Denied Applicant Feedback
Ways to provide suggestions to strengthen the proposal, despite it not being recommended for funding.
Since not all high quality applications can be supported, offering feedback from the committee review and insight into the decisionmaking process can help bring transparency around the funding recommendations. The feedback from the committee should be summarized in a funding round report, providing ready insight into strengths and weaknesses of each of the eligible applications that were sent to the committee for review.
- Did the review process provide written or verbal feedback that would be helpful to share with denied applicants?
- Are there community partners or other funders that you can suggest the applicant reach out to and/or make an introduction?
- What were the strengths of the proposal? Can the applicant focus more on these aspects and reapply for funding?
While it is not recommended that the comments and scores are shared with the applicant, an overview of the feedback can be provided by phone or an in-person meeting. These meetings also provide a good opportunity to connect the applicant with other resources that can help them move their proposal forward despite not being recommended for funding from the funder.
Methods We Love
Set up a time to talk a few days after the denial notification. This will give the applicant some time to take in any of the information provided and consider their proposal compared to the ones that were recommended for funding, if the list of funded projects is released at the same time. It also helps to lower the amount of purely “reactive” conversation by taking a few days to let the news settle before discussing the decision with the applicant.
Talk about both the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal. While it was likely that more of the proposal’s weaknesses prevented the it from being funded, it is important to also share what reviewers saw as the strengths of the proposal so that the applicant either elaborates on or, at a minimum, maintain those aspects of the proposal in future iterations. This well rounded feedback often results in a future proposal that is more competitive in the review process.
Be honest about why the proposal was not recommended for funding. While it may be true that there were more competitive proposals than funding available, it is not helpful to the funder or applicant to use that as the sole reason why the proposal did not receive funding. This often leads to applicants reapplying with the same proposal and fairing the same (or worse) since they were not provided with feedback on how they can make their proposal more competitive. It also does not optimize the review process, which serves as a source of rich knowledge from key community stakeholders and leaders.
Curate the feedback before sharing it. It is highly recommended that suggestions from the review process are shared but it is best to curate the information so that it is easy for the denied applicant can take action and walk away from the review process feeling like they benefited from it despite not receiving funding. Denied applicant feedback should always be constructive, so if suggestions are made by reviewers that would only hurt instead of help the applicant, refrain from sharing that information or take the time to reframe it so that it is beneficial to the project leader. This is also a good opportunity to remind or retrain reviewers on how to make a community-based decisionmaking process rewarding for everyone involved, helping to advance the work in the community regardless of who receives funding.