Rejection is a part of life when you are a grant writer. Andafter 25 years in the field, when a proposal doesn’t get funded, I still get asinking feeling or, if it was a really big effort, a little gut-punched.
We’re human. We like to belong, and we like to be chosen andby extension, our work and ideas be chosen. And in some cases, not getting agrant can mean big consequences for our programs and work.
Two normal reactions are to make ourselves wrong (I’m a lousy grant writer, I should have worked harder, I don’t have good ideas) or them wrong (What are they thinking? Don’t they know how vital this is to our community orthey are narrow-minded and lacking in vision).
While perfectly normal, both reactions will leave you disempoweredand collapsed either into hopelessness or caught in anger and righteousness.So, notice your reactions and give yourself some space to have them – give thema seat at your table.
Once, you’ve done that, it is time to move out of collapse intoassertiveness.
1. If you received an email, reply to it and askfor a 15-minute conversation to get feedback if no written reviews are available.Was it an issue of the program design, fit with the funder’s priorities,timing, the way it was written? Often, the program officer will tell you that it was good but they have 5x as many good proposals as they can fund.
2. If you got a letter, follow up via phone oremail if you can and, if not, via letter.
3. In the conversation with the program officer, doyour best to listen instead of reacting or strategizing. Really try to do yourbest to listen to what they have to say and their point of view.
4. If it was a public sector grant, ask for thereviewer’s comments. Take a deep breath and then read them. Then walk away andcome back in a few days and read them again. That way you can read them with a clear mind rather than clouded by reactivity. Just as above, see what is usefulfrom the feedback and whether you want to resubmit.
Once you have gotten some feedback, you will then need todecide how to proceed. Maybe it isn’t worth reapplying given what you now know. For example, some funders routinely turnorganizations down for 2-3 years before funding and maybe this project cannotwait that long. Or maybe, it’s simply a matter of tweaking some things andresubmitting.
I really do think its valuable to get as much feedback asyou can because then you aren’t shooting into the dark and you have a bettersense of how and where to use your time – your most valuable asset.
If it is impossible to get feedback from a funder – i.e. noemail or phone number and they don’t respond to letters – I would call peoplewho have received funding from them. They can often give you lots of insightinto the organization and their process.
If and when you resubmit, include a few sentences orparagraphs indicating how you have responded to reviewer’s comments orfeedback.
I hope this has been helpful to you and will keep youplaying the game even after a few rejections.