Whether you're a nonprofit executive, board member, or fundraiser, you've probably faced the challenge of writing a letter of inquiry (LOI) to ask for funding from a foundation. If not, let me explain why it's so hard: LOIs are often required by funder guidelines and can be extremely competitive. They require clear communication about your organization's vision and proposal for implementation. In short, they need to show that the organization has thought through its idea—and this takes time. The good news is that there are ways to make this process easier on all parties involved.
Writing a good LOI takes practice, but it's worth it to get funding for your nonprofit work
You're going to need one of these.
If you're a nonprofit looking for funding, it's likely you'll be asked to write an LOI at some point in your career. An LOI is the first step in getting funding from many foundations and corporations (more on that later). An LOI is essentially a letter of inquiry; it's written by the nonprofit organization, but sent along with other materials or information like budgets and financial statements, among other things. It helps prospective funders understand more about who you are and what your organization does. This letter also helps them decide whether or not they want to continue investing time and money into working with your nonprofit after reviewing everything else sent along with it!
What Is The Purpose Of An LOI?
The purpose of an LOI is simply to get someone's attention—in this case, potential donors' attention—and let them know why their company should consider donating money towards helping out your cause (or mission). In order for this type of letter to be successful though, there needs...
Put yourself in the place of the recipient.
To write a successful letter of inquiry, you will need to understand what the funder is looking for. The best way to do this is by reading their website and annual report. A good annual report should have information about the funder’s mission and goals, as well as the process they use to select projects. By knowing these things ahead of time, you can tailor your proposal so that it fits right into their criteria.
You should also know:
What types of projects they fund (for example, are they more likely to fund research or advocacy work?)
Their budget (how much money do they have available this year?)
Know the funder's interests and goals.
Now that you've determined the funder's interests, it's time to do some research on them.
Read their website and any other materials they have available.
Look at their funding history to see what types of projects they typically fund.
Ask colleagues who apply for similar grants or foundations if they have any advice regarding potential funders. This can be especially helpful if someone has recently received a grant from the funding source you are targeting. They may be able to provide insight into the process and give tips for making your application stronger than theirs!
Be able to explain how you fit into the funding opportunity.
Let's say you're applying for a grant to fund your project, and the funding opportunity requires a letter of inquiry. Here are some tips on what to include in your letter:
Explain how you fit into the funding opportunity. How will this project help the nonprofit achieve their goals?
Explain how you plan on using the funding. What can it do for your organization?
Explain how you're going to measure your progress after receiving the grant funds, so that they know that they made a good investment in your work.
Explain how sustainably funded projects are vital so that organizations have enough money to keep them running long-term, rather than having them rely on one-time donations which is unsustainable over time because those donors will lose interest and eventually stop giving money altogether (which is exactly what happened with my first startup). This means explaining why sustainability is important and how it affects everyone involved—even if someone isn't directly involved with whatever issue/cause/project etc., there's still an indirect impact because society would crumble without sustainability practices like these ones."
Edit your idea down to the most important points.
When writing your inquiry letter, you want to focus on the most important points. When writing a letter of inquiry, use the word "I" to explain your idea and be clear about how you plan to achieve it. Use simple language with short sentences that are easy to understand.
The following is an excerpt from a sample letter of inquiry:
Since [year] I have been working as a volunteer at [organization]. In that time, I have learned much about [goal]. My goal for this project is for people who have no experience in [job] to gain knowledge about it so they can increase their confidence levels when applying for jobs in the field of [job]. I believe my past experience with this organization will make me an ideal candidate for successfully completing this project because I know many people who would benefit from it; however, please feel free to contact me if there are any questions regarding my qualifications or ideas before making any decisions regarding whether or not they wish our organization should work together on this project."
Be concise and give concrete examples.
Keep your letter concise. A nonprofit organization has a lot on their plate, so they don't have time to read through lengthy paragraphs that go off on tangents. Give concrete examples of when you've helped others and explain exactly how you're going to help them with this specific project.
Also, try not to use fluff when describing yourself or your accomplishments—especially in terms of the "why" behind what they do (the cause). In other words: If it's not relevant to the job, don't mention it! It's better to take a more direct approach by focusing on how your skills and experience are perfect for this position at this time; otherwise, you risk coming off as disingenuous or insincere.
Give a timeline for implementation.
Be specific about what you want to accomplish.
Be realistic about how long it will take to implement your project. For example, if you're a nonprofit founder who wants money for an office space, include a timeline in which the space will be rented and fully furnished with all necessary equipment ready for use by some date.
Explain how your project will help the funder achieve its goals or mission statement.
Use your LOI as part of a larger fundraising campaign.
You can use your letter of inquiry as part of a larger fundraising campaign. You need to make sure that you have all the details about what the donor is looking for, but if they want to give their money to your organization, then they are going to want some assurance that it will be used effectively. One way to do this is by providing them with an LOI in which you lay out exactly how their money will be spent and what impact it will have on your program or initiative. This can also help build trust between the donor and yourself since you are being transparent about where the money will go, allowing them to feel confident about contributing.
If you’re interested in applying for funding, a letter of inquiry is a great place to start. It will help you get your nonprofit idea off the ground and make it easier to find other sources of funding, like grants or donors.
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