Charities disappointed by lack of feedback on grant refusals

A report funded by the Charities Aid Foundation says charities want to know why their bids fail and would like forms to be shorter for initial applications

Report author Jon Fitzmaurice
Report author Jon Fitzmaurice

Charities are feeling frustrated by the lack of feedback they receive from grant-makers when an application is refused, according to research from Cass Business School.

The Art of Refusal: Promising Practice for Grant Makers and Grant Seekers, a report funded by the Charities Aid Foundation, analyses how charities can learn and benefit from unsuccessful grant applications and how grant-makers can help unsuccessful applicants.

"Its context was the frustration and disappointment being experienced by many grant-seekers in a period of enhanced competition for funding, alongside the multiple pressures facing grant-makers, in responding to grant-seekers’ needs and in meeting their own range of obligations," it says.

The researchers interviewed more than 100 grant-makers and 40 charities, and found that feedback is a "reported frustration for those who considered their general experience of grant-makers to be inadequate".

It also gives advice to charities on how to deal with refusals. "Be prepared for the emotional impact of grant refusal, where possible limiting the time spent on absorbing it, to help avoid a sense of victimhood," it says.

Jon Fitzmaurice, senior visiting fellow at Cass Business School and one of the report’s authors, told Third Sector that there were frustrations on both sides – grant-makers recognised the need to give more feedback, but were often short of time.

He said charities favoured application processes that had two stages, with a shorter first stage – this gave grant-makers the chance to reject them before they had spent a long time on the application. But the research had shown that not many grant-makers offered such a process.

Jane Arnott, senior advisory manager for charities and grant-makers at CAF, said she often had conversations with charities that did not understand why an application failed.

"I hope these guidelines will help both charities and grant-makers to improve the process and ensure less time is spent on unsuccessful applications," she said.

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