Grant Proposals: What to do if your proposal is rejected

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Grant proposal writing is the “Go big or go home” of the fundraising world. When successful it can regenerate entire organisations and communities. When it goes wrong you have potential lost hundreds of hours of work and investment with very little to show for it.

The inherent risk of grant applications, especially in an increasingly competitive and professionalised environment, is that all of your work will be for nothing. Therefore it is perhaps surprising that when we receive a rejection letter from a grant making trust so many of us just accept it and move on. Is there something else that we could do that could mean that all those days and weeks aren’t lost?

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Our experience actually shows that in some cases receiving a letter of rejection from a grant making foundation is not always the end of the road. We’ve compiled a series of actions you can take to revive your application if you receive the dreaded letter declining your proposal.

Contact the funder, ideally by telephone, to try to discover the reasons they have chosen not to support you. This insight can be invaluable and will help you to revise and improve your project for future applications.

Ask whether you would be able to visit their offices to discuss how the two organisations might be able to work together in the future. This will demonstrate a willingness to adapt as well as a commitment to working together that may provide dividends in the future.

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Invite the funder to come and visit one of your best projects in action. Many funders love to escape their offices to go an witness exciting and innovative projects in action. If you can persuade them to visit and demonstrate the impact your work is making they are bound to remember you in the future.

Discuss with the funder whether they would be happy to receive a revised and amended application in the future. This is another opportunity for them to guide you on the way to creating a proposal that fits within their criteria. Conversely they may advise you that your project simply isn’t something they wish to pursue meaning you can move on to other targets.

Engage the funder in a discussion around organisation, its beneficiaries and projects. Try to gain an insight as to whether there is another project or area that they are keen to learn more about that might be a better funding opportunity that your original proposal.

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Propose that you keep them in touch with developments in your organisation and ask them if there is anything in particular they might be interested in learning about. The funding organisation may be concerned about a particular area of your NGO or project that they wish to monitor for progress for example.

What do you and your organisation do when your proposals are turned down? Share your experiences in the comments.


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  1. Avatar Fongoh Eric says

    Whenever we received a letter of rejection for a project proposal,we make sure we thank the donor for the reply, because there are donors who do not have time to provide reply after the application process.We do send our quarterly newsletters and annual reports to the donors, even if the result of our project is negative.We think these are ways to engage with them.

  2. Avatar cecille vios says

    There are organizations that specifically implied in the letter that they don’t need to explain the reasons on the decline. what I did is to ask them to include my email address in their data base for next round of call for proposals. In return, I include the email address of the person in charge in our mailing list.