How an organization responds after being rejected for a grant award speaks to its character. The organization can:
- Shelve the proposal
- Analyze the reviewers’ comments, if any, and then modify the proposal and pursue other funding sources
- Start the proposal development process from scratch
- Wait for the next round of competition and resubmit a revised proposal
If an organization is proactive and works to maintain a progressive approach to helping its clients receive the best possible services, it will view a rejection as another step forward to having the project funded. It will look at the funding source’s comments, modify the proposal, and see other funding opportunities. Will other funding sources be a perfect match? Perhaps not. Yet, to sit on a proposal after the organization has invested significant resources would be wasteful.
Sometimes a funding source will not share its comments on an application. This is especially true for private foundations that do not have the “sunshine” laws that require disclosure of grant review processes. Private foundations have a range of review procedures, from formalized scoring to a reviewer’s “feel” for the proposal. Yet, there are ways to get some feedback or move forward if the funding organization does not disclose its rationale for denying a funding request. These include:
- Calling the funding source. Some sources will talk; others will not. If the funder states that it will not respond to requests for its rationale for funding proposals, respect that statement and do not call.
- Looking at the projects the grantor did fund. Call an awardee to find out what the grantor said were the strengths of the application or how the awardee approached the funding organization.
If your rejected application includes review comments, there are some strategies in considering how to respond:
- If there is reviewer agreement on the strengths and weaknesses in the proposal, the proposal should be examined for revision.
- If one or two reviewers are highly critical of a section of the proposal, while other reviewers are supportive of it, that section should be revised. Why? It is not clear enough. Everyone should support the section.
- If you believe the proposal addressed a required criterion, and the reviewers missed it, then the proposal’s description wasn’t clear and needs to be revised.
- Sometimes the reviewers are wrong: e.g., one reviewer cites the page number and paragraph where the proposal addresses a required element, while other reviewers claim that the proposal doesn’t address the required element. While it is tempting to fire off a response to the funding organization to politely point out a mistake, it will be of little value: the funding organization has already made its decision and awarded funding.
I used to call the analysis of a rejected proposal the “post mortem,” whereby we dissect the proposal to find the causes of death. This is not a pretty process and the temptation to lay the whole blame on the grant writer is strong. There have been times when the grant writer can also lay blame on others in the organization. This is not a proactive approach—it is destructive.
Instead, call the analysis process a progress session where positive steps are taken to improve the proposal and re-energize the effort to obtain funding. Consider the negative and positive comments as adding value to the long-term interests of the organization and project. Use the interval from the time the reviewers’ comments are received and when the next round of competition is open as a giant window of opportunity to find new sources of funding. If the organization decides to apply for the new round of competition, it will be in a stronger position to attract support and show success in implementing the project by utilizing this process.
About the Author
Mark Whitacre, GPC, owner of Goldstone Grant (www.goldstonegrants.com), is a grants consultant with more than 20 years in the grant industry. He has developed proposals that have secured more than $27 million in funding from federal, state, local, and private organizations. He posts regular blogs on grant development topics.
eCivis is the nation's leading grants management software solution and the ideal platform for improving grants performance for local governments and community-based organizations. For more information about eCivis, visit www.ecivis.com.
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