5 things to do if the proposal is not funded

To have a grant proposal rejected is disappointing, but it’s not the end of the organization or the proposal writer’s career. “Your job is to plan a strong program, prepare a competitive proposal, and submit it to an appropriate funder,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

“But no matter how well you do your job, your proposals won’t always win,” she said. When one doesn’t get funded, Floersch recommended the following:

  • Thank the funder for considering the proposal. With private funders, ask if they’ll meet with you, in person or by phone, to discuss how the proposal might be improved. The answer may be no, but ask.
  • With government funders, ask for reviewers’ comments. They are incredibly valuable. Also ask for a phone meeting with the staffer in charge of the grant program. Again, the answer may be no, but ask. Many federal proposals are funded on the second submission, after changes have been made in response to reviewer comments and staff guidance.
  • After cooling off, look at the proposal again and carefully consider how it can be improved.
  • Communicate with community partners who helped develop the proposal or who had planned to participate in the program.
  • Convene your proposal team and other partners to discuss next steps. You might discuss identifying other funders, revising the proposal for resubmission, reworking the program plan into smaller components that can be funded incrementally, etc. Be creative.

Every loss hurts — some more than others. “The commitment and tenacity of proposal writers helps them bounce back,” said Floersch. “They don’t allow themselves to be derailed because the work they’re helping to accomplish is much too important.”