Become a Grant Reviewer to Become a Better Applicant

February 7, 2012 | By Adrianne Fielding | Post a Comment

One of the smartest things a grantseeker can do is find a way to get inside the heads of those who make the decisions about which grant applications to fund. Sometimes that’s as simple as reading the fine print of a funding announcement. Other times it involves taking advantage of applicant workshops, technical assistance, guidance and other resources provided by a funding agency (subscribers to Thompson’s Local/State Funding Report will read more about that in the Feb. 13 issue).

But hands down, one of the most valuable ways to understand what will make an application stand out to a grant reviewer is to become one. Nothing can quite match the deep-end experience of reading dozens of applications, assessing their strengths and weaknesses and then discussing their merits with a panel of peers.

The specific process for becoming a grant reviewer varies from agency to agency, but most agencies are on the lookout for individuals with strong programmatic expertise. At least on the federal stage, fewer grant dollars to go around plus increasing demand equals more applications.  And while some agencies have automated elements of their application screening process, there’s not yet any substitute for the expert knowledge of practitioners in a given field.

Sometimes an agency sends out a call for reviewers that is much like a job announcement, as the Office of Head Start within the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children, Youth and Families recently did.

OHS is accepting grant reviewer applications through Feb. 27 for those who wish serve on four-person panels to evaluate applications for Head Start and Early Head Start programs. The review process is conducted online, and review panel discussions of individual applications are conducted by conference call.

Prospective reviewers must have expertise and experience in early childhood education and family support services or related fields. Although familiarity with Head Start and/or previous experience as a grant reviewer are useful, they are not required. OHS also seeks reviewer applicants who have expertise in fiscal and organizational operations.

Reviewers must commit to at least four one-week panels between late spring and fall 2012, must be available during business hours for a six-day workweek and be prepared to read up to 3,000 pages per week. Reviewers are compensated $350 per day while serving on a panel.

Prospective reviewers must create a profile and upload a resume here, using reference code OHS-001-2012.

The full call for reviewers is available here. More information about becoming a reviewer is available here, by calling 866-796-1613 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST or by emailing


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