All That Work — and It’s a Dud

There aren’t many things more discouraging than pouring your heart and soul into a grant proposal, sending it off with fingers crossed, and then being rejected. One of the hardest things about the rejection is wondering, “What is it I did wrong?” without knowing how to improve the next time.

If it was a government proposal (meaning that it was written to a federal, state, county or municipal entity), here’s a tip that will help: Request a copy of the top-scoring proposal in that  competition. (Which correctly implies that you should always keep the official grant announcement for any proposal you submit.) These are called “FOIA proposals” – which stands for Freedom of Information Act — and they are available by law from any public entity. (This isn’t true from private or corporate foundations, which is a topic for a future post.)

I email the program officer that was listed in the grant announcement, thank them for letting me know we weren’t funded, and ask them to send me any score sheets from my proposal as well as a copy of the highest-scoring proposal in the competition. The documents may not arrive quickly (it can take 3-6 months), but with the advent of online submissions, I often receive the documents by return email within a few days. By law, the government department can charge you a copying fee, but in more than thirty years I’ve never been charged. Even if I had to pay, the information I receive is invaluable.

Compare your proposal to the FOIA proposal and you’ll quickly see where you fell short. Aim for the depth and quality of the FOIA proposal in your next attempt, and you’ll build your chances of being successfully funded.

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