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Jana Jane Hexter

About Jana

Getting Feedback

Getting turned down stinks – especially when it was a large government proposal that you put your heart and soul into. But there is light at the end of every tunnel so pick yourself up off the ground and go seek feedback.

Most public sector agencies use an independent review process that requires reviewers to make written comments about the proposals they score. Some of the comments are quite extensive. By getting a copy of the reviewer’s comments you can get a good sense of why you weren’t funded.

Agencies give feedback in different ways. For government agencies they fall into one of four categories:

  1. automatically send you the reviewer’s comments or access to them when they send you the ding letter.
  2. supply the comments upon request.
  3. program officers will send you the comments upon request and then schedule a meeting to go over them with you.
  4. will not send you the written comments but will review them with you over the phone.

There is a fifth category but this sets off all my alarm bells. Some agencies, even though publicly funded by our tax dollars, will not give you any feedback. This is rare.

To me, it speaks of two things. First, it is a smack in the face to open government and accountability for how our tax dollars are allocated. Getting off my soapbox, I think it is also a sign that the agency is either politically embroiled or poorly run.

Either way, they will certainly be a nightmare in terms of grants management. So, if you find an agency like this, you can just thank your lucky stars that you were turned down and have saved yourself from some mighty stress headaches.

If you get a rejection letter but no feedback write to the program officer and ask for a copy of the written reviewer’s comments and the opportunity to review them with him or her. That way, you create the possibility of getting double feedback even if it is not their standard operating procedure. The worst that can happen is that they say they don’t schedule such meetings.

Foundations rarely give access to written comments but sometimes program officers will give you feedback. I have found that 9 times of out 10 they simply say “Look we had 900 proposals and funded 20 – try again next year.”


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