The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook. ISBN 978-1-300-59094-1. $24.99.
Some philanthropic partners might request that you submit a letter of inquiry before submitting a full proposal. This provides them with the opportunity to evaluate whether or not your organization and program are a good fit for their funding priorities. The resources that are requested nearly always far exceed the resources that are available; submitting a letter of inquiry helps philanthropic partners make decisions without the expense of time required to prepare and review full proposals. Letters of inquiry can also open up dialogue about possibilities. Rather than thinking of letters of inquiry as inviting a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, think of them as opportunities to establish a connection and to explore meaningful ways your organizations can partner, through funding or other means, to co-create a better community.
Philanthropic partners may have specific requirements for letter of inquiry contents. If they do, be sure to provide everything that is requested in the letter. Remember that you are seeking to create a long-term relationship, not to acquire money. The tone of your letter should be professional, but friendly and inviting as well.
You might voluntarily send a letter of inquiry to precede a phone conversation or meeting request. Such a letter can prepare prospective philanthropic partners so that they can actively engage in conversation when you make personal contact. Letters should be brief yet descriptive so that they effectively convey the key details of your organization and program.
Letters of inquiry should contain the following contents:
a brief description of your organization that might include its mission, history, programs, major accomplishments, and distinguishing factors;
an introduction to the program for which you are seeking funding including its purpose, uniqueness, goals, geographic area and population served, and documented impact;
explanation of how the program connects with community needs that have been identified by either your organization or by an outside entity such as a university, government body, or another philanthropic partner;
explanation of how the program connects with the priorities and vision of the philanthropic partner;
a description of established support for the program such as participant input, formal needs assessments, partnerships with other organizations, and secured funding;
a specific request which might include a phone meeting, site visit, or submission of a full proposal;
an expression of gratitude for the philanthropic partner’s time; and
complete contact information for the person making the request, which might be the executive director or development director.