Letter of Interest with Foundations: Time-Saver and Relationship-Maker
Friday, October 15, 2010
By Vince Siragusa
October 2010 (GO Know)
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could run a project by the grant maker before spending hours on a grant proposal? Needless to say, you don’t want to waste valuable time and resources positioning an application with limited funding potential. Inasmuch as the applicant’s time can be better spent exploring other funding avenues, the grant maker doesn’t want to be inundated with applications for projects they have no real interest in supporting. Understanding the role of the Letter of Intent or Letter of Interest (LOI) is one of true time savers in the world of foundation grant seeking. This document must be as well developed as the project for which funding is warranted.
The LOI should be a concise document—no longer than two pages—that gives the grant maker some valuable insight into who you are as an organization and the important role your organization plays in the community. The document should include what you’re looking to do as a program, the measurable benefits that you anticipate will be derived from your project's implementation, and why the foundation’s involvement is necessary for the project’s success.
Based on the presentation and interpretation of this document, many grant makers will either solicit a full application or turn down the initial proposal in favor of other LOIs that are more clearly related a project to the foundation’s areas of giving. Much is dependent on this short document. Accordingly, developing a LOI should not be done in haste nor with ambiguous details. This letter is your chance to make the grantor eager to read over your full application.
Successfully incorporating LOIs in this type of grant seeking doesn’t always follow a numbers game. Sending the LOI to 50 foundations doesn’t necessarily improve your chance of being invited to submit an application. Additionally, applicants should be strongly cautioned to avoid canned language or cookie cutter templates. Foundations often have individual areas of focus and will only entertain project applications that they deem a funding priority.
Fortunately, many foundations will offer insight and examples of previously successful proposals. Don’t be afraid to do some background on the grant maker to provide an understanding of whom and what has been funded in the past. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn how similar projects have been funded and may even find that your organization already has a relationship with the foundation’s board of trustees. In your search, also be sure to verify that the foundation is currently accepting LOIs and, if so, determine how they want that information submitted (electronic or hard copy).
The foundation-applicant relationship should be based on a good understanding of the need for reciprocity for all those involved. This relationship should be a marriage between the grantee’s needs fitting in with the grantor’s area of giving and vice versa. As is the case with any relationship, keeping the other party happy is part of the process. A quality Letter of Interest will help you get your foot in the door by articulating the value you intend to bring to that relationship.