In last month’s column, I discussed the grant review process. This month, I’ll reveal how to become a grant reviewer. First, however, we should address the question: why become a reviewer?

I can identify several benefits from my own experiences. When I give presentations, I am always asked what happens between the time a proposal is submitted and the letter of funding or rejection arrives. Grant seekers want to know more about this “mysterious process” and who the “mysterious people” taking part in the scoring process are. I tell audiences that these “mysterious people” are the ones sitting in the seats next to them!

By taking part in the grant review process, I have learned what types of projects capture people’s attention and how people “look” at proposals. In other words, I have gained more knowledge of how to write about projects in a clear and concise manner and how to discuss a project on paper in a comprehensive way, illustrating that all aspects were carefully thought out and discussed during the project design and proposal development stages: the concept, objectives, daily activities, training, project staff, budget, and evaluation.

Discussing proposals’ strengths and weaknesses with other reviewers can give grant seekers better insight into project design and proposal development. Being a reviewer allows you to get to know program staff better; this gives you a clearer sense of what types of projects they want to fund and what staff members are looking for in winning proposals. Participating in a grant review before you apply will give you a heads-up on the types of proposals being submitted and the level of competition you will be up against when you submit your proposal.

Will you be compensated for being grant reader? Yes and no. Some programs compensate readers in the form of honorariums by covering travel expenses (lodging and meals), because being a reviewer might involve spending a few days in a state capital or federal building while you read and score proposals. Other programs offer no compensation for any expenses. Be sure to ask if you will be compensated for your time or expenses if you are thinking of becoming a reviewer. Your district might not want you to participate in a review that does not cover any expenses.

How can you find out about opportunities to become a reviewer? There are several ways:

• Program staffers at a Request for Proposal workshop sometimes announce that they will need reviewers for the upcoming competition and outline the process for applying during the workshop.

• The Department of Education’s listserv notifies subscribers about grant programs that are looking for reviewers. Specific instructions for applying are included or a contact person for further information is identified. To subscribe to the listserv, send the following eMail message to “subscribe edinfo-l [your name].” Leave the subject line blank.

• Contact program staff members for state or federal grant programs and ask if they are accepting applications from individuals who would like to be reviewers.

• Check the web sites of specific grant programs to see if they list information about becoming a reviewer.

• Contact your local United Way chapter or community foundation to see if they use a citizen review process to make funding decisions.

In most cases, you will have to document your knowledge or expertise in the particular field of the grant program, complete an application, and submit your resume. You will then be notified if you are selected to be a reader. For some programs, you will not be eligible to become a reader if your district is submitting a proposal for the competition. However, if you are eligible and are selected—and you can schedule the review process on your calendar—take advantage of the opportunity to be a reader. It’s well worth it!