The foundation fundraising landscape is a competitive environment. After all, there are many worthwhile organizations jockeying for funding in a world of limited resources. But on the flip side, grant writing and foundation fundraising offer immense potential for your organization to secure game-changing resources and build relationships with like-minded donors and philanthropic organizations.
Oftentimes, the first step for any foundation grant is to submit an LOI – also known as the letter of interest, letter of inquiry, or letter of intent. Just as you would write a unique cover letter when applying for a job, the same goes for an LOI. You want to make it personal and differentiate yourself from the crowd in a way that resonates with your reader. The LOI is somewhat formulaic in that most funders request similar information:
- Organization Description – Introduce your organization, including your mission and vision, and explain what unique value your organization offers.
- Statement of Need – Explain what problem you are trying to solve and why it’s important. What changes for the better as a result of your program or organization? Who benefits?
- Program Description – Indicate how your project or program solves the problem you just described. Succinctly state your goals, timeline, activities, and approach, and provide some information about what success looks like for your program.
- Funding Request – Tell the funder how much you’d like to request, what the funds would be used for, and provide the overall program budget including how much has been raised so far.
- Contact Person – List a point of contact who is knowledgeable about the program and readily available to answer any follow-up questions the funder may have (ideally this is a senior staff person or board member).
Now, you must be wondering, if the LOI is so structured, how do you get your organization to stand out? Here are four tips to make your LOI shine:
- Be succinct and clear – Most LOIs have a 1-2 page limit, so be concise in your responses, refine your thinking, and get straight to the point. Try not to focus too much on background information, storytelling, or statistics in the LOI. There will be more opportunity for that at the next stage (the full application or grant proposal).
- Customize for each funder – At the minimum, before applying, you should make sure you meet all the minimum eligibility requirements listed in the guidelines. If you do, submit a customized letter that is tailored to the specific funder, rather than using a generic letter that goes out to everyone. Explain how your program or organization aligns with the goals and mission of the funder you’re approaching, and how you can solve the problem together. Alignment is everything.
- Build trust by showing evidence of success – What is it about your organization that makes you well-qualified to carry out the work? Like a resume, demonstrate your qualifications (awards, experience, expertise, funds raised, etc.). If you are launching a new program or don’t yet have a list of accomplishments, use a quote or testimonial from a client, program partner, another funder, or board member to show your impact and raise your credibility.
- Be persistent – Finally, the key to successful grant writing is to stay with it. According to the Society for Nonprofits, on an average day, roughly 2,700 grant proposals are submitted, yet fewer than 200 will receive funding. A denial is not an outright rejection of your organization, but rather, an opportunity to learn more about what the funder is looking for. Always ask for feedback (though not everyone will provide it) and keep track of your success rate so you can set goals and measure progress moving forward.
Pro Tip: Even if you are not invited to submit a full proposal, write a personal thank you note to the program officer. It’s never to soon to start developing a mutually respectful relationship.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the grant writing process, or just need a little extra help, My Philanthropy Team has experts on deck ready to help you put forward a winning LOI. Our grant writers and fundraising professionals have years of experience writing standout LOIs and grant proposals. We love helping fundraising professionals like you get the most out of your efforts. Give us a call today!