Why Grant Requests are Denied

Competition for grants is intense, and no matter how word- or picture-perfect your proposal is, and no matter how well your proposal matches the requirements of the funder, the funder still might decide not to fund your request.

As explained on the website of one small foundation:

“Desires for assistance or guidance in drafting proposals or inquiries for “feedback” regarding the evaluation of proposals are perfectly reasonable, but we are currently unable to comply with such requests.  We are a small family foundation with an all-volunteer group of board members who hold other full-time jobs.  We cannot demand that the board of trustees agree to any characterizations about the putative “strengths” or “weaknesses” of your previous grant or any new grant.  Applicants should also understand that the grading procedure used by the trustees means that grants are separated out at times by the smallest of fractions, and thus drawing a line becomes often brutally arbitrary simply because the standard deviations in the last “final set of grades” after discussion are almost totally nonexistent.  In so many instances, if the money for funding had still been available when proposals next in the final rankings were reached, the proposals would have been funded.”

As explained in a rejection letter by one fairly large foundation:

“Many factors are included in the evaluation of proposals by our foundation.  Geography plays a role in that we may have exceeded our budgets in a given geographic area.  Program area plays a role in that we may have exceeded our budgets in a given category.  Some appeals, while meritorious, do not fall into a target area of our giving priorities. Your proposal was well presented.  It was not denied because of failure on your part.  Each year we must decline many meaningful appeals for the simple but important reason that our funds are limited, while requests for those funds are not.”

As explained in the FAQ’s of one foundation in answer to the question “My grant was turned down. Can you tell me why?”

“Competition for grant funds is intense and there are a number of factors that determine if a request is declined.  Most frequently it is because we are unable to fund every request that we receive.  The Grant Review Committee looks for programs and projects that best meet the areas of interest outlined in the grant guidelines.  We encourage those whose requests are declined to come back to us at a future time with another proposal.”

Recent comments our clients have received in denial letters from foundations include:

“The number of new grant requests we have received greatly exceeds the limited resources of our foundation.”

“Because we have a limited amount of funds available, declining worthwhile requests is an unpleasant necessity.”

“We receive many more requests than we are able to fund.  Given the challenging economic times and the reduction in available funds, unfortunately we are unable to support your request.”

“Because the number of funding requests continues to grow, it is impossible for us to approve all worthwhile projects.”

“Please be assured there was nothing deficient about your proposal, nor do we feel your program is unworthy.”

“We are a small foundation and receive many excellent requests.  Unfortunately, we just did not have funds for all the requests we received.”

This blog is a re-post from July, 2014.


Recent grants received by our clients include:

$76,000 (3 grants) for an organization providing education programs for children - $35,000 for summer reading program, $26,000 for technology upgrades, and $15,000 for snack packs and summer lunches for children facing food insecurity

$70,000 for an agency that provides assistance to law enforcement and families to find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation, and prevent child victimization - to hire a volunteer and communications manager

$15,000 for an organization providing services for abused and neglected children - for a program for children who are at risk for abuse

Murray Covens, Principal


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