GPC and Youth Development: What’s Youth Development Got to Do with It?
by Tracey Diefenbach
As a grant professional and GPC holder who has spent the majority of my career in youth development, I cannot help but consider how earning my GPC has shaped my ability to impact this sector. Sure, having a GPC raises ethical standards and increases knowledge and skill sets in key areas like research, project design, and writing to improve quality and efficiency, but what about a deeper level of impact? I truly believe having a GPC can significantly advance a grant professional’s ability to drive meaningful change, not only within their organizations but also within their broader sector. I have experienced this firsthand in my work with youth-serving organizations.
A GPC understands the value and importance of knowing the organization, its target population, and its programs, as well as the external environment. The professional uses this knowledge to guide strategic, informed decision-making within the agency. This can include everything from determining which funders to approach and which opportunities to pursue, to considering how to strategically launch or expand programs in response to client needs or gaps in services. As an example, I have helped youth development organizations use their strategic plan with tools, such as a decision matrix, to better guide them in determining which funding opportunities to pursue. The conversations were not always easy, but they were critical. At minimum, the discussions helped prepare the client to respond to funder questions like, “Isn’t this new program really straying from your mission of mentoring youth?” (Which a funder has absolutely asked me!) But, most importantly, these steps ensure that the organization/team is making careful, calculated, and informed decisions that ultimately improve the fundability of their programs and, in turn, increase their impact in the youth development sector.
A GPC understands the value and importance of quality project design, including well-defined goals, objectives, and activities, as well as evidence-based practices and strategies relevant to their field. The professional can advise an agency to infuse this level of quality into their programming. I have personally seen and been involved with organizations that, with the help of a GPC, were able to identify and employ evidence-based strategies with existing practices in their youth development programs, such as The Developmental Assets® Framework, Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, and approaches listed on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). These tested and proven strategies help agencies elevate their work to achieve greater impact among youth and their families. They also foster trust and credibility across all stakeholders, including funders, donors, staff, volunteers, and the community, which promotes organizational sustainability.
A GPC not only can help organizations internally raise their level of program quality, but they also have the knowledge and skill set to influence funders. Personally, I have worked with a funder to modify and adjust their application to eliminate pre-determined objectives and milestones, which were limiting the potential impact of youth-serving organizations. I have also been a part of conversations and work with a local government funding body to reconsider their set unit pricing rates, which were preventing many organizations from even applying for a particular opportunity. Ultimately, as a GPC, I have been able to provide expert guidance that influenced the funding community, thus broadening the funders’ impact and increasing the opportunities available to the youth-serving organizations that were doing the work.
Overall, the knowledge and skill set a GPC can bring to the organizations with which they work – in addition to the funding community – are substantial. Earning and maintaining my GPC has better positioned me to help youth development organizations raise quality, increase efficiency, and achieve greater impact among young people served.
Competency #3: Knowledge of strategies for effective program and project design and development