What to Do When You Don’t Get the Grant

Grantseeking is not for the faint of heart. Since most grantmakers receive far more proposals than they can support, there’s a fair amount of rejection involved. “You can’t take it personally,” said Holly Thompson, contributing editor for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “You’ve got to learn what you can from rejection and cultivate a positive, persistent approach.”

A proposal might be denied because you didn’t follow directions or because the program didn’t match the funder’s priorities. “But more often,” said Thompson, “there just wasn’t enough money to go around.”

What’s the rejected grantseeker to do?  “First, review the proposal to make sure it aligned with the funder’s interests and that you followed instructions exactly. If both check out, the answer is simple: keep trying,” said Thompson.

Here’s what she recommends you do:

  • Thank the funder for the opportunity. Even if your organization didn’t win an award, reviewing your submission took time. Express your appreciation.
  • Seek feedback. Some funders don’t have time to give feedback, and some have policies against doing so. But some will take a few minutes to speak with you about the application’s merits and weak points. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • Stay in touch. Request the funder’s permission to add them to your mailing list to receive updates on your organization’s activities and accomplishments.
  • Reapply.  Since many foundation and corporate grantmakers support their grantees on multi-year cycles, it can be difficult to secure that coveted spot in their giving portfolio. Timing is everything, so when you’re eligible to reapply, freshen up your proposal and resubmit it.

“Winning the grant is often a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” said Thompson. “The key is to not give up.” With time, patience, and persistence, you can increase the chances of turning a “no” into a “yes,” she said.