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This post is one of a series that explores reasons why proposals fail to win funding. It presents some of the reasons that relate to the context and circumstances surrounding grant-seeking opportunities at a given point in history. Other posts in the series explore reasons for a proposal’s success or failure that fall along a continuum that is less and more within a grant seeker’s control or influence:

  • Choice of opportunities
  • Applicant attributes
  • Applicant readiness
  • Proposal content
  • Proposal development and delivery


A grant proposal succeeds or fails for any combination of reasons. Some of reasons reflect the context of a specific grant opportunity and the nature and extent of the competition for funding.



A grant proposal may fail to win funding due to its context if:

  • Economic conditions have eroded values of assets usable for making grants
  • Government appropriations for a grant program are far less than anticipated
  • A funder suspends, rescinds, or discontinues a grant program before its funding decision deadline
  • A funder has recently dissolved or merged with another entity
  • A funder’s grant-making priorities have changed
  • A funder’s leadership composition or decision-making style has changed
  • Partnering agencies fail to furnish letters or other timely required evidence of partnership
  • Size of the applicant pool favors other more-experienced applicants
  • A funder’s policies or priorities favor other less-experienced applicants
  • A funder desires to fund proposals from certain specific applicants over others
  • A funder desires to fund proposals from certain types of applicants over others



A proposal may fail to win funding due to its competitive situation if:

  • A funder has attracted far more requests than it expected
  • A funder lacks assets to fund all otherwise worthy requests
  • A funder plans to award very few grants in a given program
  • Competitors have shaped the enabling legislation or subsequent regulations
  • Competitors’ grant requests exhaust available funds faster than expected
  • Competitors have presented more compelling ideas or plans of action
  • Competitors plan to invest far more resources in what they propose to do
  • Competitors propose to use a funder’s resources far more efficiently
  • Competitors have cultivated relationships with funder more effectively


The next post in this series will explore aspects of an applicant’s readiness for grant seeking as reasons for the funding outcome of a grant proposal.


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