From The Files

Hi Carolyn:

We sent a grant application to the ___ fund.  I reached out by phone ahead that we would be sending an application.  No return call. The information showed that the first contact would be a letter, which I sent, then the application.  They have a meeting in October and looks like they make decisions.

What is the process in asking if there is an update or do I just assume it was a no since I have not heard?


No Word From The Funder


Dear No Word:

Thanks for getting in touch. You raise a good question. There’s a short answer, and a long answer.

The short answer is YES! Call them! Any (legitimate) reason to call is a way to start or further a relationship with a funder, and a great opportunity to build a relationship — even if just through voicemail. The Relationship is KEY!

HINT: Make sure you have a quickie script ready for that voicemail message!

The Long Answer is: Your assumption that they have met to determine their funding decisions is likely correct. However, I would not make too many assumptions beyond that. And even if their protocol is to not respond to denied applicants, I would still try to contact them. If you reach them, you have a legit reason to call because, if they denied your request, you should be trying to find out why. The conversation should not be combative and you shouldn’t try to dissuade them from their decision, but you should try to get a handle on where their heads were in their decision-making.

Maybe in the pandemic, they are just re-gifting last year’s winning applicants. Maybe money was super-tight because of COVID-related commitments. Maybe even if you felt your org was aligned, their definition of alignment is different than yours.  There’s a million possible reasons they would decline your request, and you should try to find out which it was. Give them a chance to put into their own words where their priorities are, and ask them, “Would it be smart for us to re-apply?”

Unless they have a specific request on their website or elsewhere for NO CALLS, you have done the best you can to bring the funder along in the relationship, and you don’t know the circumstances at the other end (unfortunately).

A wise woman once told me: “Always assume positive intent.” It is an axiom that takes me calmly and peacefully through a lot of life’s quandaries. I hope that helps you whenever you come to this crossroads again — because you will. It’s the nature of the beast.

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