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What To Do If Your Grant Application Is Not Approved

Many of my posts here have focused on ways to make your grant application better or more attractive to those giving out grant money. Regardless of how hard you work there is always a chance of failure be it from a small but critical detail missed in the application, your project not being as attractive as you thought, or simply being faced with an overwhelming amount of competition for a highly sought after grant. With that in mind, here are some helpful pieces of advice for when an application is not approved.

First you should find out why your application was turned down via a debriefing. A debriefing is a discussion with the funding agency as to why the application was not funded. Many governmental agencies will be happy to discuss the reasons for rejection. However, I would urge the grant writer to listen to the debriefings with a bit of caution. Feedback is sometimes given by staff members who were not actually reviewers and were not charged with the responsibility of assigning points to the application. When this is the case, something can sometimes get lost in the translation.

Overall, however, it is an excellent idea to request a debriefing. This information can be invaluable in developing the proposal for a re-submittal or for a submittal to a different agency. This is especially true for beginning grant writers. As one gains more and more experience, it will be easy to see the weaknesses in your proposal even prior to submittal. I would definitely recommend that a proposal still be re-submitted even though there are minor flaws in it. Sometimes these can be worked out with the funding agency. Sometimes they are so insignificant as not to matter. It is important to take to heart the information received in a debriefing and attempt to remedy the problems identified.

Foundations are not as likely to give debriefings. I have heard from numerous nonprofits that they are sometimes not even notified that their grant has been turned down. In other instances, when a letter is sent, it often does not give a reason for rejection. I would still advise applicants to attempt to receive a debriefing from private foundations. However, I would caution you not to be too optimistic about the foundation staff members being willing to take the time to provide this information.

After identifying why the grant was turned down, if the problem is something fixable one has to then decide whether to resubmit the application in the next round of funding or move onto another grant program. Most places allow resubmission and there is often little reason to not try again, especially since most of the narrative can likely be used with minor modifications. However, one should not depend on a single source of funding if at all possible. It thus is a good idea to apply to other funding agencies as well. The answer to the question posed in the opening sentence of this paragraph is to do both if possible!

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