More time, more money, more frustration. As CME providers know all too well, pharmaceutical companies' new grant application processes, created in response to the regulatory environment, have made it much more difficult to get commercial support. Lori Foley, director, corporate development at the American Academy of Family Physicians, Leawood, Kan., shared her frustrations and strategies in a presentation at the American Society of Association Executives annual meeting in Chicago in August.

Her team now has to work a lot harder to keep up the level of funding. In 2001, she said, AAFP applied for 88 CME grants and got 87 of them. In 2006, to get roughly the same amount of money, the organization had to double its applications, applying for 163 grants and receiving funding for about 85 percent of them. In 2007, in the first quarter alone, AAFP applied for 167 grants.

To handle the volume and complexity of the grant process, AAFP has doubled the staff in the corporate development office, adding a full-time grant writer, legal staff, and other positions. Before, they had two people seeking grants and one attorney reviewing applications when necessary.

She offered providers several tips.

Do your homework. Before submitting an application, check the company Web site to make sure it specializes in the therapeutic area your activity focuses on. Even if it does, funding in that area might not be available or might be “closed out” for the year, so Foley encourages people to use the toll-free numbers that companies provide to ask if funding is available in a particular area.

Create a database. Foley recommends that associations set up an online grant database. In the AAFP database, her team tracks “every single nuance” for the different companies and their grant application processes, because they are all different. The database includes URLs, phone numbers, the format of the letters of agreement, whether or not the company pays for overhead (or just a portion of it), therapeutic areas or areas where funding has been provided in the past, contact people for questions on submitting, copies of past grant applications, how much time and money was spent on the application, etc. “It's a very helpful resource because you don't have to keep reinventing the wheel every time you apply for a grant,” she said.