Nonprofits and other grant applicants often wonder, “What is a good grant writing success rate?” They’re often surprised to learn that on average, one in every 10 grant proposals is accepted.
That’s an average grant writing success rate. That means many grant writers have a lower grant writing success rate and many have a higher one.
So why do grant proposals fail? Why do even professional grant writers who have honed their skills over many years receive rejections?
Here’s a breakdown of the most common reasons a grant is rejected some of which are outside of the grant writer’s control.
1. The foundation liked the idea but didn’t fund it
This is one of the top reasons an idea gets rejected despite having an excellent grant writer. Perhaps the board of directors of the foundation in question spent all of the allocated funding on pet projects before they could get to your proposal. Or maybe there were so many good ideas to fund that there just wasn’t enough money to go around. This sort of thing happens behind the scenes and doesn’t reflect at all on the strength of your proposal.
2. The organization wasn’t well prepared
We come across this problem often: An organization asks a grant writer to step in to write a specific grant proposal they’re set on, and the grant writer takes their word for it that they have all the details ironed out. But the organization can’t get everything the grant writer needs together in time, so details are thin and the proposal is weak despite the writer’s best efforts.
3. The grant opportunity wasn’t a good fit
Often proposals are rejected because they don’t fit with a funder’s stated (or unstated) interests. This is either due to sloppy prospect research or a lack of information from the funder.
4. The proposal was poorly put together
This should speak for itself. Badly written proposals DO get funded on the strength of the organization alone or because of a board connection (see #1) but more often than not, it’s thrown in the trash.
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