Dear Mr. Foundation, Please Reject My Application

Four separate times in my life, I have hit the proverbial pavement looking for a job.  I remember very clearly the two types of rejection that I received:

  1. The “Outright” No – Painful and deflating but leaving no doubts. I moved on, hoping the future had something better in store.
  2. The “We Were Very Impressed but Need Time to Decide How Best to Employ You” No – Slow and dragged out.  A lot of positive energy and upbeat words professed.  Encouraged, I even stopped looking at other prospects. Yet, despite all the enthusiasm, in the end no position was offered or available.

Give me the “Outright No” any day of the week and twice in a recession; you win some, you lose some.  The second, drawn-out no, is still a no, but wasted my time and got my hopes up over nothing.  Why not tell me no from the beginning instead of playing achy-breaky games with my heart?

Unfortunately, nonprofit organizations are being subjected to this same treatment, even more so now after the recession and the Madoff scandal.

I am hearing too many stories of charities that have been promised or reassured by private donors and foundations, alike, that it’s “business as usual” and the “check is in the mail.”  Not having any reasons to doubt, the organizations strategize their fundraising and structure their budget accordingly – only to find out later that:

  • “business as usual” = reorganizing our priorities (a.k.a your organization is no longer a priority) or some other vague-sounding rejection.
  • “the check is in the mail” = you ain’t getting squat.

To say that these stories upset me, is an understatement.   Donations and grants (should) serve one purpose and one purpose only: to help a nonprofit. In what Scrabble® dictionary or farmer’s almanac does this delayed surprise translate as helping a charity?

Last week, I shared the shock with a Nonprofit CEO of an organization that I am close with as she related a story with a painfully, similar theme: Earlier in the year, the charity received a letter from a foundation telling them that their grant had been reduced by $10,000 but that “it is still business as usual” and that thankfully the foundation wasn’t hard hit by recent economic events.  Then, out of the blue, the organization received a letter two weeks ago – an impersonal, standard letter mind you – telling them that the foundation was “rethinking its priorities” and, unfortunately, would not match its previous commitments.  And just like that, one-sixth of this organization’s budget had disappeared.

If any readers of this post are donors or foundations, please believe me that the “Outright No” is the preferred method of rejection by both recipients and applicants.  If nothing else, it gives an organization some additional time to adjust its fundraising goals and budget constraints to this new reality.  Even this can be charity.

Tizku LeMitzvot,


N.B. An article entitled, “Working with Foundations, Never Taking Support for Granted” in eJewish Philanthropy details a similar story and how the charity responded.

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