How to Request Peer Review Comments When Your Government Grant Application is Rejected
If your grant application was rejected by a state or federal funding agency, you’re entitled to review the grant reviewer’s comments under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Unfortunately, if you’re rejected by a foundation or corporate giving entity, you probably won’t receive any reviewer’s comments, and you can’t use the FOIA to get them.
Government agencies, especially federal ones, typically send a summary sheet with the section scores and an overview of strengths and weaknesses for each application section. If you receive a rejection notice from a state or federal funding agency that doesn’t include such a summary, or if the summary doesn’t give you enough information, write a letter requesting the peer reviewers’ comments (each federal grant application usually has three peer reviewers).
When you use the FOIA, you receive the federal peer reviewers’ actual written comments and scores (the points they bestowed on each narrative section in your grant application).
In order to invoke the FOIA, your letter should include the following information, at a minimum, to assist the funding agency in locating your requested documents:
The name of the federal funding agency from which you’re seeking the information: This name must be in the address section of the letter and on your envelope. You can also e-mail your letter to the granting agency’s contact person. You can usually find the contact person’s e-mail address in the grant application announcement or on the funding agency’s website.
The letter must include the application identification code: At the federal level, the agency’s application control center assigns an identifying number to your incoming grant application. You receive this number after uploading your grant application via the Grants.gov e-grant system online.
Address your letter to the funding agency program officer listed as the contact person in the grant application guidelines. On the envelope and at the top of your FOIA letter or in the subject line of your e-mail message, write “Freedom of Information Act Request.” Keep a copy of your request; you may need it in the event of an appeal or if your original request isn’t answered.
Federal agencies are required to answer your request for information within ten working days of receipt. If you don’t receive a reply by the end of that time frame, you may write a follow-up letter or call the agency to ask about the delay.
Other government agencies have their own set time frames for replies. Calling and asking before writing your letter is the best way to find out how long you should wait for a reply.
You can try to contact the funding agency’s program officer to request written feedback on your failed grant application. However, if you don’t receive your feedback in 90 days or less via e-mail or mail, begin to formulate your FOIA letter.