Getting a grant denial can be very depressing. You and your team have put in a lot of work and even though you know when you submit a grant that there aren’t any guarantees, you always have hope. The grant denial letter takes that hope away and adds a finality to your plans for the upcoming year, and it can sting a little.
This is where we like to take a step back and rephrase our “Denial” into a “Not Yet.” There are so many things that a person can do when a grant is denied, and the actions they take will result in a more organized program that is easier to implement and more aligned with the funder’s goals. There are many reasons why a grant does not get awarded. The main reason is because the application didn’t score within the funding range. Sometimes, even when the grant does score within the funding range, it doesn’t get awarded. In this case, the funder is sometimes wanting to build a relationship with the applicant; they are following a geographic distribution method; or there just weren’t enough funds to go around for the coming year. It’s easy to want to point fingers when a grant is not awarded, but just remember your proposal will be more implementable with the changes you make and better in the long run.
The first thing you need to do when you receive a denial letter is to request the reviewer notes from the funder. Generally, the denial letter will include them automatically but if they aren’t, you will need to request them from the funder. Make sure you do this as soon as you receive the denial letter, as some funders have a 60-day time limit to request reviewer’s comments. Denial letters often have instructions on who to contact. If these instructions aren’t included in the letter, then contact the person who sent the letter or reply to the email you received. Sometimes, the reviewer’s comments are sent in a letter/email and other times the funder would rather have a conference call to discuss the comments. Either way, you will receive what you need, which is the feedback regarding which areas of your proposal need to be improved. The funder (if they are governmental) is required to provide you with this information due to the Freedom of Information Act. If your grant is not reviewed, they are also required to provide you with the information regarding the reason for the non-review.
Some of the most common themes that are stated in a denial include:
- Not following the Request for Proposal
- Award Ceiling/Floor or Cost per Participant
- Years funding is requested
- Including non-eligible partners/consortiums
- Not including all the required items (signed assurances, audits, non-profit documentation, etc.)
- Not providing enough information in the narrative
- Not addressing all the required criteria
- Not providing enough information/detail for the reviewer to score a section higher
- Not thinking a program through and planning last minute
- Not including a comprehensive evaluation plan
- Not addressing competitive preference priorities
- Ignoring extra points
- Not designing a program which is consistent with the funder’s goals
- Ignoring geographical preferences
Once you have the reviewer notes (whether you had to request them, or they were included in your denial letter) make sure you’re in a healthy frame of mind before reading them. Also, it is helpful to re-read them again later (a day or so) and then begin the process of addressing the shortfalls. Do not wait until the competition is out again to begin re-designing/tweaking your program. Begin thinking about things that need to change, as if you could resubmit the proposal tomorrow. The work you do today will be useable when the same or similar competition comes out in the future.
Remember to stay with your team! It’s easy to want to place blame after a grant is denied. Improve your weaknesses. This is the easiest part of re-submitting your application because the funder has told you what they didn’t like. No guess work here! Assign tasks to strengthen shortfalls because sometimes one small comment from a reviewer is not simple to fix — sometimes it takes time. For example, building partnerships and consortiums or developing budgets for upcoming projects. Plan for another submission (either the same competition or a similar one). Most importantly, keep working at it.
If you’d like assistance interpreting reviewer’s comments or rewriting your proposal to address the comments, the grant writing experts at Resource Associates can help. Our Grant Proposal Rewrite services will help you improve your chances of being funded the second time around.