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How to Work with an Evaluator during the Pre-award Phase

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

By Courtney Hagan

Research Associate

Congratulations for deciding to create and submit an application for a grant opportunity! While this is an exciting time, filled with multiple possibilities, it may also be a stressful time, filled with endless inquiries. The evaluator you have invited into the pre-award phase is here to help make this time period a little less stressful. As a project director shared,

"it's like having a thought partner with you through the process."

Below are five tips to work with your evaluator during the submission process.

Tip #1 - Contact the evaluator early in the process.

When you decide to pursue a funding opportunity, reach out to the evaluator to share your intention to submit a proposal. Inquire if the evaluator has time to support your proposal preparation by contributing the evaluation section that would be needed by a particular date. Remember to back that date up from the due date, as often it takes time to route a completed proposal through an organization’s various departments for signatures. Also, let the evaluator know when you anticipate having a solid draft of the goals, objectives, and project activities ready.

Tip #2 - Share your application materials.

To give your evaluator a sense of the scope of your project, the timeline, and the goals/objectives, send your evaluator your grant application materials as you are writing them. A well-developed abstract works quite well in combination with the funder's solicitation, especially the evaluation and reporting requirements. It can be useful to use a shared folder. This helps the evaluator to develop the evaluation approach and logic model (if the application calls for it).

Tip #3 - Check in frequently with your evaluator.

While this may be a hectic time trying to ensure that deadlines are met and that the application is well-written, periodic check-ins with your evaluator ensure communication pathways are open and strong for the dynamic process of the pre-award phase. This is especially vital if a significant change occurs to the planned goals that were previously communicated. As a long-time higher education SEG client reflected, these:

"Interactions are really helpful and valuable to think through what was going to happen and what kind of results we [would] get."

Tip #4 - Make the evaluator aware of deadlines and grant specifications.

Ensure that your evaluator knows your deadlines for their specified pieces of the grant application. Further, if there are grant award requirements or project-specific components that need to be highlighted, communicate that ahead of time to your evaluator as something to include throughout the application.

Tip #5 - Commit to contracting with the evaluator should your organization receive the grant.

If your evaluator is contributing their time and expertise to support your grant application, commit to contracting them should your organization receive a grant award. Request a cost proposal and negotiate their proposed post-award fee prior to finalizing your grant application budget. Always consult your procurement office before engaging an evaluator in the pre-award process.

Shaffer Evaluation Group is a trusted partner in evaluation. This partnership starts at pre-award and continues throughout the grant's life cycle. If you're planning to submit a grant application and require an evaluation partner, please contact us at


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