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New research to help charities cut the number of unsuccessful grant applications

Cass publishes advice for charities and grant makers on handling grant refusals

New research on how charities can learn and benefit from unsuccessful grant applications has been published by the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass. The research, funded by the Charities Aid Foundation, also outlines how grant makers can help unsuccessful applicants.

With competition for grants fiercer than ever, charities spend hundreds of hours each year applying for grants, many of which are turned down. But a new report entitled The Art of Refusal: Promising Practice for Grant Makers and Grant Seekers, sets out a series of guidelines to help charities improve their success rate.

The research, carried out by a team of researchers from the Centre for Charity Effectiveness, studied more than 100 grant making organisations and 40 grant seeking organisations.

For grant seekers, the guide emphasises the importance of having preliminary contact with grant makers, as well as providing advice on receiving and responding to unsuccessful applications, seeking and using tailored feedback and managing the news of grant refusal within their organisation. For grant makers, the guide covers the role of pre-application processes, the methods of grant refusal and best practice in giving feedback.

Jane Arnott, CAF's Senior Advisory Manager for Charities and Grant Makers said: "It's an old but true adage that we learn more from our failures than our successes. That's why we felt this was such an important piece of work to fund. I often have conversations with charities who are puzzled as to 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."

Jon Fitzmaurice, Senior Visiting Fellow at Cass, said: "We know that many charities are very hard pressed, but so of course are many grant makers and grant applications are rising. 

"We found there was a lot of frustration on both sides. Grant seekers wanted more feedback even when it was good news and grant makers recognise the need to give feedback but struggle to find the time to do so in detail. If both sides work harder at this process the sector will benefit enormously."

The guide can be downloaded from

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