Want to Win More Grants? Think Like a Grant Reviewer

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To improve your grant-writing skills, you need to think like a grant reviewer.

Sure, you could track down one of these mythical creatures and persuade them to divulge all their secrets. Tempt them with lattes and chocolate until they tell you exactly what will get your grant application approved.

But there’s an easier way that’s not as ethically questionable.

You could become a grant reviewer yourself.

Yes, sitting on the other side of the table can be eye-opening for even the most experienced grant writer. It’s a great professional development opportunity that allows you to observe the back end of the grant review process.

After spending some time reading and scoring competitive grant proposals, you’ll be better positioned to write to your audience.

What are the benefits of becoming a grant reviewer?

Most grantmaking agencies engage grant peer reviewers to read proposals and offer an analysis and rating for each grant application. The rating is based upon the application requirements and selection criteria in the request for proposal.

As a professional grant writer, this experience will help you in a few ways.

  • You’ll see how other organizations approach grant proposals.
  • You’ll get an up-close-and-personal look at the grant evaluation process.
  • You’ll gain a better understanding of a specific grant program.
  • You’ll network with peers in your field as well as the agency’s officials. 
  • You’ll bring new ideas to your own organization.

How do you become a grant peer reviewer?

Fortunately, the federal government always needs volunteers to serve as grant reviewers. Each agency has a different application process. Some simply provide an email address for inquiries about a specific program; some have a formal intake function.

Agencies will have qualifications for grant reviewers. Depending on the program, academics may be preferred. Others will look for professionals working in the field to score grants. You’ll need to ensure your qualifications mesh with program guidelines before applying. Most programs will request your CV; some will ask for references.

Additionally, don’t expect to become wealthy serving as a grant reviewer. Most agencies offer a stipend for your time and effort, but it’s quite small. It’s best to consider this volunteer work.

10 Federal Grant Reviewer Opportunities

We’ve compiled a few links to help you get started. This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you are interested in serving as a peer reviewer for another agency or program, make Google your friend. These opportunities are usually fairly easy to locate.

A note: some agencies may refer to reviewers as panelists, field readers or another term.

Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education

Instructions on becoming a field reader for the TRIO program.

Department of Education, Office of Elementary & Secondary Education

Call for 2022 grant reviewers with expertise specific to K-12 education.

Health Resources and Services Administration

Information on the application process as well as webinars.

National Science Foundation

Contact the program officer for the grant program you’d like to pursue

National Endowment for the Humanities

Submit form to be considered as a candidate.

Institute of Museum and Library Sciences

Apply for up to four grant programs.

Bureau of Justice

Information on how to apply and resources for new reviewers.

Department of Labor

Explanation of the application process and list of areas of expertise needed.

National Endowment for the Arts

Applications for various NEA grant programs.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration

Information about the application process and link to open opportunities.

Other places to look for peer review opportunities

You’ll also find grant reviewer opportunities at the state and possibly local level. Browse grant makers’ websites for information and reach out to program officers to ask about specific opportunities.

We also share grant reviewer information on Twitter when we come across it. Give us a follow and never miss another chance to serve as a peer reviewer.

 

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