Handling a Grant Rejection

Today’s post from guest blogger, Julie Boll, GPC is the continuation in a series about grant wins and rejections, and how to celebrate and learn from both. If you missed the first two posts, you can catch up on Celebrating Grant Success by Briana Popek (here) and When a Win Looks Like a Win by Nicole Sibilski, GPC (here).


We wish we could fund all of the many worthy causes… We know how this sentence ends.

How do you process a grant rejection?

For me, I need a little time to just be disappointed. I know what the funding percentages are and I know the many reasons a funder may or may not fund our organization. However, even knowing this, it is a disappointment, both as a grant professional and as an advocate for my organization. As grant professionals, we write for programs that are important and can make a difference. We believe in the programs we seek funding for. And I think it’s important to acknowledge your disappointment and allow your feelings to be present.

One thing that always comforts me is the simple fact that I’ve never seen the research that goes into grant proposal lost. We are a small, private University with a predominate teaching faculty who are just getting into research. We’ve been around the block with the National Science Foundation three times now. We are diligently working to break in as a new grantee. Our reviewer comments have helped us better define our programs and goals, and as a result we’ve seen our scores increase each round. In the meantime, the research I used to develop this proposal has supported multiple successful grant proposals for the University.

A famous Einstein quote helps lend perspective after a grant rejection: Failure is Success in Progress. We can’t always win, but we can always learn from our experience and as long as we continue to learn, these rejections become part of our successes.

So, disappointment aside, I use the period after a grant rejection to process any feedback we received, communicate with the grants team, follow up with the funder if possible, and develop a game plan for the next application. This work ensures this “failure” is indeed success in progress.


Julie Boll, GPC, is the Director of Grants for Quincy University. Julie began her career in the non-profit world as an AmeriCorps member and has worked with grants in some capacity ever since. She is a member of the Grants Professionals Association and a member of the program committee of the St. Louis chapter.

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