When funders ask for a letter of inquiry (LOI), they want a few pages that will make them excited about giving you a grant. Some foundations will then invite you to send a full proposal. But for many foundations, an LOI is enough to make a decision. That means a great LOI might win you funding for your project.
Letters of inquiry are short--no more than three pages--but that doesn't mean they are easy. In fact, an effective LOI is often more difficult to write than a full proposal. It should thoroughly present the need or problem you have identified, the proposed solution, and your organization's qualifications for implementing that solution. It should be addressed to the appropriate contact person at a foundation or to its CEO and should be sent by regular mail.
Like a grant proposal, the letter of inquiry should include the following sections:
- The introduction serves as the executive summary. It includes the name of your organization, the amount needed or requested, and a description of the project. Also included here are the qualifications of project staff, a brief description of evaluative methodology, and a timetable.
- The organization description should be short and focus on the ability of your organization to meet the stated need. Provide a very brief history and description of your current programs. Clearly show a direct connection between what you do now and what you want to do with the requested funding. You will expand on this in more detail if you are invited to send a full proposal.
- The statement of need must convince the reader that there is an important need that can be met by your project. The statement of need includes a description of the target population and geographical area, appropriate statistical data in abbreviated form, and several concrete examples. Making the Case: How to Position Research in Your Proposal, our self-paced, online training, helps you create a needs statement that shows funders why your organization is the right one to meet an urgent need.
- The methodology should be appropriate to your statement of need and present a clear, logical, and achievable solution to the stated need. Describe the project briefly, including major activities, names and titles of key project staff, and your desired objectives. As with the organization description, this will be presented in far greater detail in a full proposal.
- Other funding sources being approached for support of this project should be listed in a brief sentence or paragraph.
- The final summary restates the intent of the project, offers to answer further questions, and thanks the potential funder for its consideration. Note: Only include attachments if the funder asks for them, and be sure to follow any guidelines for attachments.
Sample Letters of Inquiry
Samples of actual letters of inquiry are usually hard to find because the donor and applicant may be very protective of these documents. Also, they usually are very specific to the project, organization, and funder.
However, our Sample Documents section is a searchable collection of proposals, cover letters, letters of inquiry, and proposal budgets that were actually funded. Each proposal includes a critique by the decision-maker who awarded the grant.
These sample documents come from our book, Grantseeker's Guide to Winning Proposals, which you can use at our libraries and Funding Information Network locations.
You also might check if anyone in your professional networks would be willing to share sample letters of inquiry, proposals, and similar documents.
See also our related resources:
Self-paced eLearning on Proposal Writing
Learn how to craft a complete and competitive proposal in 15 lessons, including Tailoring the Base Proposal: Letter of Inquiry. $225.
Topic(s) Proposal Writing
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