Getting Attention with Your Letter of Inquiry
Ann C. Fitzgerald, President
A letter of inquiry is a proposal in miniature that some foundations require as the first step in the grantmaking process.
In requesting a letter of inquiry (or LOI), a foundation’s goal is to eliminate unnecessary paperwork and get a sense of whether your project matches its interests.
In writing a letter of inquiry, your goal is to be invited to submit a proposal. Of course, that is also the goal of hundreds, if not thousands, of other grant seekers who are applying to the same foundation for support.
So, it pays to get your letter of inquiry noticed.
In many foundations, LOIs are quickly scanned and summarized in a sentence or two for consideration. That means you need to convey your ideas in a clear, concise, yet compelling manner.
What should my letter of inquiry look like?
- A short (one or two-sentence) summary of the project
- The problem being addressed
- Your proposed solution
- A description of your organization
- Your complete contact information
- And a thank you to the grantmaker for considering your request
How can I increase my chances for success?
- Research to ensure your project is a match. Don’t blanket the foundation world with LOIs. Focus your precious time and resources on foundations that are the most likely aligned with your mission and interests.
- Follow the foundation’s guidelines. If a foundation asks for one or two pages, don’t write 10. And don’t include any additional materials unless they are requested.
- Don’t just take a long proposal and cut it down. Or if you do, reread the result carefully to make sure your LOI is comprehensible and answers obvious questions about the project and your organization.
- Don’t make the foundation guess about what it is you are submitting. State in the first sentence, or at least first paragraph, “Thank you for reviewing this letter of inquiry.”
- Make your case in a compelling way. Does your letter show energy, optimism, and an awareness of the foundation’s funding interests? Similar to direct mail letters, the LOI should draw in the reader.
Sources for Success
I recommend reading Thank You for Submitting Your Proposal: A Foundation Director Reveals What Happens Next by Martin Teitel. The author uses his experience as both a grantmaker and a grant seeker to offer solid advice about how to successfully navigate a foundation’s proposal process.
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