It is often necessary and beneficial to contact a sponsor's program officer in advance of submitting a proposal to ask questions or learn more about project fit. However, this can be an uncomfortable task. Reference the guidance below to follow best practices for contacting a funding sponsor program officer.

If you are looking for NSF-specific guidance, see these tips from the agency.

Background Research and Initial Contact

  • Find the right contact! The program officer or contact for a specific funding opportunity can often be found in the solicitation. RIO can also help - email
  • Review information on the program officer and their portfolio - familiarize yourself with their role and interests.
  • Start with an email to the program officer requesting a phone meeting to discuss your questions or project fit. Make sure to include the following in your email:
    • A paragraph (one page maximum) describing your proposed idea or project (i.e., project summary, objectives, impact) in a compelling way, tailored to the program and agency.
    • A list of questions on which you would appreciate their input. This will help the program officer get a sense of the information you are looking for, and how best to answer your questions in advance.

For the Call and Follow-Up

  • Dress appropriately - business attire, even if the meeting is virtual.
  • Allow the program officer to talk about their program and issues of concern.
  • Prepare questions, listen to answers and take notes.
  • Offer to serve as a reviewer where appropriate.
  • Send thank you emails following meeting and highlight next steps or follow-up actions.