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The 10 Most Common Reasons Why Grants are Denied, and What You Can Do About It

The rejection letter. They’re inevitable, though we all dread it, and just like anxious high-school seniors waiting for that Ivy League envelope, we’re crushed when we tear it open and read those oh-so-disheartening words: “We regret to inform you…”  But receiving a rejection letter from a funder, though disappointing, need not derail us from our mission. Instead, a rejection letter can just be another opportunity to sharpen our vision, refocus our efforts, and strengthen our resolve. Why was our request denied? What can we do about it? 

10 Reasons Your Grant Was Denied

1. You have not established a relationship with the funder. 

2. Your proposal does not have clear objectives, specific timelines, or a budget.

3. You are not following their specific guidelines or deadlines.

4. You make stuff up, and the reviewer knows it!

5. Your project description is too vague. 

6. The grantor does not see your proposed project as viable.

7. Your organization does not have enough experience. 

8. Your needs statement is not compelling enough. 

9 . You are asking for too much money.

10 . You are not submitting to the correct funding agency or are submitting the wrong type of project that is not within their funding focus areas. 

What Can We Do?

One whole bag of mega-stuffed Oreos and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in and you’ve cried, wallowed, and vented to your dog, your Mom, and your Bestie. Now it’s time to wash your face, straighten your tie, and get back out there! Rejections are also a springboard for learning, adapting, and growing, moving you toward greater success in the future. But only if you know how to handle this rejection with professional grace and maturity!

4 Ways To Handle A Grant Rejection Notice:

  • It is ok to grumble, complain and cry. 
  • Use this as a learning experience. 
  • Check the list above to make sure you did not make any of those mistakes. 
  • Ask for feedback from the funder.

Why You Should Ask For Feedback

Being able to ask for feedback is important for your professional development, and can help build relationships with the funder. Obtaining feedback provides another opportunity to communicate with the funder and show them you are serious about meeting needs in the community. It could lead to another opportunity to submit a proposal in the future with their organization. 

How To Ask For Feedback

  • These days email is probably the best way to reach someone at a busy foundation office. A telephone call is also reasonable. 
  • Do not be confrontational. Be nice!
  • Let them know you are trying to learn and not trying to sneak in another grant ask. 
  • Read the rejection letter carefully, and ask clarifying questions as well as other questions that were not addressed.

What Now?

  • Have a self-care day and then get back to work!
  • Take the feedback you received and see if the information can be applied to other grant applications.

Grant rejections can be painful, and also a good learning opportunity!

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