One reason that grant writers can fail is by taking on too many low percentage grants that are unlikely to be funded. Selecting grants to write is a delicate thing because as a grant writer you get so many requests from unqualified applicants.
It would be easy to take on lots of contracts from clients you know don’t have a prayer of getting funded, but then your reputation is nothing but a house of cards. Unless you want to move from state to state on an annual basis where nobody knows how unsuccessful you were the year prior, success is important!
Your reputation as a grant writer relies primarily on one thing - getting grants funded. Be prepared for rejection from time to time, because not every grant can be funded; not even the best written ones. Grant rejection is hard to take when you’ve written what you believe to be a good narrative. Getting rejected means doing some damage control with the client as well as preparing for resubmission when the opportunity arises.
Here are some ideas about what to do when your grant is rejected:
- Always ask for the readers' comments. Funding agencies don’t always have the staff to provide these so often your request will be denied. If you do get them, study them carefully and try not to focus on the things that the readers obviously missed. I’ve heard grant writers get all wound up about some reader missing something that cost them points. OK, it happens and it stinks, but move on to why did they miss it? Was it in the wrong section? Maybe it needed to be repeated, bolded, underlined. On the rewrite, make sure that point is easier to find and repeated so even the slowest reader can find it.
- If you find that the readers really missed the mark on your proposal, then file a challenge and detail the reasons you think that the readers got it wrong. There has to be a truly egregious error for a negative funding decision to be reversed. Remember, they’ve probably already sent out the notices to all the people who were successful so it’s unlikely they are going to eat crow and reorganize the whole field to fund your proposal. But it can happen, so sometimes it’s worth a challenge. If it's a federal grant, your appeal needs to demonstrate that a standard other than the approved scoring criteria was applied. That is nearly impossible to demonstrate.
- If you can’t get readers’ comments then it’s a good idea to request copies of some of the winning proposals so you can compare them to what you submitted. Write down the reasons you think that the proposal was rejected and keep it on file for the following submission. It’s better to do it right after you learn why you weren’t funded.
- If you planned with a collaborative that meets regularly, discuss the rejected proposal with them to talk about why it wasn’t funded and whether the group is capable and willing to make changes in the proposal design so it is more likely to be funded the next time around.
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