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Perfecting the letter of inquiry

A letter of inquiry (LOI) is the first chance to make a good impression on a funder, so take the time to get it right. “Make your LOI clear and energetic,” according to Holly Thompson, contributing editor for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles. “You don’t have a lot of room to make your case, so make every sentence count.”

When funders provide guidelines for the LOI, follow them to the letter. You can be creative, but only within the confines of the instructions. When there aren’t guidelines, Thompson suggests that the LOI address the following points – concisely:

  • Summary: Yes, in only one short paragraph, summarize the situation your organization wishes to address, the approach it will use, the outcomes it plans to achieve, and how much your approach will cost.
  • History and Mission: Summarize what your organization does and how long it’s been doing it. What issues does it address? How does it address them?
  • Track Record: Emphasize accomplishments. Include a testimonial or a short success story to illustrate the heart of your organization’s work. Provide statistics to substantiate outcomes.
  • Need and Results: Describe the situation that’s compelling your organization to seek a grant. What concerns you? Why does it matter? Again, substantiate with statistics.  Specify the positive changes your organization plans to achieve.
  • Approach: Tell the funder what your organization plans to do. You don’t have room to provide details, so focus on the most important components. Explain why you expect the approach to work.
  • Costs: Specify how much the approach will cost, how much you’re asking the funder to contribute, and how will you use the grant funds.

“A well-crafted LOI is brief – perhaps two or three pages,” says Thompson, “yet it still provides specific information. It is also tailored to the funder’s interests. It leaves the reader wanting to know more and builds confidence that your organization can get the job done.”

As we celebrate our 36th year, NPT remains dedicated to supplying breaking news, in-depth reporting, and special issue coverage to help nonprofit executives run their organizations more effectively.