• Rachel Niemczyk

To Apply, Or Not To Apply: 7 Reasons To Say No To A Grant Opportunity


Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Many times in the grant writing world classes, webinars, info sessions, etc. focus on how to write the most compelling grants possible — with good reason! You need your grants to give funders confidence in your ability to carry out your proposed program and make a difference in the community. But before you even focus on writing the grant you really should decide if it’s worth it to apply to the grant in the first place. Below are 7 reasons you should say no to a grant opportunity.


1. The funder doesn’t fund your geographic region.

Sometimes this is as clear cut as seeing the funder doesn’t fund your particular state; other times it’s a bit more murky. If they mention funding nationwide, look up their Form 990 or FDO profile to see if they really fund all states or tend to fund 3-5 specific ones. When they mention funding specific regions, always contact the funder to clarify what towns, cities, or states they consider part of the aforementioned reason. Researching this first will save you a lot of time applying for a grant you had basically no chance of getting.

2. The application is due in less than a week.

Admittedly, this reason isn’t as clear cut as the others; different grant professionals will give different estimates on how long a grant will take to apply for. It all depends on what type of grant application you have to fill out, what other projects you have on your workload, and how long it will take to get all the required documents. Generally speaking though, unless you’re working on an LOI less than a week is too short notice to prepare a well developed, funder specific application package.

3. The program isn’t fully developed yet.

New programs develop all of the time. If you want to get funding for your new program, you better make sure that program is fully thought out and in the process of being executed, with all necessary contracts, letters of commitment, or Memorandums of Agreement (MOA) secured. Funders do not want to invest money in a program that won’t come to fruition, so you need to make sure your program, if not yet fully implemented, is fully developed with all the pieces in place to implement it later on.


4. Your funding needs are on the funder’s “Do Not Fund” list.

Not all funders have these, but they are becoming increasingly more common to see in grant guidelines and grant eligibility forms, so pay attention to them! If the specific use you have for grant funds is on their Do Not Fund list, you should pass on this opportunity — even if your program matches the funder’s requirements in all other aspects. Funders have that Do Not Fund list for a reason; it may go against their board’s bylaws to fund that item.

5. Your program doesn’t match the funder’s program requirements.

Some funders want to fund new programs, others want to fund program expansion, and others want to foster collaborations before they even approach the topic of funding programs. Whatever the case may be, don’t change your program to fit the funders needs. If it’s a (relatively) simple matter of adding in more surveys to increase program assessment methods that’s one thing. If it requires large changes to the conception and execution of the program forget it. Your application will appear badly thought out it you try to force it into the funder’s mold.

6. You can’t follow through with all steps of the application process.

If you’ll just barely miss the deadline to get all the required documents you may be able to ask the funder for an extension. But if in addition to the application package the funder requires site-visits, a presentation, and/or award ceremony it’s time to carefully look at all the important application dates and determine if you will have staff on hand to provide the tour, give the presentation, or accept the award. If you know you’ll have schedule conflicts and won’t be able to make those commitments, it’s better to try again next year instead of leaving a bad impression in the funder’s minds.

7. You can’t meet the post-award requirements.

More and more, funders are requiring post-award follow-ups with their grantees. A progress report is fairly standard and straightforward to fill out, but other requirements like on-site visits, multiple meetings, bi-weekly conference calls, and attending workshops can be more difficult. If you wouldn’t be able to adhere to their post-award requirements leave the opportunity on the table. It’s better to say no than to apply, win, and destroy your relationship with the funder because you can’t hold up your end of the bargain.

Do you agree with these reasons to say no to a grant opportunity? Do you know of more reasons to turn down a potential funding opportunity? Share your experiences in the comments below so we can all learn from each other and support each other with the (somewhat) weird realities of the nonprofit world.


Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week with another article!


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