Many foundations now prefer that your nonprofit send a letter of inquiry (LOI) rather than a full grant proposal when first asking for grant money.
Some foundations find that it is faster to make that first cut of possible funding ideas if they are just looking at a 2-3 page letter rather than a full proposal package. Once the foundation decides that your project may be a good fit for its goals and funding priorities, it may ask that you send a full blown proposal.
What Should be Included?
The letter of inquiry is very similar to a proposal except that it is short...a mini-proposal. You might draw the elements of the LOI from a grant proposal that you have already constructed and that may even be partially funded. Or you may certainly use the information that you are in the process of putting together for a proposal.
Sending a LOI before you finalize a final proposal is a way to get valuable feedback that you can use to revise your proposal ideas.
Here are the common elements of the typical letter of inquiry:
The introduction is a short executive summary. It includes the name of your organization, the amount of money being requested, and a description of the project involved. You'll want to indicate how the project fits with the funder's guidelines and funding interests.
- Organizational Description
Be concise and concentrate on your organization's ability to meet the need that you've stated. Give a brief history of your nonprofit and give a capsule of your programs. Make sure to directly connect what you currently do and what you want to accomplish with the funding that is requested..
- Statement of Need
Explain the need that can be met by your project. Describe the target population and geographic area. Provide a few significant statistical facts and several examples.
How will you solve the need? Describe the project succinctly and include the major activities, names and titles of key project staff, and your project's objectives.
- Other Funding Sources
If you are approaching other entities for support of this project, mention them in a brief paragraph. Include already secured funding if you have that and indicate how you expect to support the project activities after the initial time period.
Restate the intent of your project, explain that you are ready to answer additional questions, and thank the funder for his or her time and consideration. Attachments that are consistent with the funder's guidelines can be included.
A budget may or may not be required for your letter of inquiry. Check the funder's own guidelines. Some guidelines are very specific, and it is important to follow them exactly.
Page 2 - Sample of Letter of Inquiry