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Contacting a Funding Agency

Why Contact a Program Officer?

To determine:

  • if you are eligible for the award

  • if your project fits into the mission and goals for the agency

  • if there are any recommendations for other funding tracks for your work

  • if and what kind of institutional support is needed or desired

How to Contact a Program Officer


  • this is usually the first way to contact a program officer
  • in the email include a half-page summary of your proposed project making sure to keep it concise and concrete with non-technical terminology
  • be sure to include the significance, main objective(s), methods and expected outcomes in your summary
  • also include how your work is unique compared to other research in your field and how it will contribute to your field or solve an existing problem
  • conclude with inquiry about whether or not your project would qualify for funding
  • if you receive an encouraging response from the program officer be sure to follow through quickly and contact the program officer again via telephone


Use this phone call to learn the important success factors and unofficial rules of the grant program to decide if your research is a target for funding and to help mold your proposal for a positive review

  • Things to Ask:
    • Does my project fall within your current priorities?
    • What would you recommend to improve my chances?
    • What are some of the common reasons for proposal rejections?
  • Things NOT to Ask:
    • Can you review my proposal before it’s submitted?
    • Do you like my idea/proposal?
    • Do you have examples of funded proposals?
    • Do you have recommendations of co-principle investigators for my project?
    • Would you serve on my advisory board?

  • Be sure to follow up with a short thank you email that gives you the opportunity to highlight the key points from the conversation


  • If you get the chance, meet up with the program officer because this will give him/her the opportunity to get to know you and your research better, and you will be able to better understand the process and how the agency works
  • This may not be a formal meeting because it could happen while visiting another campus, during a conference, or at an airport
  • Have a one-page summary, similar to the one in your email, ready to give out
  • Make sure to remember what kind of questions you should and shouldn’t ask when talking with a program officer (refer to the tips under “phone”)
  • Start by briefly describing your institution and research facility including what resources are available to you (lab, students, technology, ect.)
  • Ask about the history, focus, and funding priorities of the agency
  • Ask about the review process and its related timeline
  • Inquire about the possibility of serving on a review panel in the future (bring a one-page curriculum vitae with you)

Federal Relations

Florida State University contracts with legislative advocates in Washington, DC who can serve as a resource to the entire campus to facilitate interactions with the federal agencies and Congress. They can help you identify and connect with appropriate program officers in the federal research agencies. Reach out to Beth Hodges, director of ORD if you would like assistance in this area.


Florida State University Council on Research and Creativity - Funding Agency Travel (FAT) Program

This program supports faculty traveling to meet one-on-one with program managers or representatives of funding agencies or organizations.  These meetings must be directly related to a faculty member’s new program of research or creative activity for which they have yet to receive external funding.  The intent for this funding is that these visits will assist in establishing a relationship with the program manager, leading to repeated funding with that agency or organization.  This program provides up to $1,000 per award in travel funding.  Specifics appear in the official Request for Proposals. (Proposal Deadline: None; apply at least 14 days prior to intended travel)

Specific Agency Tips


  • Provide the program officer with multiple opportunities to understand your interests
  • Synthesize information between data on interventions/initiatives and your experience/readiness to mobilize resources and partnerships to address a particular issue


  • Learn programs’ funding priorities (use NSF Award Search to find projects similar to yours and determine directorates and program that match your work)
  • Have 2-3 basic ideas to discuss
  • Plan to contact multiple programs because several may be interested in your research topic
  • Inquire about the review processes of different disciplines and the programs histories
  • Inquire about submitting to the program RUI proposal


  • Contact the Scientific/Research contact of the Institute/Center that seems most appropriate for your research with a short project summary
  • Do not schedule a meeting near any cycle deadlines because the program officer will be very busy
  • Use these NIH etools to help guide you.

  • NIH RePORTER- Use Keyword Searches or Matchmaker to identify awarding components that have funded similar science

  • CSR Assisted Referral Tool- Use ART to identify CSR study sections that might be appropriate for review of your application The Center for Scientific Review organizes the review groups that evaluate the majority of the applications.  NIH proposals are reviewed in Study Sections or "Scientific Review Groups" (SRG).  Integrated Review Groups (IRGs) are study sections groups together based on scientific discipline. (Assignment Request Form and the Instructions and Official Notice)

A Panel Presentation advising faculty on how to handle a rejected proposal, including tips from a NIH Program Officer and senior faculty.

Your Program Officer most likely will not be an expert in your area.  Learn how to communicate your work to a general audience HERE.