Is One of Your Professional Goals for 2019 to Serve as a Grant Reviewer?

(This post originally appeared on GPA's blog on November 13th, 2018)

The pile of proposals to read was daunting. A caffeinated beverage was in one hand, a yellow highlighter and pen in the other. I sat at the dining room table in my apartment wondering what I had signed up for. In the end, some proposals took multiple reads to understand the purpose of the funding and were marked up with question marks and highlighter. Other proposals were crystal clear and were only marked up with exclamation marks of excitement in the margin.

In my first cycle of serving as a grant reviewer, which was well before online grant applications were anything more than a beta tested dream, I had a tall stack of hard copy proposals and attachments to read through in one weekend to be prepared for the meeting at the state agency offices on Monday.

Fast forward to serving as a grant reviewer today, and it may now be a file folder full of pdf files to read and notate electronically, but there is still a caffeinated beverage in hand and an electronic highlighter ready to highlight my questions.

Regardless of what specific process a grant professional has the opportunity to serve as a grant reviewer in, whether community foundation, state, federal, or other, the professional development benefit is significant.

Serving as a grant reviewer provides the following benefits to your work as a grant professional:

  • Helps you to experience how you react to different presentation styles;
  • Widens your perspective to see how a diverse group of reviewers react to the same proposal and what common threads of feedback are provided;
  • Strengthens your understanding of the grant review process by letting you see first hand how one process works; and
  • Serves as an opportunity to be inspired by exceptional proposals from other grant professionals.

Now of course, as Philanthropy News Digest published in July of 2018, “If You've Met One Foundation…You've Met One Foundation.” So while serving as a grant reviewer for one grantmaker means you now have a great deal of clarity about the behind the scenes process for *that* grantmaker, you are not able to assume that you can directly apply all those experiences to the next grantmaker. However, you can apply many of the general lessons, and in particular, walk away with the lessons of how you reacted and how your peers in the review process reacted. As a result, the strength of your proposals will be improved overall, and ultimately, the funding success for your organization will reflect your increased competitiveness in the process.

Looking for some more convincing that serving as a reviewer should be a professional goal for 2019? I shared a bit more about the benefit of being a grant reviewer in this video here.

Looking for some ideas on where and how to become a reviewer? Judy Riffle, Ph.D. shared a post here with specific sites to apply through to be considered for federal grant review opportunities.
What steps can you take in the upcoming year to strengthen your work as a grant professional by participating as a grant reviewer?

About the Author

Diane H Leonard

Diane H. Leonard, GPC is an experienced and respected grant professional who has provided grant development counsel to nonprofit organizations of varying size and scope for more than a decade. Clients she serves include health care providers, advocacy organizations, social services agencies, elementary and secondary schools, and municipal corporations.

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