Receiving a denial of your grant request from a foundation is extremely frustrating. All those hours of hard work, of agonizing about the best way to present your program, of discussion among your program staff — gone.
But if you think about a grant rejection as a learning opportunity, you’ll see things in a different light. Often, foundations simply run out of money to give away. It’s not that they didn’t like your proposal or don’t want to work with you.
You should call or email the foundation and have a conversation about your denied request. This way, you’re showing them you’re serious about a future partnership and that you’re willing to put in the effort to make things work. Ask these four questions when you speak to a foundation representative:
1. What was the reason behind the grant’s denial? Find out if the foundation was out of money — maybe they didn’t have enough to go around by the time they got to your application. Or, maybe they see some weaknesses and that’s what landed your application in the recycle pile.
2. Do you have comments available from the reviewers? Some foundations (usually larger ones) are able to make reviewer’s rubrics and/or comments available for you to learn from. This information isn’t always available, but when it is, it’s invaluable.
3. Is there anything we can do differently to improve? When reviewer comments aren’t available, try to pry some information out of the foundation on how you might strengthen your proposal. Did they spot any weaknesses or areas where you can improve?
4. Can we reapply, and when is your next deadline? Find out if you can resubmit — if your organization aligns with the foundation’s mission. If not, it may be time to look elsewhere. If they do encourage a resubmission, ask about the next deadline.