Grant Writing

A Complete Guide to Approaching Your Grant Program Officer

Contacting the program officer is one of the most important steps, and is also one of the most commonly overlooked pieces of grant application writing. The program officer is a scientific or medical expert and is responsible for recommendations to the review committee and funding agency about funding decisions. Scientific review officers are responsible for organizing the review committee and assigning reviewers to your proposal. You cannot afford to not have these people on your side!

  • Stop and Consider: Once you have your idea worked out and you have a one-page specific aims document that clearly and concisely captures the beauty of your idea, send a copy of the specific aims and a cover letter to the program officer.
  • Finding your Program Officer:
    • Depending on the agency, you can find the program officer for your funding announcement on the agency’s website.
    • Locate the field or topic area on the funding agency’s website and identify the program officer in charge of that field. Then locate a recent grant winner with a similar field and match the program officer to verify.
  • In the Cover Letter:
    • Introduce yourself as an investigator.
    • Briefly explain your project.
    • Identify the funding announcement you are planning to apply for including the submission deadline.
    • Ask what funding announcement they believe would be a good fit for both your research proposal idea and you as an investigator.
  • In the Specific Aims:
    • Introductory Paragraph
    • What, Why, Who Paragraph
    • Specific Aims Paragraph
    • Payoff Paragraph
  • Sending the Initial Letter:
    • When you have identified your program officer, there should be an email and/or phone number listed, or information on how to get in touch with that person. You can also usually find this information on the funding announcement as well.
    • It is best to prepare an initial communication that simply asks them to review the information, and that you will contact them in a week to set up a time to discuss your application.
  • Communication Moving Forward:
    • Maintain contact with the program officer at all times throughout the application writing process.
    • Communicate any significant changes in the research proposal, and ensure you are aware of any scientific, funding, and programmatic changes from the funding agency.

Further Reading