The Art of the “No”: When Grant Applications Aren’t the Right Fit

May 23, 2024 | Grant Writing

Five hands raised with the word "NO" written on each palm

The pressure to apply for all the grants can be real in nonprofits and local government agencies with unrealistic expectations of this key funding and how it works. But there’s a time to say “no.” Strategically declining a grant opportunity can actually increase the efficiency of your fundraising. The following list highlights key moments to step away from the RFP.

1. Misalignment with Your Mission

Grants have the potential to transform the community you serve, but not if they pull you away from your core purpose. If the foundation’s focus area doesn’t align seamlessly with your mission or programmatic priorities, it’s okay to walk away. Being eligible to apply as a nonprofit is not enough, your program or project must represent an excellent fit to be competitive.

2. Unrealistic Reporting Requirements

Grant funders often have detailed reporting requirements that can outweigh the actual award in terms of the staff time required to keep up. While accountability is vital, excessive reporting can be a burden. Analyze the reporting demands. If fulfilling them would significantly strain your staff or divert them from core activities, it might be wise to decline.

3. The “Grant Grab” Trap

Don’t fall prey to the “apply for everything” mentality. Focus on quality over quantity. Research the funder’s history and past grant recipients. If their funding seems scattered or inconsistent with your organization’s work, your application might get lost in the shuffle.

Saying “no” to a grant allows you to focus on opportunities with a higher chance of success and a stronger alignment with your mission. This strategy frees you to pursue grants that truly resonate with your work and unlock the potential for long-term impact.

Kimberly Hays de Muga
Fundraising HayDay

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