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What to do after your grant proposal is rejected 

A concerned woman looking at her laptop.

Anyone who has sought a grant has probably heard “no” as often—or more often—than they’ve heard “yes.” Grant writing is challenging. Even if you write a perfect grant proposal, it still might not get funded—simply because there is so much competition. There are lots of reasons your proposal might get turned down.  

But a grant proposal rejection letter presents opportunity, too. It’s a chance to develop a relationship with grantmakers, find other prospective funders, and refine your proposal writing skills. 

In this blog, we explore what to do when you get a rejection to a grant proposal and share questions you should ask the funder if your grant proposal isn’t selected.  

How to reach out to the funder after a rejection

Depending on the funder, you may find out about the rejection of your proposal in different ways. If you receive an email from an individual, you can respond directly to that.  

However, if it is an automated response, you will need to find a way to contact them. If you already have a relationship with someone at the grantmaking organization, that’s a good place to start. If you don’t, you can search Candid’s Foundation Directory to find who to contact, or you can reach out via a contact email from their website. 

Regardless, the first thing you want to do in your email is express your appreciation. Add a note of gratitude for considering your grant proposal. Then, you can start asking questions. 

Questions to ask a funder after a rejection 

There are three key questions you should ask after you’ve found out you’re not getting the grant. These can help you determine how you can do better the next time. 

1. “Do you think I should apply again?”

This question can help you understand where to best spend your time and energy.  

Occasionally, funders may explain that your cause falls outside of their grantmaking focus areas. Other times, you can have a fantastic grant proposal, but there just isn’t enough funding to go around. If the latter is the case, it is a great opportunity to build a relationship with the funder for the future.  

A funder’s personal and meaningful connection with a nonprofit can guide their giving decisions. By building a relationship, you’re ensuring that when the next grant cycle comes up, you’ll be top of mind. 

A great place to start is by connecting with decision makers on LinkedIn. Make sure to personalize all your communications and interact with their content in a genuine way. 

Attending conferences and funder-hosted events can also help you to create a face-to-face connection and reinforce the relationship. Many organizations publish a calendar of events open to the public on their websites, social channels, or in their newsletters.   

2. “Was there something I did wrong in my proposal?”

Posing this question to funders can be an opportunity to further refine your proposal writing skills. 

Proposals can be rejected for simple things like using the wrong font or big things like not making a compelling enough argument. Ask the funder for their feedback on where your proposal may have missed the mark, so you can do better next time.  

To get ahead of potential issues, check out our blog 7 red flags for funders in your grant proposal to see some of the most common and biggest issues found in grant proposals. If you’re looking to improve your grant proposal, Candid Learning also has a variety of resources, from on-demand courses to real-world examples of successful grant proposals

3. “Do you have any suggestions for where else I might apply?” 

It never hurts to ask for recommendations on other grantmakers to approach after a grant proposal rejection.  

Here’s why: Funders network with each other and are usually well acquainted with others in their area. The funder who rejected your proposal may know of an organization better suited for your project. This could be an opportunity to find (or even be personally introduced to) other funders to support your cause.  

If the funder doesn’t have suggestions, Candid has several ways to identify organizations and funders working in your areas of interest: 

  • Foundation Directory is a comprehensive resource to research funders who are aligned to your cause area, grants, and recipient organizations, including in-depth profiles on each grantmaker plus inside views into the grants they’ve actually made. 
  • Candid publishes RFPs as a free service for U.S.-based grantmaking organizations and nonprofits in Philanthropy News Digest’s RFP Bulletin. 

What to do if you can’t get advice from the funder

Although many funders will be open to having this conversation, some won’t. Still, you should try to contact the grantmaker personally. Not only is it an opportunity to establish a relationship but to become a better grant writer. If you are not able to contact a funder, you can still use these lessons to guide your next grant proposal: build relationships with decision-makers, find similar funders to submit proposals to, and use these as opportunities to level up your grant writing skills.  


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  • Kate, Digital Communications Manager, Candid says:

    May 9, 2024 10:41 am
  • alistides pastory says:

    May 9, 2024 2:07 am

    Thanks for the information you provide. My question is how we get the funders after introduced our activities done to the community and our area we support?

  • Chong Kim says:

    February 12, 2024 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the valuable information you provide. My question is what they do with the rejected confidential proposal document. Do they keep the confidential proposal documents or destroy them?

  • Jennifer Horning says:

    October 31, 2023 2:13 pm

    Thanks for the tips, I have wondered if it was okay to contact the grantor and see what I could have done differently.

  • Meshack says:

    October 30, 2023 5:28 am

    Beautiful,very happy to get this information, Lori. Many times my proposals have been rejected untill I was like why can't leave the whole thing and do something else. You have given me a lifeline.

  • Farida Yesmin says:

    October 27, 2023 8:15 pm

    its usefull

  • Jessica Rogers says:

    October 26, 2023 4:52 pm

    Hi Lori,
    Thanks for sharing what to do after your grant proposal is rejected. I'm a new nonprofit, and I applied for three grants, but they were all rejected. I was left heartbroken, with nowhere to basically find answers. I knew that I was up against the world when applying but was hoping something would fall in my favor, but that didn't happen. I did as you mentioned in one of your bullets, which was to reach out and ask questions. So, I will not make those same mistakes in the future.

    Thanks again for sharing. The information is very helpful and useful.

  • Charles Kilel says:

    October 26, 2023 2:17 pm

    Very good guidance on grant proposal writing.

  • Robin Adams says:

    October 26, 2023 12:07 pm

    This is extremely helpful. I did try to follow-up with one funder last year but received no response - even after they invited me to communicate with them for feedback. After awhile, I stopped trying. Thank you so much for sharing this information.

  • Kennedy Kosko Okello says:

    October 26, 2023 9:46 am

    Great guidance,

    This has ever happened to me. I wish I learn of this earlier but nevertheless everything has a purpose and time.
    Thank you so much