If at First You Don't Succeed… Using Reviewer Feedback Effectively
Friday, October 15, 2010
Many agencies will provide unsuccessful applicants with reviewer comments, scoring criteria suggestions, and in-text corrections. The key is to take the commentary and apply it to the program, realize the possible downfalls of the program and adjust accordingly. If the applicant isn't provided with the declination letter, there are several ways to get into contact with the program authority for reviewer commentary. For federal programs, it is sometimes necessary to submit a Freedom of Information Act request (see details at http://www.state.gov/m/a/ips/) in order to receive the information.
Reviewer commentary can provide insight into why a particular project was not successful in the program - whether for the budget request, program design, evaluation, or, with rejected applications from foundations, if the project is simply not in line with the goals of the funding stream. Not only can the application be adjusted according to comments for annual programs and submitted again, but comments can also provide insight into the review process for other programs, which most likely would find similar downfalls in a particular application. Chances are, an uncorrected application will continue to experience failure if it is not tailored according to each particular funding opportunity and aligned with program goals.
Before submission for a second try, there are also steps that can be taken to ensure full consideration from a grantmaking agency. Much like the importance of having a third-party reviewer edit the proposal for grammatical and flow issues, outside members of the organization who are not directly involved in proposal development can act as mock reviewers and "score" an application. By not being involved in the actual writing process, outside members can provide a fresh set of eyes to review the proposal. Using scoring criteria, provided in most federal and state programs, and comparing them side-by-side with the draft application can highlight sections that do not completely fulfill requirements so that adjustments can be made before the application is submitted.
While there is no guarantee that an application will be funded even if pre-submission scoring is performed and reviewer commentary is incorporated, it is much more likely that a proposal will meet baseline requirements if these steps are taken. Instead of throwing the unsuccessful application in the trash, adjust, move forward, and make the next submission that much more in-line with a grantor's expectations.