Monday, June 27, 2016

Why didn't you get the grant?

You've poured your heart and soul and maybe money into creating the perfect grant proposal.

After waiting weeks or maybe even months, you either get a Dear John letter saying thanks for applying, or you go to the grantor's website and you are definitely not on their list of funded proposals.

Even worse, you may not get any feedback at all

Your first (printable) reaction is "what did I (we) do wrong?"

Maybe nothing. Statistics show that there are often as many as 100 applications for each round of funding awarded, and that brings the laws of supply and demand into play.

In that case, your carefully crafted proposal just got lost in the crowd.

That's not to say that your proposal is always perfect.  I get a few requests to review and/or "punch up" proposals every month and some of them …well, let's just say some of them need a lot of help. Perhaps they don't have any tangible results to report, or there are grammatical or logic errors, or their program didn't really fit the grantor's mission very well.

But some are stellar. No, really, there is absolutely nothing to fix.

That's the most frustrating part of proposal submissions.  Perfect isn't always good enough.

In that case, it really isn't you, it's them.  Here is a short list that explains how that happens.

1.  The grantee was pre-selected. They already knew who was going to win before you ever wrote the first line.  That happens when the grantor's bylaws or guidelines require a minimum number of applicants.

2.  They ran out of money.  I actually know of a foundation that had so many good proposals that they assigned each a number and picked the winners out of a hat.

3. They were looking for an intangible quality that they didn't include in the guidelines. I call that the "I'll know the perfect house when I see it" effect.

4.  Too many applications, and they just didn't have the time or inclination to evaluate every proposal thoroughly.

5. Fear of the unknown.  Grantors may have had a long-standing relationship with just a few nonprofits and the award committee might be afraid to try something new.

In some cases, you may get a letter that invites you to try again. I always suggest that you update the necessary areas (results, other supporters, etc.) and give it another chance. The next time you may be top-of-mind because of your previous submissions.

If the grantor is located close to you, do a little more in-depth research.  Check out the principals to see what sort of organizations they belong to or whether they may circulate in the same social circles that you frequent.

In fact, I usually recommend that you try at least three times. Things and people change and it would be a shame to fail to even try.

Also, it never hurts to check out the competition, assuming you know who got the grant. Sometimes there are subtle (and they can be very subtle) clues you can use to tweak your proposal next time.

In one case,  I noticed that all the grantees selected were within just a few miles of the grantor's headquarters. My client was over 50 miles away, although still within the geographical zone of the guidelines. The next time they applied they addressed the distance factor in a positive manner and were awarded a piece of the pie.

Although it seldom bears fruit, it can't hurt to ask why you were not successful.  Sometimes you will get an answer. Bear in mind, some grantors will say right in the guidelines that they don't give feedback.  In that case, save your breath and time.

You should always write the best grant application possible, but if it doesn't work out, don't get so discouraged that you quit trying.

If you would like a review of or assistance with a proposal, you can reach me here.