The Case

Ned Naïve, business strategist for Pure Medical School, has been tasked with increasing grant funding for the CME department and other academic units within the university. Ned is excited to learn of Government Grant Resources, a company that helps educational organizations obtain government funding. GGR charges a nonrefundable fee of $5,000 for identifying funding opportunities and drafting grant requests, and then assesses a fee of 5 percent of the grant when (and if) it is approved for funding. He schedules a call with GGR and is pleasantly surprised to learn the company has an 85 percent success rate. Ned thinks he has found an answer to his problem and eagerly schedules meetings with Pure's CME director and other medical school leaders who have requested assistance with obtaining additional funding.

Cyndi Cynic, the CME director, is leery of this opportunity because colleagues have shared horror stories about grant services companies that initially sounded too good to be true. On the other hand, she is struggling to enhance her CME program and to decrease reliance on funding from pharmaceutical companies, and so she decides to look more deeply into this opportunity. She conducts a quick Google search to learn about GGR and finds little information on the company, other than a Better Business Bureau rating of C- for the parent company of GGR. She is discouraged but doesn't want to give up quite yet.

Too Good to be True?

How should Cyndi proceed?

Overstreet: Cyndi is wise to evaluate all the options — she is in the same boat with many CME providers who need to diversify their funding streams. However, she needs to be cautious and investigate the opportunity carefully and completely.

Parochka: Although Cyndi needs additional financial resources, she should approach this situation with skepticism. It's important that she create a list of detailed questions and participate with Ned in an upcoming call with GGR so she doesn't have to rely on Ned's translation of the conversation. She should determine what the fees include, how they are calculated, and when specifically they are assessed. And she should ask about the qualifications of the grant writers and request copies of recent sample proposals.

How can providers assess potential partners and vendors?

Overstreet: Cyndi should reach out to her CME network and determine if her colleagues know about GGR. Using her personal contacts and listservs, she could ask for references and referrals for this and similar companies. GGR should of course be asked for a list of customers that can provide a reference.

Parochka: Cyndi should also ask Ned to obtain a copy of GGR's contractual agreement and request a content review by the University's Office of Grants and Contracts. In addition, she should remind Ned that the university requires proposals from at least three vendors before making any selection decisions.

Overstreet: In this case, it sounds as if GGR might be running a scam. A detailed search of the Internet might reveal newspaper articles about the deceptive practices of this organization. Although government grants may be a viable option for the medical school, Cyndi and Ned should look elsewhere for help in identifying funding. Reviewing www.fedbizopps.gov might be a good investment of their time.

Karen Overstreet, EdD, RPh, FACME, CCMEP, is executive director, Lippincott CME Institute, Wolters Kluwer Health Medical Research, Blue Bell, Pa. Reach her at Karen.Overstreet@wolterskluwer.com.

Jacqueline Parochka, EdD, FACME, is president and CEO, Excellence in Continuing Education Ltd., Gurnee, Ill; and partner, PTR Educational Consultants. Reach her at JacquelineParochka@comcast.net.

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