Woman staring sadly at a computer screen because her grant proposal was rejected

Your grant proposal was rejected. Now what?

Ahh!!! That feeling of excitement (along with a deep sigh of relief) when you submit your final grant proposal. You’ve spent many hours writing, gathering data, drafting budgets, editing, and so many other tasks required to put together a strong grant proposal.

Now that you’ve submitted your proposal, all those struggles become a distant memory while you impatiently wait to hear the funder’s decision. But we all know that there are only a select number of grant awards available. So, what happens when you spend so much time and energy on your grant, only to find out you didn’t receive funding?


First, take care of yourself. Shed a few tears of disappointment (it’s okay, you put a lot of work into the grant!), take a deep breath, and pick yourself back up. Focus on what you did well and figure out what you could have done better. Remember, receiving a “no” from the funder isn’t the end of the road. There are many ways to move forward with your plan if you receive a rejection letter. Don’t take the rejection letter personally. Remember, the grant funder most likely reviewed many applications, only to fund one or a small number of projects.


Reach out to the funder to express your appreciation, even though you didn’t receive a grant. Thank them for the opportunity to submit a proposal and for the time they spent reviewing it. They will appreciate you reaching out to them with a gracious thank you – which will hopefully leave a memorable impression.

If possible, speak with the grant funder about their feedback as to why you didn’t receive the grant the first time around. More than likely, they will share this information, which will help you when applying for future grants. You may also consider inviting the funder to make a site visit. Having them see your programs in action will give them a better understanding of how your organization aligns with their funding priorities. A site visit will also provide you with more time to talk and may lead to ideas for other grants or funding opportunities.


If you have time, go back through the proposal you submitted. Read through each response and try to stay objective. Are there areas that were unclear? Did you answer every question in its entirety? What about grammatical errors? Take note of any weaknesses you discover so that you can avoid those in future proposals.  Since it can be hard to identify issues in something you’ve spent so much time working on, it may be helpful to ask someone who is unfamiliar with your organization to review your proposal.


Don’t sell yourself short by putting all your eggs in one basket! If you haven’t already, consider what other funding sources may be available. It’s always a good idea to have more than one funding option in your development plan. It’s also important to share your ideas with several funders who may be interested in supporting your organization.

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Many grant funders allow organizations to reapply in the future. If you received some positive feedback from the funder, plan to reapply as soon as you’re eligible. But don’t wait until the last minute to update your grant proposal! Just because you have a draft from the previous funding period, you still want to review the materials and make sure you have all your documents updated. Have a grant editor or colleague review your grant with fresh eyes before submitting it for review.

Missing a document or something as simple as leaving off a signature can put your grant back in the “no” pile. And don’t assume the grant is due the same day as the previous year. To stay organized, update your grant calendar with all the essential dates so you don’t miss any deadlines. If you have questions about the application, reach out to the grant funder. Remember, you don’t want to make the same mistakes twice.


Grant writing is a tedious process and takes a lot of time and energy, so don’t get frustrated, even if you feel like giving up. It takes time, organization, and a solid plan to write a winning grant. Use the action items in this article to make the process easier and help you win more grants, even if it’s the second time around.

Happy funding!

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What do you do when your grant proposal is rejected? Share your tips below!

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Grant Readiness, Grant Writing

January 20, 2020

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