Just Because a Foundation Approved Your Grant Request Before Doesn't Mean They'll Do It Again

There is a common misperception that if your organization receives a grant from a particular funder, you’ll probably receive a grant from them next time you apply as well.  This assumption is a mistake – and often a costly mistake.

Even if your organization received a grant from a funder last time, the next time your organization applies, your application will be reviewed the same as for all other applicants.  This generally applies even if your organization has received a grant from the funder for multiple years in a row.

You should not assume in your budget that your organization will receive a particular grant, and you should always be seeking new grants.  You can’t depend on previous funders always giving your organization another grant.

Funders might change their funding focus areas.  Foundation board members, especially new board members, might change the criteria by which applications are reviewed.  The board member who championed your organization in the past might have left the foundation.  Or a funder might just decide that they want to spread their funding around to other organizations, the same as you might do with your own personal giving.

Most funders don’t like to receive phone calls asking why, since your organization was funded last time, your application was denied this time.  If you personally made a donation to one charity for a few years in a row and then decided that you wanted to spread your giving around to other charities instead, would you like to receive a phone call asking why you didn’t once again support the same charity?

One former client of ours from a few years ago received a grant from one foundation every year for several years, and suddenly one year they were denied, even though nothing had changed with the organization.  The board chair of our client decided to write a letter to the board chair of the foundation saying that after having received funding for so many years, the organization had included a grant from the foundation in their budget, and wanted to know why this year’s request had been denied.  Not only did the foundation not respond to the letter, but the organization hasn’t received a grant from that foundation since.  The foundation might have resented being told more or less that a grant had been expected.

A large faith-based organization contacted us awhile back and said that for many years one funder had provided $8 million of their $9 million annual budget, and that funder had just given them one year’s notice that they were completely backing out.  The organization admitted they had done little to find new grant dollars over the years because of the one large funder, and they had no idea how they were going to make up almost 90 percent of their large budget in such a short time.

A few years ago a small afterschool program had received 100 percent of its funding from one funder for many years, and had not sought any additional funding sources.  That funder suddenly had a disagreement with the organization and gave them three days’ notice that they were terminating the monthly checks they sent.  That organization was saved when there was a news story about their predicament and a couple of local foundations came to their rescue.

If you think you’re sure that your organization will continue to receive funding from a particular funder, can you imagine contacting the funder and asking them, assuming everything stays the same with your organization, if your organization can count on continuing to receive funding this year and next year and the year after that?  Most funders would not respond well to that question, and your organization shouldn’t make such an assumption.


Recent grants received by our clients include:

$50,000 (2 grants) for an agency that teaches transitional life skills to young men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities - for general operating expenses

$40,000 for an organization that transforms convicted felons by unlocking their potential through entrepreneurial passion, education, and mentoring - for general operating expenses

$15,000 for an agency that provides financial and social assistance to families of children battling cancer - for general operating expenses

Murray Covens, Principalmurraycovens@northtexasnonprofitresources.org

North Texas Nonprofit Resources