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SEA Affiliate Week: The Benefits of Being A Grant Reviewer by Dr. Moya Alfonso

**This post is part of ‘Best of aea365’ – an occasional look back to posts we think are worth another look. This article was originally posted in a previous year when subscribership was much lower.**

My name is Moya Alfonso, and I’m an Assistant Professor at Georgia Southern University and University Sector Representative and Board Member for the Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA), a regional affiliate of the American Evaluation Association (AEA).

So, you need to improve (or develop) your grant writing skills and perform service. A perfect way to address both of these needs is to serve as a grant reviewer!

Lesson Learned: I have honed my grant writing skills by reviewing for local nonprofits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Education, and learning what is expected and seeing the mistakes made by others.  At the same time, I performed an important service to the fields of public health and educational research and evaluation.

Hot Tip: Select the Right Opportunity. When looking for opportunities to be a grant reviewer, consider where your strengths lie. If you’re a program evaluator with a background in education, for example, the Department of Education might be a good place to start. Targeting opportunities will increase your odds of being selected for a review panel – even if you are new to reviews.

Hot Tip: Know What You’re Getting Into. So you’ve found an opportunity that is right up your alley. Now what? It’s time to determine logistics. If detailed information is not provided in the call for reviewers, contact the review administrator about in-person versus remote reviews, estimates of time required, number of applications assigned, grant review dates or time periods, and travel reimbursement or stipends.

Hot Tip: Be Critical Yet Constructive. There’s nothing worse than receiving a “Great Job!” back from a reviewer. No one is perfect. Read (and reread) each application with an eye toward both its strengths and weaknesses. Keep feedback constructive; there is no room for personal insults in grant reviews.

Hot Tip: Know You’re Not Alone. Grant reviewers typically serve on panels comprised of individuals with a variety of perspectives and skill sets. You are not expected to know everything! Feel free to draw upon the wisdom of your grant review administrator and your fellow reviewers.

Hot Tip: Don’t Trust Technology. Technology is amazing – when it works! When completing reviews, you will likely need to learn new technology to complete your reviews. Don’t trust it! Perform your reviews in a word processing program, save your files to your computer, and use the copy and paste functions to complete your reviews.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating SEA Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the Southeast Evaluation Association. All of the blog contributions this week come from our SEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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