More About Why Grant Requests Are Denied

You applied for a grant and were denied, even though your program provides a positive impact on the community.  You thought surely the funder would understand your organization’s good intentions and how much you can help.  You question how anyone could possibly turn you down when you’re doing such good and important work that benefits people in need.  You wonder how it’s possible that your request was denied. But usually when your grant request is denied, it’s not so much that your request was “denied.”

It’s just that other requests were selected ahead of yours.

Many grant applicants think that the main reasons for not being selected for funding are because the funder does not like your program, or because of the way the request was presented.  These reasons are rarely the case.  What many applicants fail to understand is the amount of competition for every grant dollar.  As hard as it might be to believe, and as important as the work is that your organization is doing, another organization down the block is doing work that is equally important, if not more so.  Funders have finite funding available for what sometimes seems like infinite requests, and each funder can fund only so many requests.

You rarely receive feedback from funders about why your application is not selected for funding, and when you do, you’re rarely told more than “We had so many applications and we can fund only a small percentage.  Feel free to apply again next time.”

You generally should, and are often required to, wait a year from the last request before applying again.

We had a client receive their first grant from a particular foundation on their sixth application.  There were no substantial changes in the personnel or operation of the applicant or the nature or wording of the request from the previous five applications.  Sometimes it just takes persistence.

Grant writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme.  It can take months or years to obtain funding from a particular funder.  And of course you might never receive funding at all.

A frequent reason funders do not choose an application for funding is because of being asked for too much money.  The amount of your ask is important.  It can tell a funder whether or not you did appropriate research or are just blasting funders with the same ask.

One prospective client we talked to had mailed out a batch of grant requests asking every funder for $100,000.  Some of the funders to which they applied didn’t even have that much in assets!  Foundations generally make annual grants of about 5% of their total assets.  So that $100,000 request was sent to some funders that make grants of less than $5,000 per year in total.  What a waste of time – both the applicant’s time and the funder’s.  Though this is an extreme example, the prospective client obviously had not done their homework and didn’t make appropriate asks to each funder.

Some funders will consider your request for a lesser amount than requested, if the amount requested was reasonable, but some funders only consider requests for the amount requested.  Though they might have approved your request for $10,000 if that’s the amount you asked for, they might reject your request if you asked for $15,000.  You usually have no way of knowing a funder’s policies about the amount of the request, so it’s important to make an ask to each funder that’s appropriate based on that funder’s funding history.

One frustrating reason for sometimes not being selected for funding is that, even though your research might show that a funder has made several grants for programs similar to yours, the funder might have decided that since they’re already funding several programs like yours, they’ll now focus on applications for other types of programs.  Again, you might have no way of knowing this, so you just need to try again next year when maybe the funder has decided not to fund one of the other programs like yours and then consider your request.

There are, of course, many mistakes you can make that will reduce or eliminate your chance of getting funding.  But often when your application is denied, there's little or nothing you could have done to change the outcome.  Try again next year!

This blog is a re-post from February 19, 2013.

If you think this blog was helpful, please let us know!

$50,000 for an organization providing programs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and learning differences - for their 24-hour educational and residential program

$15,000 for an agency providing mental health services - for programs for children

$12,000 for a domestic violence organization - for their emergency care program

Murray Covens, Principal

North Texas Nonprofit Resources