Grant Writing Advice and Tips: The Grant Helpers Blog

5 Overlooked Grant Basics Part IV: Developing Good Collaborations

Posted by Roland Garton on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 @ 09:03 AM

HandShake-1When it comes to making an impact with any given project, one organization can do only so much.  Fortunately, organizations can extend their impact by working with other individuals and organizations.  Since demonstrating impact is key to attracting grant dollars, as discussed in Part III of this blog series, you can increase your odds of funding by increasing your partnerships and hence your reach. 

Here are some examples of collaborations that could help attract grant funding:

  • A mentoring organization partners with the local police force and schools to identify students at risk of entering the criminal justice system.
  • A humane society partners with a local university for student veterinary services supervised by faculty members.
  • A senior services center partners with a state-wide older Americans professional group to disseminate guidebooks about a successful exercise program.
  • A food and nutrition program partners with a local health clinic to prepare data on the health impacts of obesity.
  • A medium-sized municipality partners with a regional transportation district to justify adding lanes to the main thoroughfare through town.

Any group that can help justify the need for your project, is touched by your effort, or can amplify your results is a potential collaborator.  Your existing network of contacts is a good initial source for potential partners.  Beyond existing contacts, your organization can organize brainstorming sessions to generate additional organizations to contact regarding potential collaborations.  This blog doesn’t address the full array of best practices and occasional complications of working with partners, but I will mention a couple aspects of establishing a relationship and reflecting it in a proposal, both involving documents.

Put it in writing: The Abstract.  We’ve written several blogs, such as this one, on incorporating effective abstracts into proposals. The initial abstract you prepare for a potential proposal partner is similar to an abstract within a proposal in that you have to briefly describe a compelling project.  But it differs in that you also need to spell out the potential benefits of involvement for each agency and what types of commitment you are looking for from them.  We’ve found that offering a variety of possible levels of involvement can spur interest and discussion on the part of agencies, especially if the benefits section makes it clear how your project can help further their mission.

Put it in writing: The Letter of Support.  Funding agencies need to know that your proposed team members are in fact committed to the effort.  Including letters of support from them is the typical means to confirm their interest and enthusiasm.  The letter of support should in most cases be limited to one page, and it should be on the collaborating institution’s official letterhead and signed by someone with authority to commit the organization to the project.  While the content varies depending on the situation, here are some key elements common to most good letters of support:

  • Establish credibility and importance. Get the funder’s attention with the standing of the partner and their potential impact as a collaborator on your project.  “We serve over 1,000 children daily throughout five counties with our CAN’T-STUDY-HUNGRY program” might be one example of an opener indicating that program should be taken seriously.
  • Provide a rationale for support. It’s important to establish why the partner is willing to work on the project and how it serves their mission.  Include text to describe why the partner is enthusiastic about the project—what’s in it for them.  With careful wording, this paragraph can add to the argument in the proposal itself for the project being proposed.
  • Demonstrate commitment. State what the partner is willing to do and what services they will provide.  Avoid generic, vague words and statements like “We support their efforts,” or “We will investigate mutually beneficial alignments.”  Instead, show that the partner is invested in the program by using specific wording, such as “We will provide expert advice and guidance during the planning phase of the project, and will solicit volunteers to help with implementation from our corps of 500 active volunteers.”

In most cases you will draft the letter of support and send to the partner to review, edit, and place on their letterhead, after you’ve discussed the project with them and have their agreement to work together in this manner.  Not only does your effort in preparing the text save them time, it also allows you to craft the wording to best support your proposal.

One other note: don’t be afraid to involve partners in the proposal effort itself.  Often collaborators can contribute data, can review and edit the proposal at various stages, or can provide other resources that further strengthen your proposal. 

We can help brainstorm potential partners and ways to involve them in your proposed effort. Feel free to contact us at no charge to discuss ideas and approaches for your organization.

Photo Credit: oddbjornbrendan


Topics: applying for grants with partners, grant partners, applying for grants with collaborators, overlooked grant basics, grant basics

Tips to Increase Grant Funding: Letters of Support

Posted by Roland Garton on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 @ 22:02 PM

One of the “hidden” aspects of writing a successful grant application is providing strong letters of support in your application.  Letters of support are typically required from partners if the proposal includes them.  Optional letters may be from other parties who may or may not be directly involved in the p5294781792_b90da7e09c_q.jpgroject, but who can vouch for the value of proposed work and the qualifications of the applicant.

Here are a few areas to keep in mind regarding letters of support. You will not get the ideal in every letter, but the closer you can get, the more compelling your application will be.

Authoritative Sources

Get letter writers with credibility, impact, and authority.  Ideally, they will have standing in your area of work, and they will have some independence from you, the applicant.

  • Good: a recognized expert with publications in peer-reviewed journals
  • Good: the leader of a national organization in your field
  • Not-so-Good: your mother

In the first part of the letter, the writers can mention their experience, their presence in and knowledge of the field, what stake they have in the outcome, and how they know you well enough to speak knowledgeably about the strengths of your organization and your proposal.


A common weakness in letters is that they sound like they're from cheerleaders on the sideline rather than committed participants with a stake in the outcome of the proposed project. Letters of Support from proposal partners should include a description of their roles and what they’re willing to contribute to the project. Even those who aren’t participating directly, though, will strengthen a proposal if they are willing to provide input, review materials, help disseminate results, or otherwise demonstrate an active level of involvement.

  • Good: “Our organization will provide space for all proposed activities, at no charge to the project, as an in-kind match.”
  • Good: “We have a contact list of 10,000 registered associates nationwide, and we will distribute the proposed survey to them.”
  • Not-so-Good: “We are interested in positive results and encourage the requesting organization to continue in its efforts to achieve these results.”

Draft the Letter for Them

Providing editable text for a letter writer puts you in the driver’s seat.  You can generate text that catches the funders’ eyes. Furthermore, you are more likely to get a signature on existing text than you are to get original text from a potential letter-writer.

Put It on Letterhead

Most writers will do this without your mentioning it, but it’s worth mentioning as a reminder.  As a reviewer, I’ve seen letters that made me wonder whether the signatory ever saw the text.  If a letter writer does not have a letterhead, a simple version in standard format, with return address and inside address, will suffice.  It can help to include a logo of the writer’s organization if available.

These are just a few common considerations concerning letters of support.  We’d be glad to share more, to review draft letters of support, and to provide comments as part of a free consultation.  Contact to get feedback on your letters, or any other grant-related question.


Photo Credit: KP

Topics: letters of support, how to write a letter of support, letters of support for a grant, partners, grant partners, applying for grants with partners, grant funding, grant, grant letters of support, grant tips, application tips, Grant Writing Tips, grant application tips

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