From Grant Rejection to Resilience: A Guide to Bouncing Back After a Denied Application

grant rejection

Receiving the news of a grant rejection on an application that you spent so much time crafting, can be disheartening, leaving you with a sense of disappointment and uncertainty about the future of your project without this funding. Unfortunately, many who are denied funding simply accept the fate of their proposals as the end of the road.

If there’s one thing to remember, it is that competitive grant programs are well, competitive! Your submission may tick all of the boxes that the funder requires, and have a highly developed proposal, but still receive a grant rejection.

However, it is crucial to remember that a grant rejection is certainly not the end, but more an opportunity for growth, reflection, and redirection. In this article, we’ll explore constructive ways to navigate the aftermath of a grant denial and how to turn it into a stepping stone toward future success.


Subsequent success starts with adopting the appropriate mindset. It’s normal to feel some level of disappointment with a grant rejection on an application for which you have devoted countless hours of time and energy! However, once you are over the initial disappointment, your future success hinges on taking a more optimistic perspective.

There are many valuable lessons to take away from the process, but the decision-makers must have the appropriate mindset to move forward. Start with the assumption that there are lessons to be learned and begin analysing the process and outcome to collect feedback. At this point, it is critical to take the perspective of an outsider and view your original proposal through an analytical lens. Once you identify the ‘weak points’ of your original submission and where the proposal could be further developed, you can begin to consider the next steps and move forward with your grantseeking efforts.


How do you figure out where the original proposal went wrong? Where are your areas of improvement? Your greatest asset at this stage, if available, is feedback directly from the team/funder that reviewed your funding application. Many grantmaking organisations provide reviewer feedback, commentary, and scoring to applicants that received a grant rejection.

Commentary directly from the reviewer removes a lot of the guesswork that you may encounter when trying to assess your proposal on your own. Further, it gives insight into how a reviewer approaches a scoring process, and how they mark against the criteria, which can be extremely valuable information for any future proposals you will develop.

Make a list of the gaps and weaknesses that the reviewer identified and begin creating strategies around addressing these areas. Some of the gaps in your application could be simply missing/unclear information such as a forgotten budget attachment or an incomplete board/CEO letter of approval. Sometimes what is clear to the reviewers and those marking submissions, may not make sense to an outsider, the applicant. In other cases, the reviewer may be pointing to deeper-rooted, broader issues that require you to go back and develop your project in greater detail.
Perhaps they identified a potential challenge that would require you to build a mitigation strategy into the project plan.

In any case, analysing the reviewer feedback and incorporating it into your future project plans and proposals will put you in a good position to secure funding for your project down the road! If reviewer commentary and feedback are not automatically supplied to you with the funding decision, you should explicitly request it from the grantmaker. Asking in either an email or even calling them directly will help you obtain critical feedback that is essential in boosting future applications.


After reflecting on your grant rejection and analysing feedback and where your submission could be improved, it is a good idea to re-read your proposal. Incorporating reviewer feedback into your submission is a strategic approach to refine and enhance future proposals.

Take a proactive stance in addressing the identified weaknesses, whether they pertain to project clarity, budget details, or overall impact. Use this feedback to construct your narrative to better align with the expectations of the grantmaker.

Another way to improve future submissions is by collaborating with colleagues or industry experts to gain additional insights. By acknowledging and addressing the feedback, you not only demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement, but also position yourself for future success by presenting a stronger, more polished, and refined proposal. Remember, the integration of reviewer feedback is not just about rectifying past errors but also evolving and refining your approach, turning setbacks into stepping stones toward achieving your grant-seeking goals.


Grant applications often come with lengthy timelines and specific project/submission deadlines. If your proposal was contingent on the receipt of a grant, it may be time to reevaluate and adjust your project timeline. Consider breaking down your  project into smaller phases that are more manageable with existing resources.This adaptive approach not only allows you to progress with your narrative despite the initial grant rejection, but can better position your project for future funding opportunities.

Further, relying solely on grant funding from a single source for your project and/or organisational needs can be quite risky. Exploring and diversifying your funding opportunities is a good way to stay flexible in times of setbacks. Consider looking at not only grants, but also tax incentives, loans, and even grant-loan combos as other streams of funding. This not only enhances your financial stability but also reduces the impact and increases resilience in the face of a grant rejection.


While a grant rejection may feel like a roadblock and can be even more disappointing if you are new in your grant-seeking journey, it’s essential to view this as a pivoting point – a moment that can propel your project toward the next chapter. By embracing the emotions, seeking feedback, and diversifying your funding strategy, you better position yourself and your organisation for future success.

Remember, the most successful individuals and organisations have encountered setbacks along the way. What sets them apart from the rest is their ability to adapt, learn, and persevere. So, if you were unsuccessful in your grant submission, it is far from over. It is just the beginning of a new and potentially even more exciting chapter in your organisation’s story!

For more grantseeking advice, view our list of must-have supporting documents and materials for applications at: