Tales from the Field: Relationships Make the Difference


How A Board Member Helped One Organization Get the Grant

Not long ago, I received the dreaded email about a pending $5,000 grant request:

Thank you for your request for grant funding from the XXXX Foundation. We have carefully reviewed the information sent and regret that we must decline your request.

The XXXX Foundation receives many more grant requests than we are able to fund. Our decision does not reflect on the work of your organization.

We appreciate your interest in our grants program and wish you the best.


XXXX Foundation

It wasn’t the first rejection I had gotten from the funder. In fact, it was the third. As a small nonprofit, we try for just about any grant in our local area that aligns with our mission. The alignment was there, and we fit well within the funding guidelines. The application was done correctly and submitted on time. What was missing?

After the first two tries, I had stopped applying. However, things had started to change for us. We had a vision and a plan to intentionally add new members who have experience serving on governance-type boards, and we were having some success. The added bonus: we now had more connections in the community.

About two months before the application was due, I had new hope and the name of the woman who was the local foundation contact. It was the same woman I had previously talked to, emailed, and invited to meet with me … seemingly to no avail. When I asked our board members if anyone knew her, as it lay right there on the agenda action items, one of our board members said, “Yes, I do.”

A couple weeks later, this same board member sent an email introduction to the both of us. Within two weeks, the foundation contact paid a visit and learned a lot more about our mission. And like many professional women who learn about us, she knew all too well the challenge women face when they can’t afford appropriate clothing. It touched her heart.

So why was I getting the rejection email? Turns out it was a mistake. I got a call from our contact a short time later. She saw the email too and had made a call on our behalf. She assured me it was a mistake… and it was. Thankfully someone who could make a difference cared. And someone else knew her and cared enough about our mission to make sure we got connected.

So ask yourself the next time your grant application is denied, ask yourself:

  • Do you have a connection to a decision-maker or influencer at the organization? If not, how can you create that connection?

  • Have you called them? Met with them? Invited them to get to know your organization better? If not, pick up the phone and tell them about your mission.

Relationships make the difference. In this case, a $5,000 difference and the beginning of what we hope will be a long-term relationship.

What connections do you have or can your board help you make on your behalf?


Regina Haddock, Foundation and Executive Director of Dress for Success Quad Cities

She studied English and Psychology during her undergrad years and completed an MS Ed degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from WIU Quad Cities in 2004. She has extensive work experience in the nonprofit sector, including project management, program development and facilitating teams. A visionary, change agent and a social entrepreneur, she brings a voice for those less fortunate while also focusing on the big picture ideals of fostering social capital and improving civic engagement. Regina is the mother of three adult children and lives in Davenport with her husband Kurt, three rescued cats, and a cocker spaniel. She enjoys reading, home improvement projects, gardening, golf and traveling.