Many 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.
-- 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).
-- 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 StrategyAs 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.
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!