A good start — the proposal cover letter

The cover letter is the grant seeker’s first opportunity to make a good impression — and first impressions matter. While the job of the proposal summary is to provide context for reading the entire proposal, the job of the cover letter is different. Its job is to provide a snapshot of what’s being requested and to demonstrate the unwavering commitment of the organization’s highest leadership.

“Keep the letter to one page or less,” said Holly Thompson, contributing editor for The Grantsmanship Center, in Los Angeles, Calif. “But do enrich it with a few details about the who, what, when, where, and why.” The letter should promote a warm, professional connection with the reader and briefly introduce the organization and the project.

“Most importantly,” said Thompson, “the letter must persuade the reader that your organization is 100% behind the project and will work relentlessly to make it happen.” The cover letter should include:

* Name and purpose of the proposed project and the specific dollar amount being requested in the opening sentence;

* Brief summary of the project’s approach;

* Brief description of how the project connects with the funder’s charitable mission;

* Summary of the grant seeker’s history and contact with the funder, including past funding, site visits, meetings, emails, and phone calls;

* A strong expression of commitment to the project from the organization’s leadership;

* Name, title, phone number, and email address of the contact person associated with the request; and,

* Signature of the organization’s executive director and/or board chair.


“Keep it short and make it interesting,” said Thompson. “Leave the meaty content — the persuasive arguments, evidence of community need, and case examples to the proposal.” The cover letter should leave the reader convinced of the organization’s enthusiasm for the project and wanting to know more. ©The Grantsmanship Center. All Rights Reserved.