When writing grants, rejections are expected (hopefully there are more acceptances). I also send short stories to magazines for publication. So, I see a lot of rejections both ways.

When a foundation rejects a grant, the nonprofit should find out why. Calling someone on the foundation staff has been the most helpful for me.

When I talk to a staff member, I politely ask if there were any comments by the foundation board members (the decision makers). Sometimes the members will make notes or provide a short explanation as to why they did not approve the application.

Next, I ask the staff member for their recommendations to improve the application for next time. I think staff members are more knowledgeable about what is going on in the foundation than even the board members.

Things not to do:

  • Do not contact one of the decision makers. They made their decision and may be cautious about explaining why. Also, if they comment on one grant request, they may have to comment on all and even I wouldn’t do that.
  • Do not get worked up over a rejection and certainly do not take it personally. There are so many things that can happen from submission to decision. Plan to improve on the next submission.

I recently received a rejection from a foundation I thought was a sure thing. These are the hardest rejections — the ones I did not expect. You would think by now I wouldn’t get my hopes up. It’s all right.

I’ll get feedback from the rejection and reapply. Maybe next time I won’t get my hopes up so much. Rejections are a part of grant writing, just like with short story submissions. When something is accepted, the rejections are quickly forgotten.


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