The Letter That Will Get You Funded

In order to assess the validity of a proposal in relationship to the solicitation, many donors, especially foundations, request a Letter of Intent (LOI) from future applicants. This is the letter that will lead to the invitation to apply for the grant. If the application that follows meets the donor’s criteria and is well written, the chances for success are excellent.

The LOI should be written to communicate at least three things:

  • That you have researched the donor and know the project fits their guidelines as well as their culture and language.
  • That this is a substantial and needed project with real outcomes that serve the constituents.
  • That you, your team, and institution are capable of succeeding if funded.

A Letter of Intent should be composed as follows:

  • The opening paragraph should include the summary statement, which will be the roadmap of your proposal. This first section should stand alone and address: what, who, how much, and over what period.
  • The Statement of Need (1-2 paragraphs) will include the problem, the science/field as it currently stands, what is unknown, what is proposed, and who will benefit by the intervention.
  • The Project Activity or approach will address: what and how, innovation, partnerships, and all activities to be undertaken. This will be the bulk of your letter.
  • Outcomes (1-2 paragraphs) will relate directly to your measurable objectives, will contain the specific deliverables/outcomes, and will show how you propose to achieve them.
  • Credibility/credentials will address the project director’s and team’s credibility and why they are best equipped to carry out the project. Indicate awards, rankings, and tangible measures that set you apart from your peers. Also, describe what each team member will contribute to the project and how they will work together.
  • The Budget (1-2 paragraphs) should be abbreviated; save the detail for the complete proposal. Instead, write a few sentences addressing other funding you have received or plans to raise the rest, and how the program will be sustained after the project is complete. Try to imagine the questions the reviewer will ask.
  • The Closing Paragraph should refer to the solicitation instructions and the contribution that the intervention will make to the field/constituents. If it is a scientific research, reference should be made to the contribution you will make to your science and science in general.

Additional tips:

  • Visualize your proposal and how it will unfold.
  • Address the match between the donor’s mission and yours.
  • Ensure that you avoid jargon, unnecessarily flowery language, superfluous adjectives and adverbs, and remove indefinite terms such as “might” “possibly” and “hope.”
  • Get feedback from your colleagues.
  • Review, if possible, other LOIs written to your donor.

Mathilda Harris

Over the past 18 years, she has written grants, conducted capital campaigns, developed strategic plans for grant procurement, and assisted individuals and institutions to write winning proposals for various donors.

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