Aww, bummer! They have announced the recipients of the funds from the foundation to whom you applied and your organization didn’t make the cut. It’s a disappointing scenario that I’ve been part of many times.

(Yes, unfortunately I can’t guarantee that any of my clients will get the grant with my help. I know that the process is easier and many times they have a better shot of submitting a complete application than without me, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.)

So have a little sob, and acknowledge the disappointment, but before you archive that email and get on with the next thing, here are three steps to find a little value in that application, even if it won’t be the dollars you had hoped.

1. Get feedback

Get feedback from the funder on why your organization wasn’t chosen. This can be as easy as replying by email or picking up the phone to have a brief conversation.
Some sample questions for the funder include:

  • Is there anything we could have done differently on our application?
  • What made the winning applicants stand out for the funder?

2. Plan for next time

If you heard back from the funder and you were a good fit for their mission, but they need you to do X, can you apply to them in the future? If so, make a note of the next time to apply in your calendar.

If it didn’t seem to be a good fit, then maybe make a note not to apply until there are significant organizational changes at the funder, such as new staff or new positioning in the community. Sometimes what seems like a good fit of paper just isn’t what the funder wants.

3. Recycle your application

Is there a way to use the project you’ve crafted in the proposal to form the basis of your next application – all or in part? If what you submitted was a proposal for core work at your organization, i.e. a regular program or activity, then maybe the work you did here can be the basis for another letter of inquiry or application.

If it was very specific, or maybe time-bound, like you must spend dollars right now or it will no longer be relevant, is there a portion of the proposal, maybe a budget line item or a series of activities, that you could take to another funder? Maybe not necessarily a foundation or government agency, but consider a long-time donor to your organization. Since you already have the details of the request, the reasons for the need, and the outcomes expected, it might be an easy conversation for you to initiate with the right donor or sponsor.

No matter what, remember that “yes lives in the land of no.”

That means you can’t win the lottery if you never buy a ticket! So learn what you can, plan for next year and keep your eyes open for opportunities to recycle and I’m sure the next grant application will be successful for your organization.

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