Nobody likes to be rejected. It’s especially hard when you’ve put a ton of work in on a proposal while you’ve had a million and one things to do. There’s also the added stress of targets, the needs of your beneficiaries, your board breathing down your neck etc. etc. etc.
No matter who you are, what your organisation does or how good your proposal was, it happens. So here are some tips on what to do when you’re told “no”…
1) Don’t take it personally
This may be hard to do especially if you wrote the proposal, made the presentation or had the phone call. Take a deep breath and remember that there are many reasons this might have happened, leading me to step 2…
2) Find out more
If possible, contact the funder/potential partner. This could feel like the last thing you want to do but remember you’re just asking for advice/feedback “if they have time”. It’s just one human to another human and the worst they can do is say no.
3) Future follow-up
Following on from point 2, it can be a good idea when making contact to ask if you can get in touch in the future (e.g. “I’ll be in touch next year to see if we may be a better fit with NAME’s priorities”. Or “Would it be OK to contact you next year to see if your priorities have changed/in case one of our projects is of interest then?”) By doing this, you can save your time and theirs. You may find out that your organisation will never be a good fit due to specific criteria they don’t mention online or elsewhere. On the other hand, it may be the first step to entering into conversation with them, which can lead to future support. Just make sure to follow up if you say you will when you say you will.
4) What can you learn?
Take a look at what you sent. Was there anything you could do to improve it? Would one of your other projects have been a better fit and/or a stronger application?
5) Who did they support?
If they announce who they fund/support, it can help give an insight into why you may not have been successful or what kinds of projects they were looking for. This info can be helpful when applying and/or contacting in the future.
6) Remember, it’s a two-way street
Maybe it was better it didn’t happen? Sometimes we’re so busy trying to please the funder/potential partner to get the support that we don’t realise this until it’s too late. The last thing you want is to have agreed to a project that wasn’t a good fit.