Review Process


The proposal review process outlined below is for a one-stage proposal review. For two-stage review, the screening, proposal review, and review meeting may occur twice – once for brief proposals, then again for full proposals. After the first review meeting for the brief proposals, the NPO emails invitations for full proposals and issues turndown emails.


Proposal Screening and Review Preparation

The National Program Office (NPO) staff, or RWJF program staff when NPOs are not involved, will conduct an initial screening for eligibility and fit with program goals before proposals are sent out for external review – particularly in the case of brief proposals. Usually the number of full proposals we invite and review is two to three times the number of grants we plan to fund. Likewise, the number of brief proposals sent for review is two to three times the number of full proposals we expect to invite.


NAC Proposal Review and NAC Review Meeting

We use a National Advisory Committee (NAC) and other expert reviewers in competitive review processes primarily for two purposes:

  1. to use the expertise of a broad set of experts in assessing program fit; and
  2. to ensure a fair and externally-based selection process.

NAC or External Reviewer

Overall the role of NAC or external reviewer panels in a competitive proposal review process is to assess the merits of each proposal based on program criteria set out by the CFP, make site visits to applicant organizations as appropriate, and then discuss the comparative merits across all applicants, following the RWJF Statement for NPO and Reviewers on Conflicts of Interest and Confidentiality.

NAC Chair

The NAC Chair role is to manage the committee’s deliberations toward a final set of recommendations to the Foundation.Typical Reviewers include: two NAC members and one NPO staff member. Often, but not always, a RWJF staff member reviews proposals (less often Letters of Intent). Sometimes additional reviewers are used for their content expertise.


To prepare for a NAC Review Meeting, the director will send the program officer and NAC members a list of applicant organizations and proposed program directors, and guidelines for proposal scoring.


Site Visits

After NAC Review, site visits with promising applicants are conducted by the director and Foundation program officers. One or more NAC members may also attend.


RWJF Group Director Approval and Foundation Review

NAC identifies the finalists and the NPO will notify the Foundation program officer of NAC’s recommendations. The NPO should prepare a summary of the recommended projects. The Program Officer will review and forward to Group Director for approval. Once Group Director approval has been received, the TC will request the NPO to submit an executive summary for each recommended site. Once executive summaries are received, the Foundation will begin due diligence review.


Notification and Follow-Up with Applicants and Grantees

A letter from the Foundation will be mailed to successful applicants with copies sent to the NPO. Until this letter is sent, applicants are considered “finalists subject to approval,” NOT grantees. The NPO is responsible for contacting grantees to describe how the NPO will work with them. NPOs are also responsible for notifying applicants whose projects will not be funded.


COI Guidance for Staff and Reviewers


The Foundation values its reputation and seeks to ensure that we do our work in a way that is consistent—both in fact and appearance—with our guiding principles. We are mindful that the appearance of a conflict can be as damaging to the Foundation as the existence of an actual conflict.