Dissecting the rejection

Posted on October 4, 2011

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When you don’t get the grant, it’s important to find out why.

The envelope you’ve been waiting for arrives. Tentatively you open it, only to find that it holds the dreaded “ding” letter. Discouraging, I know.

But don’t stop now.  As hard as it is to stare a NO in the face, it can help gain valuable insight for your next request.

First, re-read the rejection letter.  It may contain helpful feedback, specific to your request.

If you’ve talked to the grant maker or the funder provides contact info, pick up the phone. (Note: Not all funders have enough staff to receive and respond to calls.) Find out what could have been better, and if it’s worth submitting another request in the future.

Let’s dissect some common rejections:

Missed a step. Maybe you didn’t meet the deadline, or you forgot to attach your most recent audit. D’oh! This may be the most embarrassing reason for a rejection, but probably the simplest to correct. Next step: Make sure this is the ONLY reason, review the guidelines and try again.

Unfortunate timing.  Sometimes you’ve done everything right and have a great request – but so have dozens of other nonprofits. You may have submitted during a cycle with lots of competitive requests. Or, budgets may be stretched late in the year. Next step: Give it some space and try again later.

Lost in translation.  During your follow-up phone call it’s clear that the funder did not understand your request.  Next step:  The fault may not be yours. But double-check — Did you use too much jargon? How readable is your grant proposal? Ask someone outside your organization to review your request and provide feedback.

Missions don’t match. Your nonprofit may run the most noble pet rescue effort on the planet. But, if the funder focuses on sports for at-risk youth, you won’t get the grant.  Each grant should help both funder and nonprofit to further their missions. Next step: Find a project that fits this funder, or move on to a more likely prospect.

Are there other rejections you would add to this list? Or advice you’d share on how to gain insight from a “no”?

If you liked this post, check out other topics on the Grantwriting Tips page.

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