You’ve put countless hours into writing multiple grants and proposals for your charitable organization. You’re sure that your project is worthy, and in fact, you know of several other organizations that have received funding for similar projects. So why was your funding request declined?
Being declined funding can be frustrating, and in some cases, even devastating. Funds are limited, and many organizations are vying for the same grants and donors. So, it is imperative that organizations maximize staff and volunteer time by creating the most persuasive funding requests possible. The more research you do before submitting your request for funding, the better your chances of writing a good proposal. Not to mention, there’s a better chance you’ll avoid submitting a funding request to a donor who is unlikely to fund you.
Here are seven common reasons that requests for funding are declined.
1. Your project does not align with the funder’s priorities. You may have the best after-school recreation program in your community, but if the funder does not support recreational programs, you’re out of luck. The best way to avoid confusion about what the funder’s priorities are, is to ask. Do your research. Contact the funder and run your project by them to see if its within the area that they support before writing the proposal. Even if they don’t support your project, this will save you time in the end.
2. Your proposal is unclear or not well written. Does your proposal make sense to someone outside of your organization? Write your proposal in plain language so anyone can understand it. Avoid technical terms or acronyms. Also, make sure your mission and values are well articulated. Always have multiple eyes proof-read your funding request. In addition, it probably goes without saying, but it is simply unprofessional to have grammatical or spelling errors in your writing. How can you convince a funder that you are credible enough to manage their money if you can’t ensure error free work?
3. Your budget does not make sense. Is your budget realistic? Do the numbers seem inflated? Are the timelines of your stated project achievable? Some funders do not provide money for staff time for example, so ensure you are clear that your request makes sense for the funder who will review your request. In addition, always ensure your budget is well thought out so you can prove to the funder that you are a credible organization. If you are approved for funding, you should be able to report back to the donor that you stayed within budget. Also, always make sure the numbers add up and there are no mathematical errors.
4. You did not follow the funder’s format for requesting funding. Government grants, foundations, and private organizations often receive a high volume of funding requests. Make sure you follow their instructions for how to apply for funding. Do they require an application? An online form? A written proposal? Do your research and figure out what they want before you request a gift. If you provide an alternate submission that does not follow their regulations, you risk the funder not even reviewing your request at all.
5. Your project’s impact was limited. Many funders want to ensure that their investment will have a wide impact. If your project supports only a small group, your request may not seem desirable to invest in. Make sure you demonstrate the impact of your organization by using data to demonstrate your reach (such as the number of those who receive your services), and including stories of those whom you have impacted positively. Also, consider partnering with another organization on your project to further expand the impact.
6. All the money has been allocated for this year. Timing can be everything. Some funders will support projects until funds are exhausted. If you wait too late in the cycle to apply, your worthy project may not receive support. Do your research and find out when the best time to apply is. Also, if there is one call for proposals with a deadline, don’t be late. Late applications will likely not be accepted at all, which results in wasted time for the staff or volunteer person who completed the grant request.
7. You asked for too much…or too little. Yep, I’m going to say it again…Do. Your. Research. Always find out what an appropriate ask amount is. You risk being eliminated from consideration if you ask for an amount that is out of range for the funder’s budget. Most granting agencies and foundations will include this information right on their website. If you don’t see it in plain writing, have a conversation with the donor before requesting funds.
Sometimes you might do everything right, but still find your project is declined. It can happen to even the most seasoned writers with years of experience. Writing grants and proposals takes practice. Keep at it and you will find that by avoiding these mistakes and improving your writing skills, you will find success in funding your programs.
With over a decade of experience as both staff and board member in the nonprofit sector, Roxanne understands the challenges small nonprofits face when trying to raise funds. Currently, as Co-founder and Director of Creative Writing & Strategy at Story Point Consulting, Roxanne continues to use her skills to help non-profits share their stories with the community at large. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.