Grant Writing Advice and Tips: The Grant Helpers Blog

Strategic Decisions Regarding Letters of Introduction

Posted by Carol Timms on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 @ 10:10 AM

decisionsMany grantmaking organizations—especially small, private foundations—do not accept proposals for initial funding requests. Instead, they require grantseekers to submit a letter of introduction (LOI), also known as a letter of interest, letter of inquiry, letter of intent, or letter of request (LOR). Often, LOIs are requested by foundations as a tool to determine which projects they will be invited to submit a full proposal. While each grantmaking organization’s requirements for these letters may vary, most funders want LOIs of no more than one to three pages that describe the project for which you’re requesting funding and indicate the amount of funding for which you’re asking.

But is writing LOIs (as opposed to grant proposals) really worth doing? There are two main strategic approaches to consider: sending many LOIs – vs- fewer full proposals. To determine the best strategy for your organization, consider some of the general pros and cons of LOI writing when seeking grant funding.

Pros

-- LOIs are brief and quick to write.

Most full grant proposals require multiple pages of specific information regarding your funding request, including a project description, timeline, itemized budget, and measurable goals and outcomes. Therefore, planning your project and then writing a good proposal can take days, weeks, or even months. Because LOIs require much less verbiage and rely on more general information, an experienced writer can prepare a persuasive LOI quickly. If you have a collection of documents and text from other proposals and LOIs, the task can be even easier.


-- LOIs require less specific information than proposals, LOIs can be written and submitted early in the project-planning phase.

As noted above, the specific information most grant proposals require means your organization will need to have a thoroughly planned project before you can write persuasive proposals likely to receive funding. Since most LOIs require only a project description, a short statement of need, and the amount of money you’re requesting, you can submit LOIs and gain interest in your project during the brainstorming phase of project planning.

-- LOIs are more easily reusable.

Not only are LOIs a time-saver because they are brief and thus quick to write, but the more general nature of the content in LOIs means you can write a single LOI and send it to multiple funding organizations with only minor changes (such as the name of the grantmaking organization).

Cons


-- LOIs set brevity limits thereby limiting the ability to convey your story. 

The brevity of LOIs can be both a blessing and a curse. Though a brief letter is quick to write, LOIs can also be very challenging to write because it can be hard to fit all the most persuasive aspects of your proposed project into such a short medium. Therefore, writers must be familiar with how to prioritize the most persuasive information.

--Receiving funding from writing an LOI is less likely than receiving funding from a proposal.

Many organizations that accept LOIs rather than proposals are small, private foundations. Such organizations often lack formalized grant request review procedures and have limited funding available. Conversely, many organizations that accept proposals have more formalized procedures so that you can be sure your proposal request will be reviewed. Larger organizations with formal proposal procedures also tend to have more funding to give.

One potential exception to this general trend is local foundations. Many times, if you apply to a small, private foundation in your immediate area, you stand a higher chance of getting funding than if you submit an LOI (or even a proposal) to a regional or national entity. In such instances, though, it is still important to network with the local foundation, if possible, to increase your chances of funding.

--Receiving meaningful feedback on an LOI is unlikely.

One potential  Funding organizations use LOIs as a quick-sort mechanism. Since the goal is speed, the organizations are not inclined to provide any feedback about why your project fell outside their funding priorities.

Optimal Strategy

As you determine what’s best for your organization, realize you won’t have a choice about the type of application a granting organization accepts. Rather, your choice in each instance is to determine if the LOI or complete grant is a good fit for the granting organization and, therefore, the best use of your time. Consider the Pros and Cons presented here to help make that decision.

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Still not sure whether to make LOI-writing part of your organization’s grantseeking strategy? The Grant Helpers can assist you with developing your grant strategy or help your organization write persuasive LOIs. Contact us today!

Topics: securing grants, grant project development, grant strategies, grant proposal, grant, grant funding, applying for grants, grant planning, grants writing, Grant Writing and Planning, letter proposal, letter of intent, LOI, grants, Grant Writing Tips, grant tips

Five Ways To Visualize Success

Posted by Carol Timms on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 @ 11:08 AM

 

stack of reportsLet’s be realistic. Your grant request will likely be one of many received by your prospective funder. After reading many grant applications before yours, reviewers are likely to become distracted or tired. Make your application stand out and be easier to read by using visual cues. Here are five suggestions.

 

 

Extra! Extra! Read All About It

Just as in a magazine, creative and descriptive headlines and subheadlines will help readers focus their attention by organizing content into sections. Their purpose is to capture the essence of the content and prompt further reading. The best headlines and subheadlines are useful, unique, specific and/or urgent. They should be short and in bold to easily catch the reader’s attention. 

