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 project, 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.
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 TheGrantHelpers.com to get feedback on your letters, or any other grant-related question.
Photo Credit: KP