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Thinking beyond the grant cycle

In the nonprofit world, grants are an effective way to build community — one organization helps another, hoping the partnership will propel both forward. Better yet, you can strive to develop a similarly symbiotic relationship with granting organizations. Whether your proposal is accepted or rejected, here's how.

If your proposal is accepted

Congratulations! Winning a grant is no easy feat — pat yourself on the back. Now, the real work begins. Open a dialogue with the grant committee about their requirements, hopes and plans. Aside from you doing your work, what might they need from you?


  • How often do you want to be updated on progress? Would you rather have quarterly check-ins or all results at the end of the funding period?
  • What expectations do you have of me or my organization outside of the standard grant parameters? Will you need media appearances, promotional photos or testimonials?
  • What's the timeline between [now] and [grant initiation]?

Granting bodies want to partner with organizations that are stable, financially solvent and sustainable. Laying out expectations on both sides will help your relationship get off to a smooth start and prove you're a capable partner.

If your proposal is rejected

Consider contacting the grant committee for clarification on your rejection. Don't criticize the decision. Simply ask if there's anything you could have done differently. Perhaps the committee will identify specific places in your proposal that need work. Although it's painful to hear about what isn't working, this insight may lead you to make revisions that'll help you win a future grant.

For the next round:

  • Double-check the guidelines. Don't let one simple mistake get your application disqualified. Study your formatting, either online or in print. Make sure you meet the deadline and include all required materials.
  • Research each granting organization thoroughly. Who's on the board? What's at the core of their mission statement? Study shared research interests and look for connections to your own work.
  • Start local. Don't overreach by applying for a national grant when a regional or municipal one will do. Start locally and extend outward into bigger pools when needed.
  • Ask for referrals. When you contact a grant committee after a rejection, don't be afraid to ask if they know of any other foundations or organizations that might be interested in funding your program. Sometimes a well-written proposal just isn't enough. Sometimes grant committees must turn away compelling programs simply because the funding organization doesn't have the resources to fund everything. Ask: "Do you have any suggestions on where or when I might apply in the future?"



MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.



The Balance: What to do immediately after your grant application is rejected by Joanne Fritz (2016) Six reasons why grant applications get rejected by Michelle Hansen (2013)

Grant Professionals Association: Building relationships with grantmakers by Sheryl Kaplan (2015)

GrantSpace: How do I approach a foundation and build a successful grantee-funder relationship?

NonprofitHub: Don't start your nonprofit grant writing until you read this by Marc Koenig



Writer and firm believer in using business as a tool for positive change