It’s impossible to be all things to all people. But that’s exactly what a letter of intent (LOI) requires. Also called a letter of inquiry, this is your first and quite possibly only chance to make a positive impression with a funder.
If the funder likes what they see, they may invite you to submit a full grant application. If they don’t, you can cross that source off your list.
Therefore, your LOI is supremely important. But can you effectively tell your nonprofit’s story, explain your funding goals and outline why your organization is a good fit for the funder in a few short paragraphs? You can, but it takes forethought and strategy.
What is a letter of intent?
Private grantors use letters of intent to identify nonprofits that are appropriate to apply for their funding. The funder will look at the number and geographic scope of the LOIs to determine how many organizations are interested in the grant and allocate resources appropriately.
Since grant-makers may receive hundreds if not thousands of LOIs for one grant, it’s vital that your letter rise above the rest. LOIs with barebones information or lackluster details won’t receive an invite to submit a full application. This is not the time to cut-and-paste a form letter.
How to write an LOI that stands out
Grant makers may accept LOIs in a couple of ways.
Some have a standard application form. It may be an online submission form with fields to complete or the funder may have a formal set of instructions that details what should be in the letter. These are sometimes easier to write since you know exactly what the funder wants to see.
Even so, follow the directions exactly. If they want the LOI double-spaced and written in 12-point Times New Roman font, make sure you do so. If there is a word count limit, don’t exceed it.
Other funders simply ask you to submit a LOI. Starting with a blank slate is a bit trickier since it’s hard to know exactly what the funder wants to see.
Approach it like an executive summary in the form of a business letter. Print the LOI on your organization’s letterhead. It should summarize your full grant proposal but remain relatively brief. It shouldn’t exceed three pages and preferably be a good deal shorter.
As with any type of writing, your introduction should be attention-grabbing and concise. Entice the reader to learn more about your organization, your service recipients and the program for which you’re seeking funding.
Provide a succinct description of the project the money will fund. Most importantly, describe how the project fits with the funder’s interests and goals. The LOI is your chance to tell a funder about your organization’s current initiatives while explaining how much more you can accomplish if funded.
Even though your organization’s name is on the letterhead, be sure to include it in the body of the letter. Specifically state the amount of money you’re requesting. Don’t leave it open-ended. The funder needs to know an exact dollar figure to determine if your request can be accommodated in the funding cycle.
More tips for success
Don’t use generic salutations like “To whom it may concern” or “Dear selection committee.” Find out the name of the person who will receive the letter so you can personalize the greeting.
Describe your service area population and geography. Include statistics and facts to support the need for your program. Unless called for, you don’t need to include footnotes, but it’s a good idea to identify the source of your information, e.g., Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Health.
Check and double check the funder’s guidelines before sending the letter. Make sure you’ve met all the requirements. If you don’t address one of the requested fields, your letter may get excluded quickly.
Avoid overly friendly or personal closings, even if you have an existing relationship with the funder. Thank the funder for their consideration and sign the letter using a closing like “Sincerely” or “Respectfully.”
Seek help from a professional grant writer
There’s an art to writing LOIs that get a funder’s attention. It requires the right mix of persuasion, statistics, and emotion. Achieving this combination isn’t easy, especially when you’ve only got a few paragraphs.
Often, a neutral third party can tell your organization’s story better than an employee or board member. That’s why hiring a professional grant writer to pen a LOI is a sound investment. Experienced grant writers understand what funders are looking for in an LOI and can help you succinctly describe your program needs.
Learn how KFA Nonprofit Funding Solutions can help. Reach out today, and let us craft a winning LOI for your organization.