Grant Writing for Beginners: How to Write a Letter of Inquiry
The Letter of Inquiry (LOI) is your first impression on a funder. Many foundations use LOIs to determine if they’d like to receive a full proposal for a project or program. It’s important that your LOI makes the right impression, so that you have the chance to submit a full proposal. Some foundations will provide guidelines for LOIs. If they do, the guidelines should be followed exactly. If there are no guidelines, this post outlines some general recommendations for writing LOIs.
This blog is part of our new series, Grant Writing for Beginners. The series covers all the stages of preparing a grant proposal from writing a Letter of Inquiry to submitting a proposal. To continue the series, here’s how to write a great Letter of Inquiry:
Let’s start with the basic rules for writing an LOI. LOIs are one to three page business letters, and should therefore follow the format of all other business letters: the funder’s address should be at the top left followed by the date and then a salutation. If possible, find the name of the person who will most likely be reading your LOI to use in your salutation. It always better to address an actual person, than to use a standard “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”. However, if it is unclear who review LOIs, these salutations will do.
The challenge of an LOI is capturing the essence of your proposal in a limited amount of words. Your LOI should be succinct and to the point. Use direct language and avoid jargon and flowery terms. See if a colleague who is unfamiliar with your proposal can get a clear picture of your project just from reading your LOI.
Components of an LOI
An LOI is a condensed version of your full proposal, and should generally follow the sections of the proposal. Unless the foundation provides specific guidelines, these are the components you’ll want to include:
1. Executive Summary
In one paragraph, you should summarize the points you’ll be addressing more thoroughly later in your LOI. First, you’ll want to briefly introduce you school or school district. Then summarize the need your school or district wants to address, how it will go about addressing it, what the desired outcomes are, the timeline, and the budget.
In this second paragraph, you’ll want to build your school’s credibility. What makes your school capable of addressing the need you’ve presented? You can illustrate this with a brief success story, testimony, or statistics and data. Mention your school’s mission and history, and how that relates to your proposal’s goals.
3. Statement of Need
Go into more detail about the need your proposal will address. Why is this need more important to address than other needs? Back up your argument with evidence and statistics.
4. Project Activity
Explain your school’s unique approach to meeting the needs you’ve outlined. Summarize the actions your school is going to take. If you’re collaborating with other institutions, now is the time to explain exactly what role they will play.
State the results you hope to achieve, and how you will measure your success.
State how much you’re asking the foundation to grant you and how that money will be spent. If you have funding from another source, outline how much of the project another funder is taking on. Foundation’s like to see that projects have more than one funder.
Close your LOI by expressing appreciation for the reader’s time. Mention an interest in the opportunity to submit a full proposal.
Keep in mind that your LOI should capture the essence of your proposal, while remaining succinct and persuasive. Writing a concise, compelling LOI will get you one step closer to submitting a full proposal. Stay tuned for more from our Grant Writing for Beginners series. Next time we will start with writing a great proposal.