Frustrated with finding funding for your continuing medical education activity? Tired of completing endless Web-based funding applications for pharmaceutical companies? You're not alone! To comply with Office of Inspector General rules, pharmaceutical companies, and to a lesser extent, device manufacturers, have begun requiring applicants for educational grants to complete detailed applications each time a grant is requested. While relationship selling is still in vogue at many pharmaceutical companies, the final decision is often left up to an independent grants committee and its decision is based on a set of metrics established by the company.

Here are some strategies to increase the effectiveness of your application process:

Step 1: Research the Marketplace

To decide which pharmaceutical company would align best with your educational activity, you must first understand the nature of the products they market and those that are in the pipeline. Make a list of educational activities you are planning and their corresponding disease state, and then go online to major pharmaceutical companies' Web sites and review their product areas of interest.

Step 2: Find the Right Funder

Next, go to each company's educational grant site and review their criteria for grant requests. Carefully review the areas of interest or “need” the company indicates. If your interests and their criteria do not line up, try another company.

Step 3: Sell Yourself

Your next job is to articulate your qualifications as an educator. (See the summary of the Alliance for CME's staff competencies document on our Web site, The critical elements in which you must demonstrate competency are needs assessment and outcomes evaluations. Demonstrate how you link the two together. Pharma companies' education departments are charged with investing in education that is within their sphere of interest, produces change in physician performance, and may contribute to the public's health.

Consider integrating professional and consumer education into a grant request. Direct-to-consumer promotions are down and under a cloud of suspicion, so companies are looking for alternative ways to have an effect on the consumer. If you can create a synergy between professional and consumer education, and you have the experience delivering to both audiences, you may have a winner! Performance improvement and point-of-care initiatives are a slow sell — but both are coming around. After all, PI activities are all about results, and we think the investment is well worth it. But you need to develop skills to plan and manage a PI activity.

Step 4: No Bloated Budgets

Pricing is a dicey area. Companies have developed pricing analyses by expense category. If you inflate your budget, you may be eliminated before you even get to the table. Companies are weary of undefined “management fees.” Detail your management fee so that it does not appear excessive and it is fair.

Grants over $1 million are far and few between in today's CME world. Unless your big budget request will make major changes in physician behavior and the health of the public, it may not be approved.

Step 5: Develop Relationships

Take the time to visit with those you intend to do business with to brief them on your capabilities. If they are familiar with you and have been impressed by what you can do, they will be more likely to warm up to your request for funding.

Steven M. Passin is president of the CME consulting firm Steve Passin & Associates LLC in Newtown Square, Pa. He has also served as deputy health secretary for California. Contact him by e-mail at Susan O'Brien is senior associate, Steve Passin & Associates LLC. Contact her at