You talked to the foundation director a couple of weeks ago. He told you they were having their board meeting on a certain date and they would decide on grant funding at that time.
Now the date has come and gone and you are eagerly awaiting their letter in the mail. Anxiety, fear, and excitement creep in as you check the mail each day.
Finally, you see the envelope with the foundation’s name on it addressed to you.
You get your handy letter opener out to open the envelope that will determine your mood for the rest of your day.
On behalf of the Foundation, I regret to inform you that your organization’s request for funding was not approved by the Board.
Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah…..
You read that first paragraph and the rest is blurred by your overwhelming sense of dread.
Oh the agony!
Seriously, did they decline us? We are an amazing organization! We do so many life-changing things for our clients! We really thought they liked us!
Why, why, why?!
Unfortunately, this does happen and it happens often. Last year, my acceptance rate was about 50%. Not terrible, not great.
Did we have our biggest year in grants that year? Yes.
Did I still get rejection letter for half of the ones I’ve written? Yep!
So what’s the next step for you?
1. Call the Foundation Director
Yes, this should be your first step. The letter may even state the reason you were declined. Either way, give the director a call. Not only can you get feedback on the application, your project, or your organization, this is a way to continue to build that relationship (which is essential to future funding.)
Most directors will be upfront with you and tell you why your proposal was declined.
Sometimes, you’ve been declined because they just weren’t interested in your project. That’s okay! You want dedicated partners helping you with your work.
Sometimes, they have already committed a large portion of their funds to a certain project or organization and they only had room for a couple of other grants. Yours just didn’t make the cut.
Maybe this year’s board members were focused on organizations that are doing a different kind of work than yours does. This happens many times if the board members rotate every couple of years. Everyone has different preferences and your organization was not one of them.
You might be declined because you did not fit their criteria for a grant proposal. This is a big reason you should only pursue foundations who are interested in the kind of work you do. Don’t waste your valuable time writing proposals to those who won’t even give it a second glance.
2. Make contact with a Board Member – if you have a strong relationship with them!
This could be #1 instead of #2, but it really depends on your relationship. If you have direct contact and a cordial or strong relationship with someone who is on the board, send them an email or make a phone call. They may give insight as to why your proposal was declined. After all, they most likely attended the board meeting!
I would only call a board member if you do have the relationship with them. If you did not know anyone on the board, it might be seen as more intruding than anything. Find out if someone you know has a connection with them and have that person make contact.
3. Don’t take it personally
It’s not a matter of “IF” it’s going to happen, it’s a matter of “WHEN”.
Writing grant proposals means getting used to acceptance and rejection. Not everyone can or will fund your organization. Most of the time, a rejection has to do with the foundation itself and their particular focus. It doesn’t have anything to do with you as an individual.
If you are a beginner, this just takes time. It’s still no fun to get a rejection letter even if you’ve been writing them for a while, but you learn to take it in stride and continue on your path. This is a great reason why pursuing multiple foundations for funding is elemental to success.
You have an important job as a grant writer.
Keep plowing away at those proposals. There are foundations out there who want to support the work you do.
Don’t give up!