Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grant Writing Rejection

Grant writing rejection can be hard to take. Nonprofit consultant and grant writing expert, Derek Link, provides some tips on what you should do if your grant is rejected.

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
It’s a terrible experience to have to give a client disappointing news about a grant being rejected. Your clients put a lot of faith in your writing abilities and failure hurts your reputation as a “grant magician.” A failed grant in the early stages of a client relationship can ruin your relationship with them. Be wise about which grants you write and try to steer clear of lower percentage competitions with a client until you’ve had some success and demonstrated your competence. Once your relationship has been established, and your abilities are enshrined in the annals of their annual report, then you can survive a few rejections here and there.

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About Creative Resources & Research

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Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.