Your proposal: The verdict's in—now what?

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A funder may respond to your proposal in one of several ways. But what should you do after they’ve informed you of their decision? Let’s look at four different scenarios.


#1 The funder loves your proposal and wants to fund it fully, just the way it is!

If you’ve planned well and the proposal clearly furthers your agency’s mission, you’re in luck.

  • Thank the funder immediately and graciously. If anyone on your board or staff (or at a partner organization) knows the funder, ask them to thank the funder also.
  • Take time to celebrate with those who supported your effort—your partners, staff members and/or volunteers.
  • Find out how the funder wants this grant to be acknowledged. Do they want a news release? If so, will they issue it, or should you?
  • Read any new documents the funder has provided, and review your proposal. Be sure you know exactly what is expected.
  • Review the funder’s reporting requirements. Review the detailed timetable for your project and make sure the reports are included in it and that the timetable for them is correct and current.
  • Give the timetable to the project director. Make sure the director knows which tasks must begin immediately (hiring/assigning staff, acquiring space, reviewing the evaluation plan with the evaluator.)
  • Get started! It’s not uncommon for a grant recipient to fall three months behind at the beginning of a project. Often that lost time can’t be made up later.


#2 The funder will fund your project—but for a smaller amount than requested and/or only after significant changes have been made.

  • Stay calm and stall for time. Say how much you appreciate the funder’s decision, but remind yourself that you planned the budget carefully to support your project and that, with less funding, you cannot do everything you had planned.
  • Explain to the funder that you are not the sole decision-maker and that you need to discuss with others in your organization the changes to be made in your proposal. Ask for a specific amount of time to do this.
  • Consider your alternatives: Can you make up the loss by inviting another funder to step in? (A private funder that likes your proposal enough to fund part of your request may be able to direct you toward other sources of funding.) Will you need to cut the number of people served? Or the number of planned activities? Or the length of time the project will last? How will that affect projected outcomes?
  • Once you arrive at your decision, discuss it with the funder. Always submit changes to your proposal in writing, and always get a written confirmation.
  • Then, and only then, follow the steps listed under A (above).


#3 The answer is "No."

  • Keep calm. This is not the end of your career. There will be other opportunities.
  • Thank the funder for considering your proposal. Ask for advice about submitting future proposals to that funder. If it’s a private funder, ask for an appointment to meet in person or by phone to discuss how your proposal might have been improved. (You may not get the appointment, but ask anyway.) Try to find out why you were turned down. Sometimes this happens because a private funder has suddenly changed priorities. They may have loved your idea although they couldn’t fund this proposal. They may be willing to steer you toward more compatible funders in the community. You may have other opportunities with this funder. Even a rejection can sometimes lead to a long and productive relationship with a funder’s staff. If it’s a government funder, say you look forward to seeing the reviewers’ comments, and ask if you may call to discuss them.
  • Put the proposal away and give yourself and your team anywhere from 24 to 72 hours to be really angry.
  • Then drag the proposal out and consider carefully how it might be improved for a resubmission.


#4 The answer is "No! No! Never!"

This sounds like a case of real dislike. Funders can, and sometimes do, reject proposals because of personal antipathies or other issues that have nothing to do with the merits of the proposal. Again, thank the funder for considering your proposal. Then, until and unless circumstances change, chalk it up to experience and look for other funders.


Need help drafting a successful grant proposal application? Our training will set you on the right track! View full training schedule here.

— Mary Ruth Clowdsley

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