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They said “No”—Now What?

So you have done the necessary research for your campaign and identified what looks to be some great Funders. You have written what you consider a great Letter of Inquiry and you are feeling sure you are going to be successful this time. Then you get a “No” or, even worse, you get no response at all. Sound familiar?

First and foremost, don’t panic!

As kids we learned, through the lessons our parents instilled in us, that “No” is a bad word and best avoided if you know what’s good for you. In my case, sticking my finger in that cigarette lighter in the car with those cool orange spirals despite the fact that I was clearly told “No,” effectively hammered the “No” concept home, and I’m pretty sure I am now minus one fingerprint as a result.

When it comes to your grant applications, “No” can mean many different things and, if you are still holding onto that line of thought that “No” means “No,” it’s time to take a fresh look at the “No’s” you receive and consider them an opportunity instead. The bottom line is that you are going to hear “No” many times. It’s what you choose to do with that “No” that could make all the difference.

The first important takeaway here is that IT’S NOT PERSONAL. It could be something as simple as missing the funding cycle (remember that they all behave differently) or that they found inconsistencies or typos in your documents. Perhaps they had too many applications and couldn’t process them all this time and you are in the pile for next time. Did you have a second pair of eyes editing your document before you sent it? If there was a website, did you ensure that your approach was exactly as they requested, or did you miss following some of the guidelines? They could very well be a great Funder for you, and you just missed one minor detail.

Nobody likes to make an error, but a failure should only be considered a failure if we don’t learn from it.

The second takeaway is to take a good look at your campaign and see if there are areas you could strengthen for future applications. Is your campaign carefully planned and well thought out? Did you provide all the information they require, or did you leave them guessing? This is an excellent time to take stock and review your work with a keen eye focussed on evaluating what you did previously and what you could do better.

The third and final takeaway is that you should always ask for feedback on your grant application, if you are given that opportunity—unless the Funder specifically asks you not to. In doing so, you will be accomplishing a few important things. Continuing to work at establishing a relationship or continuing to build a relationship with the Funder—in addition to the feedback and suggestions you gather—will help you strengthen your future applications, not only for this funder but for other Funders as well. Did they provide you with any feedback or comments? Have you considered inviting them for a site visit or to an event you are holding?

That door may be closed this time but not necessarily locked—get busy and look for the window instead!

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