So you have worked for months on the Needs Statement, burning the midnight oil getting the budget details right and held endless meeting to get everyone onboard for the grant application package. And you lost. The Grant Advisors know the feeling.
The first thing to keep in mind is — just like in baseball — there is no crying in grant-making. If you are rejected, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and go looking for another opportunity.
Remember, they’re called “competitive grants” for a reason: They’re competitive. Some opportunities are so popular, for instance, a grantmaker may receive thousands of proposals from grantseekers competing for one of fewer than 100 awards. Just because yours is not among the chosen few, it nevertheless may be a very well-conceived proposal. If you receive a rejection, ask for reviewer comments. And, above all, don’t get discouraged. Continue to seek grant funding; you’ll ultimately find the right opportunity.
Before any finger pointing, consider your funding strategy. It may be axiomatic to say funders will only pay for ways to solve problems; they aren’t really interested in funding your programs. It bears repeating here that a good grant-seeking strategy starts with a problem in search of a solution. Grantors generally focus their giving priorities on addressing needs, problems or gaps affecting a particular group, and not on what an organization believes is the solution to the problem. In this case, it might be a good idea to connect the outreach campaigns to your mission.
Also keep in mind that grant programs rarely, if ever, are dedicated solely to providing “stuff.” Grantmakers fund programs to benefit people. If you approach finding a potential grantor with this in mind, you will likely find far more possibilities available.
Often a good program working in the background — like a poison control center — gets overlooked. An advisory board comprised of influential members of the local community would be a good way to spread the word. Prospective board members can be drawn from the professional associations with which the center is already connected. Also, the center should play up its regional reach. After all, it covers a 16-county area and is the region’s single authority for poison control answers.
A few tips to get re-started:
- Determine if your proposal is what the funder actually funds. Don’t assume just because there is a significant amount of money available, the funder will fund nearly anything. Funders tend to be very specific in what they are looking for; they rarely deviate from their funding priorities. Your child welfare work, for example, may be commendable, but if the funder does not support children’s programs, you won’t get the funding.
- Spell out the problem your proposal looks to solve. It should be a problem the funder wants to solve. Use an analysis that fits the funder’s scope and include data or evidence. A real proposal killer is one that describes your organization’s own financial needs (neediness) as the problem.
- Make sure your goals and objectives are clearly laid out. Be specific. Everybody wants to help their community. Your application should go into more detail to add credibility. Try saying: “This grant will allow us to broaden our community outreach and inform thousands of residents of our services.”