We have mentioned in one of our earlier reports on grant writing how invaluable the knowledge that becoming a peer reviewer for a federal agency giving out grants can give. The fact that you will have “inside information” of how a particular agency wants you to rate each application will only deepen your understanding of the grant writing process which will, in return, make you a more effective grant writer. Becoming a peer reviewer will also enhance your career, making you one of the most sought after experts in your field.
That being said, it is up to you to look for opportunities to become a peer reviewer for government grantmaking agencies. The pay may not be much (and you might even be shelling out of your own pocket for certain expenses) but the experience and understanding you will gain will be payment enough. If you feel you’re up to the challenge and if your resume reflects education and experience that government agencies giving out grant awards will potentially find interest in then you should do what you can to secure a job as a peer reviewer. We know that is no easy task so in the paragraphs that follow, we give you ten tips on ways that you can become a peer reviewer.
1. Get in touch with your elected officials in Washington.
If there is anyone who knows what federal grantmaking agencies need peer reviewers, it is the representatives you elect. Hopefully, you will have built a good working relationship with them in the past so that your senator himself or herself or his or her staff will be amiable enough to give you these valuable information. Even if you don’t know them personally yet, still make that call and ask about possible peer review opportunities that they might have knowledge of. Be sure to give them a copy of your resume as well so that they know what your qualifications are.
2. Call up federal grantmaking agencies.
You can get in touch with any of the federal grantmaking agencies to ask about how you can apply for and qualify as one of their peer reviewers for any of their specific funding opportunities. Potential agencies that you can give a call to are the following: 1) Agency for International Development, 2) Appalachian Regional Commission, 3) Broadcasting Board of Governors, 4) Bureau of Reclamation – South Central CA Area Ofc, 5) Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, 6) Corporation for National and Community Service, 7) Department of Agriculture, 8) Department of Commerce, 9) Department of Defense, 10) Department of Education, 11) Department of Energy, 12) Department of Energy – Office of Science, 13) Department of Health and Human Services, 14) Department of Homeland Security, 15) Department of Housing and Urban Development, 16) Department of Justice, 17) Department of Labor
Department of State, 18) Department of Transportation, 19) Department of Veterans Affairs, 20) Department of the Interior, 21) Department of the Treasury, 22) Election Assistance Commission, 23) Energy Cluster Program, 24) Environmental Protection Agency, 25) Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, 26) General Services Administration, 27) Institute of Museum and Library Services, 28) Institute of Peace, 29) James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation, 30) Japan-United States Friendship Commission, 31) Marine Mammal Commission, 32) Millennium Challenge Corporation, 34) National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 35) National Archives and Records Administration, 36) National Council on Disability, 37) National Credit Union Administration, 38) National Endowment for the Arts, 39) National Endowment for the Humanities, 40) National Science Foundation, 41) Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 42) Office of National Drug Control Policy, 43) Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 44) President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, 45) Small Business Administration, 46) Social Security Administration, and 47) Woodrow Wilson Center. Their contact information can be found on the A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies (http://www.usa.gov/directory/federal/index.shtml).
3. Call up state grantmaking agencies.
Aside from federal grantmaking agencies, you can explore your options to become a peer reviewer in grantmaking agencies in your state. You can ask your governor’s office for help if you’re new to the field. The only downside with being a peer reviewer for state agencies is that it won’t be as lucrative and you will most likely be paying for your own travel expenses. If federal grantmaking agencies pay anywhere from $100 to $300 to its reviewers per day and takes care of all your travel, food, and hotel expenses, state agencies may not even shell out a per diem and will leave you to foot your own bills.
4. Explore opportunities for municipal grantmaking agencies.
You can also become a peer reviewer at the local government level for your city or county grantmaking agencies. Get in touch with the office of your mayor or county commissioner for assistance to find more information on how you can become one. Just like a peer reviewing stint at state agencies, you may have to provide your services for free but the experience will be invaluable.
5. Use the keywords found in the agency’s call for peer reviewers.
Before you submit your resume to an agency looking for peer reviewers, be sure to revise it in such a way that it reflects the main keywords found in the agency announcement. Usually, you’ll find the most important keywords that you also need to use in the “Areas of Expertise” required in the announcement. Then you can use those same terms in your resume to increase your chances of getting picked.
6. Keep in touch with your agency contacts.
As much as possible, keep in close touch on a monthly basis (or more, if possible) to all the contacts you have at the different federal, state, and municipal grantmaking agencies. Always have an updated resume with you at all times. If you have developed good rapport with them, they will not be irritated at your persistence so being courteous and polite at all times is a must. However, if there are those who show signs of irritability at your constant calling, give them a short reprieve and try following up with other agencies. You can get back to that agency in three or four months or if you are really sure that there is a peer reviewer opening.
7. Be credible.
When you do become a peer reviewer, show that agency that you are credible by giving a thorough review. Be very exacting not only in terms of the content of the proposal but the grammar, spelling, and punctuation as well. This will give them the impression that you are serious and professional in your work. You don’t even have to confine your corrections to proposals you are reviewing but even to publications of the agency that you happen to read. Tell the agency in writing of the errors you see in any of their publications. This will certainly get you remembered so that the grantmaking agency will be the one to seek your expertise in case they have proposals that need to be reviewed.
8. Consider working with smaller funding sources.
Local community foundations and small corporations who also give back to the community through grant awards usually do not have regular peer reviewers or even a set of grant proposal guidelines. Thus, they are the ones that also need peer reviewers to help them sort the many applications they receive year after year. Try to get hold of the names of these “small-timers” in the grant funding arena in your area and ask to meet with the person in charge of their corporate giving program. During your meeting, try to find answers for such questions as the number of funding requests they receive each year; whether they have a review staff or not and if they have, how many members are there; and if there is a way for you to help them with reviewing application proposals. These kinds of queries will help open doors to make you a peer reviewer for these smaller funding sources.
9. Meet potential contacts by attending technical assistance workshops.
Technical assistance workshops are given by various funding agencies to help grant writers craft winning application packages. While the topics are indeed helpful, especially for those who are newbies in the grant writing business, another reason why you want to regularly attend these gatherings is to meet potential contacts. Be ready with your calling card and approach the program staff to tell them that you want to become one of their peer reviewers. By establishing this kind of contact with any of the staff of an agency, you are more likely going to get a warm reception when you call them up next time to ask for peer reviewer openings.
10. Establish networks with big-time decision-makers.
Read newspapers to get clues on where the key decision-makers are, especially where grant monies are concerned. Usually, they will be the key speakers or even hosts of fundraisers, open houses, and conferences. Find a way to be in these events and using your charm (hopefully you have that in good measure) and good luck (even more of these), try to get introduced to politicians and agency heads. Establishing these kinds of networks will pay off when you’re looking for peer reviewer opportunities.
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