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Many foundations require you to write an LOI before submitting a full application. This helps funders weed out organizations that don’t fit within their mission and goals.
With an LOI you have an opportunity to get your organization in front of the foundation in 1-2 pages. It should be brief and concise, but convincing. An LOI is non-legally binding document which includes an introduction to your project, contact information at your agency, a description of your agency, a statement of need, your methodology and/or solution to the problem/need. LOI’s are used to provide the funder with information and insight which helps them determine which organization is appropriate to apply for their grant.
Before you submit an LOI do your due diligence by researching the foundation and seeking out their focus areas and guidelines. Know what your potential funder is passionate about. Look at the funder’s website, research their interests and past interactions with your organization. Review the foundation’s 990. The LOI can be the next step in determining whether or not your organization is the best match.
How To Write a Letter of Intent
Although most foundations provide guidelines or an online system to submit an LOI, I hope these tips will help set you up for success. Take the time to submit a strong LOI with rich content that explains why your organization is the best fit for funding. A strong LOI can help your chances to be invited to complete a full proposal or application.
- The LOI should be a brief, 1-2 page high-level overview of your organization and all that it does for the community you serve.
- The structure should be that of a business letter. Therefore, write the LOI on business letterhead. Be sure that your company’s name, address and contact information appears on the letterhead or add it to the LOI at the end. The date, recipients name, foundation name and address should appear on the left-hand side.
- Address the letter to the foundation with “attn:” to the main contact. It is important to use the specific name of the recipient. Try as best as you can to address it to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern.’
- The opening of the letter is the most important part. You want to catch the attention of the reader so that they will want to learn more about your organization. It should be a clear and concise executive summary. Include the name of your organization, the grant you are applying for and/or the amount you are requesting as well as a short description of the project you are requesting funds for. You should also address how your project/program aligns with the foundation’s focus area.
- Give a brief overview of your organization’s history and programs. Explain what you currently you do and what you want to do to accomplish with their funding.
- Include a need statement (the issue you are trying to resolve): target population and geographic area. Incorporate statistical facts relevant to your target population as well as specific successes your organization has performed to meet those needs.
- Explain your objectives and outcomes. What will the funding accomplish? How can they help you solve the issue you are addressing?
- Some additional forms that may be helpful are your list of board of directors, 501 c 3 Tax ID letter, organization budget, and audited financials. Just keep in mind that this is an LOI, not a full proposal.
- Always thank the funder for their consideration of your proposal. Be professional and memorable.
- Use your words smartly. Avoid jargon, the impact is critical. Do not simply copy and paste text from another LOI – it is rare that anything can be recycled verbatim.
- This is probably the most critical part: review, review, review! Have someone review and edit your LOI. Always have an extra set of eyes review what you wrote to make sure you do not have any grammatical errors.
The Letter of Intent is a window into what your organization does. Make it clear, concise and compelling. State upfront what you want and how you align with the foundation’s mission.
I would love to know if you have any helpful tips for writing a successful LOI in the comments. Happy writing!
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