Understand the Review Process

Grant applications receive a comprehensive review, conducted by a panel of independent subject matter experts who are selected from a group of qualified individuals to become grant reviewers and/or a panel chairperson. 

Applications are reviewed by at least three reviewers, who separately score the application according to evaluation criteria found in Section V.1 of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).  Each panel also has a chairperson that does not score applications, but facilitates the review process with reviewers and compiles comments for the Applicant Panel Summary report.  This report describes the consensus of the panel reviewers’ comments and the overall average score for the application. The full panel reaches this summary based on individual reviews of each application according to the published evaluation criteria.

Evaluation criteria vary for each FOA, and applicants should refer to the specific FOA to which they are applying, but some common categories include:

  •  Objectives and Needs for Assistance;
  •  Approach;
  •  Program Performance Evaluation;
  •  Organizational Capacity; and
  •  Budget and Budget Justification.

If marked differences of opinion about an application exist among reviewers, the panel chairperson and reviewers will discuss the reasons for these differences and seek consensus.  Once reviewers have reached consensus, the chairperson will send the Applicant Panel Summary report to the federal staff member overseeing the panel.  The federal staff member reviews comments to ensure that they correspond to the appropriate published FOA evaluation criteria and substantiate the score on the Applicant Panel Summary report.  Once approved by the federal staff member, the final score for each application is sent to the program office for consideration in making their funding decisions. 

In 2013, ACF implemented a new policy that requires all applicants, whether successful or unsuccessful, to receive a copy of their Applicant Panel Summary Report.  The Applicant Panel Summary Report includes the average score and a compilation of the reviewer's strengths and weakness statements on all criteria from the reviewed FOA.  This information may be helpful as constructive feedback for future applications specific to that program. 

Next Step:  What to Expect After Application Submission


The content on this page is for informational purposes and should not be construed as instructions for submitting an application.  Please refer to the Funding Opportunity Announcement of interest for detailed instructions.


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