Proposal Rejected by a Foundation?

The Freedom of Information Act – which makes it possible to obtain copies of top-scoring government proposals – doesn’t regulate private foundations. So when your proposal is rejected by a private grantmaker, how do you find out what went wrong so you can improve the next time?Well, there are several things you can do.

First, you can contact the grant program officer listed in the Request for Proposals or proposal instructions. Tell them you are trying to improve your proposal writing and request a short telephone interview or a critique of your proposal by email. There may be score sheets used by reviewers that they would share with you – but be aware that they are not legally required to do so, nor are they required to meet with you. If they do, be sure you are properly courteous, succinct and appreciative of the time they spend.

Another thing you can do is to read through the list of grant projects awarded by the foundation – these awards are usually listed on the grantmaker’s website. If you know an officer at any of the organizations who received a grant, contact them and see if they will share a copy of their proposal.

If you don’t know anyone at any of the organizations awarded a grant, find an awarded project that is similar to the proposal you submitted. Write to the CEO of that organization, congratulate them on receiving the grant, and tell them you’re trying to improve your own grant writing and request permission to use a copy of their proposal as an example of the the level of proficiency you need to aim for.

If all else fails and you have been rejected several times in a row, you might want to hire an experienced grant writer to review your proposal. You should be able to get a professional opinion for the cost of an hour’s worth of consulting – certainly for under $200. You’ll need to supply them with the grant instructions and your complete proposal. Funding Exchange can do this for you, or you may prefer to ask someone in your local area.

In the end, remember that even good grant writers have periods when several proposals in a row are rejected. The negative experience of rejection can cause you to question your abilities – when it’s possible that all you’re experiencing is the law of averages. Just do what you can do to figure out why your proposal wasn’t funded, then get a good night’s sleep and start anew tomorrow. For regular tips and ideas, check out Sharon’s blog on our website at She’s taking questions, too!



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