037: How to Become a Grant Reviewer

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Hey there ChangeMaker!

Did you know that you can make money while becoming a better grant writer? What?! Yes, indeed. It still is a job and takes work - a very intense, short period of work at that - but it can be done.

You can also learn about the federal grant process and meet other specialists. How? By becoming a federal grant reviewer. What’s that?

A peer grant reviewer, for federal grants, is someone who is not a federal employee and who has experience as a peer in the topic of the grant. For example, if you have experience working with clients at a substance abuse recovery program, and there is a federal grant for substance abuse projects from SAMHSA, then you may be able to apply to be a grant reviewer for that particular grant. You do have to go through an application process and be selected by the federal agency that will be reviewing this grant. If selected, you are hired as a contractor.

So let’s break this down so you can see how you can make money while 10xing your game as a grant writer.


Who can become a peer grant reviewer?

A peer grant reviewer for a federal grant is someone who has the skills, experience, and (possibly) education in the interest area that the grant is being awarded. There are 20 federal grant making agencies and under them there are 900 grant programs. This means there are many opportunities to become a grant reviewer! If you already work at a nonprofit, then your chances increase, as the likelihood of having some sort of association with a grant program exists.

You definitely do not have to have a PhD, or advanced degree, to be a grant reviewer. You just need to have experience within the grant program. For example, if you work in a substance abuse shelter for women, as a project coordinator, then you may be eligible to be a federal peer reviewer for certain SAMHSA grants. It just really depends on what experience or education you have in that particular field.


How it works

Each agency works a bit differently, but the general layout is the following:

1) Apply online to be a federal peer reviewer on the agency website

2) Register for the online portal to receive, review, and score grant applications

3) Review all grant applications and submit a non-conflict of interest policy

4) Review all grants using the score criteria provided by the federal agency


5) Submit all scoring narrative and scores on the internal portal

6) Work on the phone or in person with a panel of at least two other peer reviewers and one lead chair facilitator

7) Talk about each score and have to provide adequate justification of your scoring. In many cases you will negotiate scores with other panelists

8) Update all scores and narrative and resubmit to the online portal

9) Receive a check!

You can see how this process will help you understand how to be a better grant writer as you will go through the ‘other side of the grass’ process.

Grant Reviewers Are Subjective

The process is interesting, as the federal government really tries to make it as objective as possible. The issue is that we are human so there will be some subjective-ness. For example, you may receive around 14 grants and have a week to review them on your own and then panel them for three days. This is super intense, as I have been on review panels where each application takes three hours to just panel on the phone. This clearly does not take into account the three hours spent reviewing it independently, then the two hours posting scores and narrative justifications on the online portal, and then the thirty minutes updating the scores and narratives after the panel discussion. Needless to say, this is a very intense and completed in a very short period of time.

As a grant writer you understand the weeks and months of preparation that go into writing a grant so as a grant reviewer you really need to put in the time to fairly and justly review the grant. As a grant reviewer, you may get very tired reading grant applications. You will be annoyed if the grant applications do not include headings based on the scoring criteria and then have to spend hours searching around for information. As a grant writer, you should be mindful of this and ALWAYS look at the grant scoring criteria and base your headings on the criteria. Make your grant as simple and as easy to follow as possible. This will score you points as you will have the very pleasant grant application.

Summed Up

If you want to become a better grant writer and understand the grant process while getting paid, then you should become a federal grant reviewer.

Simply type into Google, or an online search engine, “Become a Federal Peer Reviewer” and you will find heaps of websites. Otherwise, search the different federal agency websites and look for “Peer Reviewer” to identify what the exact process is to become a peer reviewer. As stated, each federal agency grant program peer reviewer application process varies, so you need to visit them to find out the process.

Good luck!



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