When Grant Funders Say No

Grant funders don’t like to say no. They strongly believe in what charities do and they want you to succeed. Yet many of the applications they receive don’t qualify for funding, often because of problems that could have been avoided.

Knowing the reasons for rejections may help you avoid negative outcomes so I’ve put together a top 10 list given by funders to help smooth your application process:

  1. Applicant and application do not fit the grant givers funding criteria. This is the number one and by far the most important reason why applications get rejected. If you’re requesting any level of grant money, read the basic funding guidelines published by the funder. As well as reading the criteria, funders websites often list previous grants showing the types of organisations funded, the amount granted and an outline of the project.  If you are still unsure, give them a call or write a letter to ask if you are a suitable applicant.
  2. Applications lack the required documentation. Most funders require similar documents in addition to the application and you should have these in order before beginning the grant application process. Usually you will need your Charity Number, Charity Constitution, Charity Accounts, Financial Policy and for capital funding, a lease (or ownership) information and building permissions.  You may also be asked for your organisation’s policies – volunteer, health and safety or safeguarding for example, so they should be up to date and readily available.
  3. Nonspecific projects. Funders complain that organisations share their mission, challenges and activities without describing the project they want to fund and the specific amount needed. Tell the funder exactly what you are doing, who you are helping and how it will get done. What specifically will you spend the grant funds on? Describe the specific project with budget, resources required, statistics and surveys of need, expected outputs and outcomes and the overall project timeline.
  4. Project budget not accurate or non-existent. Your project budget should include detailed documentation to support the actual expenses your project will require. A ballpark request for funds to support a project or initiative will be rejected no matter how great the goal or idea. Compile a detailed account of what your project will cost, including documents showing the basis of your expenses. Calculations should be double checked to make sure that your figures add up!
  5. Funding requested is too large an amount for the funding offered by the grant maker. Check the funders criteria and previous awards made to make sure you are within the correct funding limits.
  6. Underestimating the time involved in the grant application cycle. Grant funding is not a quick process and from application to receipt of funds you should allow for a minimum of 6 months, sometimes the better part of a year. The solution is to identify your funding needs as part of your organisation fundraising strategy, start your application research and plan your applications according to submission deadlines.
  7. Work on the project has already started. Funders very, very, very rarely give retrospective grants and this is not negotiable.
  8. You did not show how your project would be sustainable. Ask yourselves “what will happen once the grant funds run out?”. If you do not have a plan to sustain your project or have not made that plan clear in your application it may cause your application to be declined.
  9. Your organisation doesn’t have a track record to deliver this type of project. If the work is new to your organisation, show either that you have piloted the project, are following a similar model that has been successful elsewhere or that you have experienced staff or volunteers who can make the project a success.
  10. Application submitted after the deadline. Prepare and assemble all the correct documentation to avoid leaving the submission to the last minute, especially for online applications. A rushed application will always look like a rushed application.

You should also be aware that your application could be fine but that applications from other organisations fit the criteria more closely or that the money has all been allocated already for this grant cycle. You may want to ask the funder for feedback and use what you’ve learned in your next round of grant proposals. Send your applications to a diverse group of funders and be sure to explain how your project can help each foundation meets its own goals, not only how the foundation can help you meet yours.

Above all—be patient, be persistent, and be positive.

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