How to Follow Up on Foundation and Corporate Grant Requests

Some foundation and corporate funders use their websites to post information on procedures for grant proposal awards and declines. If you can't locate the funder's guidelines, it's okay to e-mail or call the funder for more information on your funding application's status.

However, wait three to six months after your submission date to make this call or to send an e-mail, because the board of directors for these private sector funders often don't meet monthly and often have a lot on the agenda to cover when they do meet. This meeting schedule often delays the grant-funding announcements.

These funders want you to be involved in the process that eventually leads to either your success or your failure. Communicating with funders is a key to getting your project or program funded — and if you don't succeed on this project, then you'll have even more experience for the next one!

You can expect foundation and corporate funders to notify you that

  • The status of your request is pending.

  • Your request has been rejected for funding.

  • Your request has been awarded funding.

Of all funding sources, corporate funders are the most likely to fail to notify you when your grant request is rejected. Eighty percent of the time, communication from a corporate funder means you have a check in the mail.

Round one: Determine whether your request is under review

When you submit a foundation or corporate grant application, you may soon receive an e-mail, a postcard, or a call letting you know your application's review status. The most-desirable immediate communication from a funder tells you that your funding request has been received and is under review. For example, you may receive something that sounds like the following:

We recently received your request for funding. Our board of trustees meets four times per year. Our next meeting for your area is scheduled for June. If we need additional information, someone from our office will contact you via e-mail or telephone. After we have had the opportunity to fully review your proposal, you will be advised of the board's decision.

A response like this one means you're in the running for the money. Don't call this funder; someone will let you know when it has a decision.

The least-desired communication from a funder tells you that your grant application was received and that the funder isn't considering it for a grant or other type of funding award. Here's an example:

Your recently submitted grant proposal was reviewed by our program staff and then forwarded to our board of directors. The board met on December 1 and reviewed over 200 grant proposals seeking foundation funding. Regretfully, your grant proposal was not selected by the board for funding consideration. There simply was not enough money to fund every great funding request.

Sometimes, a rejection letter comes with a further stipulation that you not submit another grant request for at least one year. This is a standard funder policy. Most corporate and foundation rejection letters are sent to you within 90 to 120 days of the funder's receipt of your grant request.

Round two: Find out whether you're funded

After your first positive communication from the funder indicating that your request is under review, expect a letter within several months (some come in 90 days; others can take up to 18 months) that tells you the outcome of the funder's review. The most desired letter from a funder includes information on the amount of your funding award and how to begin the process of transferring funds.

Consider this example:

The board of Directors for the Grant Writing Training Foundation met on June 30 to review your grant proposal. I'm pleased to notify you that the board is awarding $150,000 for your Five-Days to Grant Award Magic Boot Camp Program.
We ask that the money be spent exclusively to ensure that the goals and objectives of your project will be achieved. The grant will be paid to you in one lump-sum payment and processing will begin as soon as the grant agreement is signed and returned to us. On behalf of the board, I wish you every success.

Many foundation and corporate funders, as well as state and federal funders, require that grant agreements be in place before the funder releases the money. This step is standard procedure. Failing to sign a grant agreement means no grant. However, always have your legal department or attorney examine the language before you sign on the dotted line as a precaution. Call the funder if you have questions.

The least desired letter, however, is a rejection letter stating that although your proposal was recommended for funding, no funds are available in this fiscal year to fund your project.

Round three: Follow up after a rejection

When your project is denied funding by a foundation or corporate funder, your options for what to do next are similar to your options when dealing with a state or federal funding agency.

First, contact the funder to determine why your grant proposal was rejected. Then ask for a face-to-face meeting if the funder is located within driving distance. If meeting in person isn't a viable option, ask for the best time to discuss the weaknesses in your funding request with a program officer over the phone. This step gives you the opportunity to learn from the experience.

When you consider the time spent researching and writing your grant proposal, you owe it to yourself to find out why you failed. You can't correct narrative weaknesses based on the feedback from a standard form rejection — you have to talk to a real person.

Never become argumentative with a foundation or corporate funder about your grant proposal's rejection. After all, you may want to submit another grant proposal to the funder in the future.

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