What Comes Next If Your Grant Was Not Funded?
You have just received notice that your grant has not been selected for funding. Your first reaction, of course, will be disappointment. That is completely natural, but don't get stuck in the disappointment for too long.
Receiving a notice that your grant application has not be selected for funding is not necessarily the end of the story. Here are the steps you should take to move forward from failure to success:
- Ask for feedback. If you submitted a proposal in a state or federal competition, it is likely that readers' comments will be available for your review. Sometimes, they will be sent to you automatically. Sometimes you need to ask for them. In either case, be aware that those comments are extremely valuable. Private funding sources may or may not be willing to provide written feedback, but they will often speak with you and provide verbal feedback. This is also very valuable.
- Review the feedback carefully. Close the door, silence the phone, and read the readers' comments carefully from start to finish. Then read them again with your proposal in hand. You'll find that some of the comments are valid and others make no sense at all. In some cases, a reader may say that you omitted something from your proposal that was clearly there. This can be very frustrating. The trick in using the feedback well is found in the ability to separate the useful comments from the others.
- Ask someone you trust for an assessment of the comments. Find someone who has not reviewed the proposal before to read the final proposal and the readers' comments. Then ask him to give you an assessment of the proposal and the comments. Based on his reading, did he agree with the comments? Which comments does he feel are particularly valid?
- Determine if you have grounds for appeal. In state and federal grant competitions, there is typically an appeal period during which applicants who were not selected for funding have the opportunity to appeal the decision. Unfortunately, simply not being selected is usually not grounds for appeal. In most cases, you must demonstrate that some selection criteria were applied other than those that were delineated in the statute or provided in the Request for Applications (RFA). Proving such a thing can be nearly impossible. Even so, if you think you have grounds for an appeal, you must act quickly. The window for submitting appeals can pass in as few as seven days. If you choose to appeal, state your case (in writing) clearly and succinctly.
- Make a decision about resubmittal. In most cases, there will be an opportunity to rewrite and resubmit your proposal for consideration in a future competition. It may be another year before you can resubmit. If that is the case, do not wait 11 months for the next RFA to come out to begin your work. Make notes now about modifications you want to include based on your reading of the readers' comments. Then calendar your work for re-writing so you begin at least 3 months prior to the tentative deadline. Make plans to pull any project partners together early to review the new application. You will not be able to finalize your work until the new RFA comes out (with the new competition's specific scoring criteria), but you can do a lot of work in advance based on what you already know.
- Consider finding another funding source. It's possible that your proposal was not accepted because it was not fully aligned with that funding source's priorities, but that doesn't mean that another funder wouldn't find it attractive. Maybe you still have an excellent chance with the same source next year after cleaning up the proposal a bit, but you may also choose to submit your revised proposal (or another proposal based on the same plan) to another funding source.
Most importantly, don't let a rejection (or two, or three, or four, or more) stop you from trying again. You may need to abandon an application to a particular funding source because it becomes clear that the founder is not interested in your plan, but keep in mind that there are many variables in the grant selection process. A failure now does not indicate failure in the future. Even the best professional grant writers experience rejection and failure. The really great ones use what they learn when their work is rejected to improve their craft.