What To Do When We Don’t Get Everything We Ask For In a Grant | Funding for Good

We received this question during our last webinar:

“When we submitted a grant for a vehicle, we itemized all extra costs needed plus the cost of the vehicle. We got approved for only the cost of the vehicle. Anything we can do to avoid this dilemma in the future.”

How many of you have applied for a grant just to find out that the donor awarded you only a PORTION of the request?

The mixed emotions come flooding in… excitement of getting “awarded” funds is dampened by a hundred questions:

“How can we possibly offer the program we described with these dollars?”

“Where are we possibly going to get the rest of the money in time to complete the project and submit reports to the “partial donor?”

“What are we going to DO now?!”

Take heart, this happens to the best of us and there are a few steps you can take to make sure both you and your donor are on the same page:


1. Take a breath

….now take another one!

2. Pick up the phone and call the donor.

Thank them for their contribution and support.

3. Request specific feedback from the donor

What areas of the grant most interested them and what prompted their decision to offer partial funding. What are their expectations for use of that funding?

4. Be honest

Did your proposal indicate that you would move forward with partial funding or list in-kind or other sources for income?
If so, the donor might suggest that you leverage some of your other potential resources. Don’t get frustrated with a donor if your proposal led them to believe you had more resources lined up than your pending application with their foundation.

5. Outline revised project expectations or timelines that are more appropriate for funding received.

For example, we recently worked with a nonprofit that requested $35,000 from a foundation to support their K-8th grade after school program. Only $10,000 was awarded, so the Executive Director set up a conversation with the foundation’s program officer to determine how those dollars could best be used to meet the program and donor goals.

The foundation asked where their dollars could create the most impact in academic performance. Both agreed that the grant funds would be used to promote literacy efforts for 3rd-4th graders in the program and that all the original program goals that pertained to other grade levels would not be applicable in the final grant report.

Those $10,000 went a long way in contracting teachers/tutors to work with kids who were reading below grade level. The nonprofit was able to leverage other donors by showing how one foundation had committed to specific grades and that additional funds were needed to avoid closing doors to all the other students.

At the end of the day the decision is simple- Cut back or step it up to raise the missing dollars!

Ways to Cut Back

1. Programs– reduce contact hours, reduce number of clients to be served, contract services rather than hiring new staff.

2. Equipment purchases– select a comparable but less expensive product that still meets needs. Contact the manufacturer and request a nonprofit rate, free maintenance plan, or other perks.

3. Event Funding– If funds were for a series of programs or events, consider reducing the number of programs to be delivered. 

Ways to Raise the Difference

1. Use social media, press releases, and all other streams of communication to build a “match” opportunity.

2. Break down the program needs into smaller requests that can be submitted to other foundations, corporations, places of worship, or individuals.