Probably the most beneficial thing I’ve ever done as a grant writer is to volunteer to read and score grants. I highly recommend this strategy for anyone who wants to learn how to write a grant. Where else can you be educated, bored, entertained, aggravated, pampered, and condescended to all in one week?
I’ve been invited to read grants by state and federal government agencies. These agencies brought a group of us all together in one place – usually a hotel – and we’d be put up in rooms and given a stipend to cover our costs.
To read the grants we were given group training and organized into “triads”, groups of three as you may guess. One person with previous experience was elevated as the leader of the triad and usually had a larger room with a little dining area or a couch and chairs. This person organized the triad’s reading, hosted the scoring reviews, picked up and dropped off proposals and scoring forms, and generally attempted to ensure that the group accomplished what it was supposed to accomplish; namely, read and score a certain number of grants over a period of days.
Here are a few of the many reasons this experience is so instructive:
- You are given detailed training by the agency staff on the important points of the grant program. This is useful if you ever want to submit a grant to that program;
- The process entails carefully scoring proposals according to the agency criteria, then comparing your scores to the other members of the triad. Usually there is a predetermined tolerance for score meaning all scores must be within a specified range. When a score falls outside the range, the triad must “discuss” why a certain score was given and make adjustments to move the scores closer together. This can be horrific if a genetically recalcitrant person is part of your triad – I’ve experienced one or two very long weeks of grant reading with people who were never subsequently included on my Christmas card list;
- You get out of town, take a plane ride, meet new people, stay in a nice hotel (usually), and meet government employees (can be fun or fascinating);
- You’ll see some truly fabulous writing that may make you feel rather incompetent – and it doesn’t take a Steinbeck to inspire me (although he does);
- You’ll also get to see some truly hideous writing that makes you feel better about your own – I even feel better about my serial hacking of grammar (lamented by many would-be English teachers).
In summary, there are more pros than cons to being a grant reader so by all means go and do it if you’re serious about becoming a good grant writer. In a compressed time and through hands-on experience you’ll get a great education about good grant writing.
How to Be a Better Grant Writer (Part 1)
How to be a Better Grant Writer (Part 2)
The Value of Readers' Comments
Is There a Formula for Grant Writing Success?