How To Survive Grant Writing Rejection And Use It To Your Advantage
You’ve spent hours – maybe even days or weeks – collecting documentation, writing draft after draft, discussing ideas with colleagues, reviewing, revising, editing, and you finally submitted your grant proposal to the funder by the deadline with confidence. I feel really good about this one, you think to yourself.
Months go by and you finally receive their response in the mail. You sit down at your desk, carefully open the envelope, and pull out the letter.
You read the letter to yourself. Thank you for submitting an application to the Healthy Communities Grant. Unfortunately… You stop. You feel your stomach sink. You didn’t get the funding.
Download our list of “5 Questions To Ask A Funder After Having Your Application Rejected”
Dealing with rejection is always difficult. Especially after having invested so much time and effort into writing what you thought would be a successful application. The good news is it’s not all that bad. Turn rejection into success with these three steps.
1. Don’t Take It Personally
The first thing to do when you receive a rejection letter is remind yourself not to take it personally. Your proposal was not rejected because the funder didn’t like you, your organization, or your project. There are, however, a number of reasons why your proposal may have ended up in the “Denied” pile (many of which we try to help you avoid here on our blog!).
Obviously, your proposal may have been rejected because of mistakes you made in writing or packaging your proposal. Maybe there were too many spelling errors, your proposal didn’t fit the guidelines, or there were inconsistencies in your narrative. Or, maybe you forgot to attach a copy of the program’s budget, like you were asked to do. These are simple reasons why funders say “No” to proposals.
Regardless of the reason, don’t take it personally. Don’t do anything rash like removing the funder from your prospect list. Stay optimistic and keep moving forward.
2. Never A Failure, Always A Lesson
Next, remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world. Every grant writer will hear “No” at some point and that’s okay. It’s not unusual for many grant writers to be rejected a number of times. Remind yourself that all is not lost when a funder says “No.” Instead, take this as an opportunity to learn.
I know many people that say they are afraid of failure. What these people often forget is that a situation is only a failure if you don’t learn anything from it. Spending all that time writing that grant was not a waste of time if you can learn from where you went wrong. So, how do you do that?
Before you ask for help, try to figure out for yourself where you may have gone wrong. If the funder gave you feedback in their letter, read it and really think about their comments. What can you take from their comments that can help you improve for when you go to write your next grant application? If they did not provide any comments, revisit “10 Common Mistakes Grant Writers Make & How To Avoid Them” and see if any of these common mistakes resonate with you in some way (if you don’t have it yet, sign up to be a GrantsEdge Insider to receive your FREE copy!). Once you’ve spent some time reflecting on your work, go back to the funder and ask for more specific feedback from the individual who reviewed your application.
3. Ask For Feedback
Unless the funder specifically asks you not to, you should always ask for feedback on your grant application. This can be valuable for two reasons:
- You’ll continue to build a relationship between you and the funder. Ideally, you’ll have met with the funder before you submitted your application, so meeting with them again will only help strengthen that relationship.
- You’ll get ideas for how to write future grants, not only for this funder, but for other funders too.
Meeting with the funder can help you really understand why your proposal was rejected. Try to find out why your project wasn’t funded, get some specific examples of where you went wrong, and ask them for advice on how you can improve. For example, if there was a specific section of the application that you struggled with, ask them specifically about how they read that section and if they could offer any suggestions for improvement. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but remember, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
If you make it a habit of meeting with funders, asking for feedback, and using what they’ve told you for future applications, you’re only increasing your chances of future funding success.
Not sure what to ask the funder when you meet with them? Access our list of “5 Questions To Ask A Funder After Having Your Application Rejected” for some ideas. Download the questions here by providing your name and email address. It’s FREE and your email address is safe with us (we won’t be giving it away to anyone).
What Types Of Questions Would I Ask?
Not sure what to ask the funder when you meet with them? Access our list of “5 Questions To Ask A Funder After Having Your Application Rejected” for some ideas.
Download the questions here by providing your name and email address. It’s FREE and your email address is safe with us (we won’t be giving it away to anyone).