Grant Writing Workshop

Recycle Your Rejected Proposal

So your proposal was rejected. Everybody who writes proposals has one rejected sooner or later, and usually sooner, and usually more than once. "Success" in the world of grants means having one proposal accepted for every three you submit.

Proposals are rejected for many reasons -- missing a deadline, omitting an important section (such as the program's objectives or methodology), poor writing, disorganized ideas, or just because of bad luck. A rejected proposal does not always mean that the idea has been rejected. Often, the mechanism for describing the idea (the proposal) simply must be refined.

If your proposal is rejected

  1. Send the funding official a thank-you letter in appreciation of his or her time and effort as well as that of the reviewers staff. Let the funding officer know that although you were aware of the risk of failure before you invested your time in applying, you would appreciate assistance in reapplying.
  2. Request reviewers' comments. Enclose and self-addressed stamped envelope for their convenience.
  3. Ask the funding official for his or her suggestions.
  4. Ask whether it would be wise for you to reapply.
  5. Ask whether you could become a reviewer to learn more about the review process.
Also critically review your own proposal. Did you submit your proposal to the most appropriate funding source? Was the proposal complete? Was it clear? Was it easy to read? Was it written with the right audience in mind (e.g., peer reviewers, educated lay reviewers, nonspecialists)?

Finally, redo your proposal (be sure you have the most current guidelines) and send it to the same funding source, to a different one, or to both. It may take submitting the same idea to the same place two or three times before you are successful. If you're still not successful after about three attempts, it is a safe assumption that the funder is not currently interested in supporting that particular idea. Instead of giving up, try to identify anouther potential funding source or try to rework the idea itself.

Write. Rewrite. Revise. Resubmit.

Based in part on The "How To" Grants Manual, by David G. Bauer. American Council on Education/Oryx Press

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Last updated: 3 January 2000
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