Zoomed” in from the soundcheck at the conference hotel. With their usual happy mixture of jokes and pertinent information, the pair kicked off the GPA Annual Conference with an atmosphere of community and camaraderie of those in the grants profession. The fact that Jess gave out her cell phone number to all Zoom attendees with the offer to troubleshoot or track down anyone on site on behalf of any online attendee who asked her to certainly proves that GPA is more than an association, it’s a family.

Getting Going

During the onset of the global pandemic, the federal government issued more than $5 trillion in stimulus funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and other legislation. This influx of funding has resulted in new grant awards – and new oversight challenges. To date, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee has issued more than 275 oversight reports, working with dozens of Inspectors General to identify key challenges and best practices.

On Thursday, November 4, Management Concept’s Grants Product Management Director, Sarah Hluchan, presented an informative session on “Avoiding Waste, Fraud, and Abuse – Effectively Managing High-Profile Grant Awards.” The session leveraged lessons learned from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (commonly referred to as the “Recovery Act”) to provide insight on how to effectively manage high-profile grant awards – specifically COVID-19 funding – while avoiding the pitfalls of waste, fraud, and abuse. The session was extremely popular with attendees, with extensive and insightful discussion and engagement from the audience on how they have navigated these challenges. The session leveraged best practices, Office of Inspector General recommendations, and the lessons learned from the Recovery Act (previously the largest stimulus package, which ignited an increased emphasis on transparency and accountability) to examine the risks and rewards of managing high-profile grant awards, including the added challenges of doing so during a pandemic. While this session focused on pandemic funding, the principles and practices are applicable to managing any high-profile or high-dollar awards.

For those looking to learn more about effective stewardship of high-profile grant funds and how to “level up” your grant management skills, see Management Concepts’ Grants & Assistance course offerings.

Getting Engaged

Management Concepts virtual booth staff welcomed many attendees during the conference, where they had the opportunity to answer polls and download marketing brochures. One that was particularly intriguing to many attendees included information on becoming a grants instructor for Management Concepts, and another included information on the Grants Management Certificate ProgramTM , in which those seeking a professional certificate can select the Federal Track, Pass-Through Track, or Recipient Track.

Going Home

Though all good things must come to an end, it was a pleasure reconnecting with GPA members and the grants community, and we look forward to seeing everyone again next year in Louisville, Kentucky. Until then, GPA members can check out photos from the annual conference on our Facebook page, and all of Management Concepts participation in GPA events on our GPA partnership page.

Keep an eye on the Management Concepts blog for a deeper dive into GPA Conference topics, coming soon.

Headshot photo of Vera Medici wearing a flowered shirt with a grey blazer.

Written by:
Vera Medici
Grants & Assistance
Media Type:

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