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.


Recent grants received by our clients include:

$66,500 (7 grants) for an organization that improves case outcomes for abused and neglected children by enhancing the quality of legal services they receive - $42,500 for programs, and $24,000 for general operating expenses

$54,000 for an agency that ensures safety and restores dignity and hope to abused and neglected children by providing resources and support to the caseworkers of Dallas County Child Protective Services  - for a program that serves children with open CPS cases who live in their own homes but are at risk of abuse, or are in the care of relatives.

$47,500 (3 grants) for a clinic for children from low-income families - for general operating expenses

$30,000 (2 grants) sparks community restoration by engaging in mutually-transforming relationships with the future leaders of West Dallas - $15,000 for a mentoring program, and $15,000 for general operating expenses

North Texas Nonprofit Resources