December 21, 2012

{Centered}: How to get good scores from federal grant review panels

Most applications for federal grants are reviewed and scored by a group of people from outside the government agency who have expertise in the subject area for which a grant is requested. These review panels are a key influence on the grant decisions made by the federal agency.A two-part article in Local/State Funding Report ("Part I: Understanding Federal Review Panels," November 12, 2012, and "Part II: Making the Most of a Federal Review," November 19, 2012) explains how the panels function and how to improve your chances of scoring well.

Despite their particular expertise, members of the panels are not permitted to review applications from groups with which they have connections, and they review only applications from outside their own geographic area. Each reviewer scores applications independently of the other reviewers. The average of their scores becomes the official score used to rank the application. If the scores of different reviewers on the panel vary greatly, the agency will convene the reviewers to discuss the discrepancies; then the reviewers rescore the application. The federal agency then uses the official scores for the applications as a critical factor in deciding which applicants will receive grants.

Some tips on how to improve your score:
  • Given that the reviewers will not be from your geographic area and are unlikely to be familiar with your organization, make sure your proposal is explicit about ways in which your location or the history of your group will enhance your ability to carry out your program.
  • Always follow the proposal guidelines for typeface, font, and page limits.
  • Make sure the section headers you use in the proposal narrative match the categories to be scored.
  • Include citations from relevant research that supports the strategies and methods you will use in your program.
  • Be careful with acronyms; the first use of any acronym should be immediately after the complete name from which it is derived.
  • Use language that indicates your readiness to proceed with the program for which you are requesting the grant. Avoid terms like "we hope" or "hopefully."
  • If the program for which you are requesting funds involves collaborating organizations, make sure to include letters of commitment verifying their participation.
  • Appendices may not be read, so they should never contain crucial information that doesn't appear elsewhere.
Source: {Centered} December 2012 - Volume 5, Issue 12
© 2012 The Grantsmanship Center.
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