10 Ways to Secure Peer Review Opportunities for Your Grant

A peer reviewer is an individual selected by public (and sometimes private) grant-making agencies to read and score grant applications. Because a peer is someone considered an equal, you can apply to review grants only in fields you have knowledge of.

Working as a peer reviewer may or may not give you additional income, but it definitely provides you with an inside peek at the peer review process — knowledge that can only further your own grant writing efforts.

Call your congressional contacts

Your federally elected officials can give you the inside scoop on the federal grant-making agencies looking for peer reviewers, so pick up your telephone and call your senators’ and representative’s Washington, DC–based staff to gain from their insider knowledge. You may also want to e-mail your most recent résumé to your federal contacts to remind them of your education, expertise, and experience in fields likely to match grant-funding areas.

Get in touch with federal grant makers

Public servants are available free of charge. Don’t feel like you’re bothering a federal program officer, or any other agency staff person.

One of the best ways to obtain the telephone numbers for federal grant-making agencies is to look up each agency on the U.S. government’s official website. Or you can visit an agency’s individual website and search for its peer review application instructions.

The federal government pays its peer reviewers anywhere from $100 to $300 per day for on-site reviews and at least $125 per application reviewed off-site. If you’re required to travel on-site, the feds will also take care of your airfare, hotel arrangements, and meal reimbursements, although you may receive a per diem and pay some of your expenses from those funds.

Contact state grant-making agencies

Like federal grant makers, state grant program staff are public servants who should be ready and willing to answer your questions about becoming a peer reviewer for state agency grants.

Call everyone you can and take notes on whom you spoke with, the date of the conversation, and the results of your inquiry. If you hit a dead end, call the governor’s office for assistance. Ask if the office has a website link to connect with all the state’s grant-making agencies without doing a site-by-site check.

Most state grant-making agencies are strapped for cash and probably won’t pay you for participating in the peer review process.

Reach out to your municipal grant makers

Start at the top by contacting the mayor’s or county commissioner’s office. Find out the name and contact information for departments with public grant-making staffs. Most municipalities have Community Development Block Grant funds that they regrant. Some municipalities have neighborhood development programs that award grants to neighborhood block clubs, and others give out cash through their community funds.

Lots of peer review opportunities are available in local units of municipal government. To stake a claim on one of them, offer to help wade through the masses of incoming grant applications, even if your city has no funds to pay you for your assistance.

Polish your résumé with the right credentials

Freshen up your résumé by using to your advantage the descriptors found in grant-making agencies’ peer reviewer requests. Here’s an example of a typical call for a peer reviewer:

Mentoring Program of the Drug Free and Safe Schools Office — Areas of Expertise Required: mentoring of children, design, safeguards, and administration of mentoring programs for children.

To have a better shot at securing this peer review opportunity, you’d want to incorporate the terms listed under “Areas of Expertise Required” when updating your résumé.

E-mail your credentials to key contacts monthly

Don’t be afraid to contact the folks who select peer reviewers. In fact, you should contact them on a monthly basis, at minimum. Be tenacious, and be sure to have an updated résumé with your professional credentials for all agencies to review and keep.

If at any time, an agency staff person seems irritated at your aggressive approach to being included in the peer review process, back off and try another agency. Wait at least three months before approaching the “tired of hearing from you” agency contact again. After all, you aren’t the only one calling.

Enhance your credibility as a thorough reviewer

If you have keen eyes and can easily spot typographical errors, a great way to build your credibility among grant-making agencies is to notify them in writing when you find glaring errors in their publications. Make sure to fully describe the errors and include your contact information and credentials. You want the agencies to know that you’re reading their publications and that you’re familiar with grant guidelines or RFP instructions.

Get in the door with smaller grant makers

Many times small, local funders such as community foundations, bank trust departments, and smaller corporations that contribute to community causes don’t have specific grant guidelines. The fact that they often receive tons of irregularly formatted grant requests calls to their attention the need for clarity and consistency. Use your local United Way to identify these smaller players in the grant-making arena.

Attend technical assistance workshops

All types of funding agencies have technical assistance workshops. These workshops provide insider tips on how to research and write a winning grant application. Try to attend up to six of these local and regional workshops each year to get the latest scoop from program officers on what’s in and what’s out when it comes to applying for grant-funding opportunities.

Network with decision makers

Most anyone can get heavy media coverage when hosting a fundraising event, open house, conference, or some other public event related to making money decisions. As a result, your local daily newspaper can be a source of info. Read it religiously and start planning to attend meetings, conferences, and other community or state-level events that the folks who make the decisions about funding or grant requests attend.

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