               Weak Example:                 Background

               Stronger Example:           Millions Go Hungry Every Day 

 

Lists Are Lovely

Bulleted lists are easy to scan, thus increasing the likelihood of the content being read. Be sure to include the most important information in the lists. The more compelling the information, the more likely the reader will be to read the accompanying paragraphs. 

 

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Include photographs to show how your program benefits others. Bring your images to life by describing the story behind the photo.   

Without knowing whether the reviewer is predominantly swayed by data or stories, combine the two. For example, if you’ve included a photograph of students reading to shelter dogs, include data in the caption mentioning the increased likelihood of those dogs being adopted. An example follows

 reading to dog

After Katy’s third visit reading to Bailey, he went from cowering in the back of his cage to eagerly laying at the front of his cage, tail wagging. Bailey was adopted after just 3 weeks while the average stay before adoption was weeks.

 

 

 Bailey relaxes while his new owner reads to him.

 

Make Data Visual

Anytime you can present data in a chart, table or infographic you are more likely to get the attention of the readers. Incorporate a pleasing palette of colors that matches your message. If you are applying for funds for an elementary education program, consider primary colors. If you are requesting funding for an environmental program, use colors from nature. If there is a particular number or data point you want to highlight, be sure it stands out.

 

Pull It Out

Just as with the number or data point you want to highlight, there may be powerful statements that are essential to your message. These can be placed in a text box, written in bold, or written in color. Don’t over do these, but rather, choose one or two statements.

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The Grant Helpers can help you develop an effective proposal with strong visual elements. Contact us today—you can even start with a free consultation.

Topics: grant rejection, proposal rejection, grant basics, statistics to get grants, numbers to get grants, numbers, securing grants, grant strategies, grant proposal, grant, grant funding, applying for grants, full proposal, grant application, grant applications, making case for funding, how to get noticed, grant hints, grant writing hints, grant application hints, application tips, Grant Writing Tips, grant writing submission, How to Grant Write

Applying for Grants with Collaborators

Posted by Roland Garton on Thu, Nov 3, 2016 @ 09:11 AM

3211560429_6001ea9cc3_q.jpgGrant applications with multiple collaborators and supporters tend to fare better than solitary applications. Funders like agencies that leverage, rather than duplicate, existing resources.  Funders also like groups that are aware enough to understand the local support ecosystem and can operate efficiently with others in their space. Furthermore, funders respond favorably knowing their dollars are stretched further by assistance from other partners.

Strong partners will not only appeal to the funder, but they can also participate in developing the proposal. Often they can provide additional data to support need and potential impact. They’ll frequently review proposal drafts and provide useful suggestions and criticisms to strengthen the content.

Attracting Collaborators

Attracting another party to work with you has many of the same elements as attracting money from a funding organization. Typically, your contact will want an abstract of the proposal to present to his or her board for approval. Whether you provide such a document or work with them verbally, key points to make would be these:

  • Motivate and Align. Show how the project serves their mission, and how involvement in the project furthers their goals.
  • Clarify Benefits. Using numbers where possible, describe what benefits they could realize by working with you on the project. Receiving some of the funding is an obvious example, if the proposal approach supports that.
  • Spell Out Commitments. Don’t hide any of the costs or obligations that the partner will incur. Make sure all those involved understand their roles, their activities, and the resources involved.

 

 

Insider Tip: A partner’s role in a proposal most often requires some negotiation and joint brainstorming.  Since boards and executive directors tend to prefer simple choices laid out for them, find a contact in the partnering organization you can bounce ideas off of.  Develop a strong working plan before writing up any agreements.

 

 

How to Present Partners in the Proposal

You needn’t present the entire details of a working arrangement in a proposal, but summarize the main points: their rationale for participating; their role and activities; and what they bring to the resulting project. You will also need to provide a description of the partner, especially their scope and impact. If, for example, you are operating a youth sports program and partnering with a local Boys & Girls Club, it’s helpful to mention how many boys and girls they already reach.

Most importantly, you need to communicate their commitment to the project. In a short letter of interest, you might insert a statement quoting their executive director or board chair. In a longer proposal, you might include a letter of commitment. In either case, demonstrate commitment, not just interest and support. Funders want material participants, not cheerleaders. In a future blog, I will say more about constructing letters of support and commitment.


When working with you on a proposal, we can also support your work with multiple partners on a proposal. You can contact us at no charge to discuss ways to involve partners, or any other aspect of the funding process.

Topics: partners, grant partners, grant tips, grants, grant hints, applying for grants, applying for grants with collaborators, applying for grants with partners