You’ve researched the funding source, skimmed through their guidelines and read over the application only to find the foundation first requires a letter of inquiry. Just what is a letter of inquiry? An LOI, as it is commonly called, is a letter many foundations, private funders and other potential contributors often require before the application process.
A letter of inquiry is used to do many things, but mainly the following:
1. It allows your organization to acquaint yourself with the funder in a professionally written introduction. This is very important if you have never written an ask letter to the potential contributor before.
2. It allows the funder to decide if the program you are requesting money for truly falls within their guidelines.
3. It’s an opportunity for the funder to reorganize and assess their funding priorities. While not common, if they like your program, they may actually adjust their guidelines to fit you into the funding cycle.
A letter of inquiry is very important and requires a lot of thought and concise writing. Typically, a LOI is no more than 2-3 pages and it includes:
1. Your organization’s mission statement.
2. A brief synopsis (2-3 sentences) of your organization’s programs.
3. A brief, yet detailed description of the program for which you request their support.
4. A statement explaining why this particular funder is a good match.
5. The total cost of the project.
6. The amount you are requesting from the potential funder.
7. A 1-2 sentence request for the application or for full proposal submittal.
8. Information regarding whom to contact within your organization.
Make sure you do not confuse a letter of inquiry with a cover letter. A cover letter accompanies a proposal or application submittal and merely states the organization, the project, the amount requested and the contents of the proposal. A letter of inquiry is much more thorough and often serves as the discriminating factor when the board meets and decides which programs the foundation or private funder would like to support.
A winning letter of inquiry is the first step in gaining support, and possibly a long-term collaboration, so make sure it is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Once you’ve completed the letter, if the funder doesn’t state it explicitly, it is best to address the letter and mail it directly to the Grants Administrator, Community Relations Director or the President of the board. Mail it first class and include your organization’s Executive Director or Development Director’s information. It could take several months to hear back, however an engaging letter of inquiry will serve as your organization’s entry into a potentially longstanding relationship with a supportive and caring funder.