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If a Proposal is Not Funded

Part of the process of writing and submitting proposals is being declined by a sponsor. In fact, proposals are turned down more often than they're approved.

A negative response should not discourage you from continuing with your project idea. A faltering economy and increased competition have combined to drive down already low proposal approval rates. Some federal agencies award fewer than 10% of submitted proposals, particularly on first-time submissions.

When a proposal is declined, OSP wants to work with the PI to resubmit to the same sponsor, if possible, and/or to identify and submit to new ones. Resubmissions that incorporate reviewer's comments have increased chances of being funded, particularly with federal agencies.

If a proposal is not funded and the PI wishes to continue seeking funding, OSP recommends that:

  • The PI request a copy of reviewer comments. This is a common and usually standardized, published practice with federal sponsors. Private foundations typically provide verbal feedback through a staff person. Discussing the proposal with a foundation staff person also increases sponsor knowledge of the project.
  • The PI share these comments with OSP. OSP is always seeking information on ways proposal submissions can be improved. The office also looks to identify similar comments across proposals. This information can be very useful in all future submissions.
  • The PI meet with OSP to discuss comments and identify a plan, timeline and potential sponsors for resubmission.
  • The PI revises the proposal to address reviewer comments. These are an excellent source of feedback that give insight into the sponsor's funding priorities. Resubmissions that incorporate reviewer comments have a significantly higher chance of being funded.

Recognizing that proposals are often declined and accepting this as part of the process of getting funded is vital. With much of the work already done to develop and submit a proposal, subsequent resubmissions require much less effort and may offer great reward.

OSP will be happy to assist you in re-focusing the proposal, re-building it, re-branding it or simply re-directing the request to a more appropriate funding source. ​​

Page last updated: October 11, 2017