All the hard work that goes into a grant application is designed to attract money from the funding agency. From this perspective, an award is a success, and a rejection is a failure. But even a rejected effort need not be a waste of time!
One important lesson to take away from the grant industry is how to learn and grow from a rejection. We’ve blogged about what to do when you get a rejection letter. If you are prepared to submit multiple grant applications, applying the results from one application to subsequent ones can make them more likely to succeed. This is an obvious benefit from a rejection.
There are many other ways, some of them not as obvious, that proposal efforts can propel your organization forward, whether or not a grant is awarded. It’s important to be mindful of these additional potential benefits to maximize the value of proposal preparation to your organization.
Let me hammer once again on a common nail: building a strong proposal is primarily the result of building a strong project (See Part I of this series) and a strong reason to implement the project. Therefore, the act of constructing a strong proposal means you designed a strong project. The materials you assembled for the project remain in place to re-use and build into other proposals and projects. Look for ways to leverage what you can going forward. Here are some to consider:
- You will have thought through the structure and organization of the project, likely the value and impact (See series Part III ) of such a project. Keep these plans available so you don’t have to re-plan when you work on another version of the project.
- You will also have considered how the project fits within the mission of your organization. Remember the potential implementation problems and advantages that came to light in proposal preparation, and use those lessons to strengthen your organizational planning in future planning cycles.
- You may have realized the proposed project is not worth pursuing, that it does not support your highest priorities and should be dropped. If so, document that understanding and the underlying rationale in your stored proposal notes. Also document any other realizations about the potential impact of the project on the organization—how well it meets organizational priorities, potential liabilities that might not be apparent at first glance, etc.
- You will have prepared a lot of documentation and potential boilerplate materials. For example, overall descriptions of your organization and qualifications of your personnel to Save for re-use in future proposals.
- You will have developed written materials—boilerplate text, arguments for funding, image-building materials, etc.—which can be used in your communications and marketing materials. We’ve written plenty of abstracts and introductions that have made their way onto websites, Facebook pages, and brochures. These can attract funding and support in many ways beyond formal written grant proposals.
- You will have developed written materials including hard data you’ve collected and recorded to support your argument for funding (see Part II). Keep these statistics handy to provide as opportunities and requests for them surface.
- Perhaps as important, a proposal effort often develops partnerships and relationships that can serve you well for years. Keep in touch with potential collaborators after the proposal effort. Often, unforeseen opportunities emerge (see series Part IV).
When we work with you, we strive to extend the value of an application beyond the immediate funding goal. Contact us for a free consultation about ways you can get the most for your grant application efforts. We’d also love to hear any questions or comments related to this blog series.
Photo Credit: Kurtis Garbutt