Don’t Take It Personally When Your Grant Request Is Denied

The typical reaction when a nonprofit organization has had a grant request denied is to wonder “Why did they turn us down?”

A more appropriate reaction would be to wonder “Who did they fund instead of us?”

Most funders, especially larger ones, decide in advance of each funding cycle how much they are going to distribute in grants for that cycle.  Most funders receive requests from qualified applicants for far more funding than they have available.  Qualified applicants are usually not “rejected” for funding.  Rather, other qualified applicants are selected instead.

Hypothetically, if your grant request was “denied,” and you were then given the opportunity to review the listing of approved grants by the funder and decide which one should be denied and yours funded instead, which one of the below programs would you choose to not be funded?

– basic needs for abused and neglected children in temporary shelter

– healthcare for low-income, uninsured families who would otherwise receive no basic healthcare

– food for homeless and very low-income families who would otherwise have little or nothing to eat

– mental health services for very low-income individuals with no where else to turn since state funding for such services has been greatly decreased

This is typical of the choice that many funders have to make.  As critical as the needs of your clients might be, there are likely other applicants with clients in equal or greater need.

Your grant request might have been denied because your organization’s mission is not a match for the funder’s focus areas, you requested too much more or less than the funder usually grants, you missed the deadline, you didn’t provide all required documents, you didn’t provide all required information in your proposal, or your proposal was poorly written.  But most grant requests are denied not for any of the above reasons, but because funding is limited and needs are great and there is just not enough funding available to meet all needs.

If a funder made a grant to your organization last year, or maybe for the last two or three years, and this time they do not approve your request, it’s likely not because of anything you did wrong.  It’s likely because the funder decided to spread their funding around and not fund the same organizations as last time.  All funding sources come to an end eventually, which is why you need to constantly be applying to new sources.

This blog is a re-post from September, 2013.


Recent grants received by our clients include:

$100,000 for a national organization that works with law enforcement, families and the professionals who serve them on issues related to missing and sexually exploited children - for general operating expenses

$80,000 for an agency that promotes personal growth for women seeking self-sufficiency - for a program for female veterans

$45,000 for an organization that serves abused and neglected children - $25,000 for a program that places at-risk children in the homes of relatives, and $20,000 for a program that provides children who have just been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect with critical basic needs

$20,000 for an agency that provides mental health programs - for a program that serves serious mentally ill children

Murray Covens, Principal

North Texas Nonprofit Resources