Instead of a full application, many charitable foundations start their grant-giving process by asking applicants to send an LOI. This mysterious 1-3 page document can’t possibly contain all the awesome qualities of your nonprofit and yet determines whether you get invited to be fully considered for funding at all. That has a lot of aspiring grant-writers asking the question: What is an LOI, exactly, and how do I write one? While the perfect Letter of Intent depends on your nonprofit and the giving institution, the following two tips apply to virtually all situations and will give you a great foundation to work from:
1. Stick to the LOI guidelines to the letter. Grant committees have to parse through thousands of applications. There will be more than enough worthy causes for them to choose from, so they look for any reason to disqualify a request. Yes, it may seem difficult to cram enough information about your organization in one short page, but expect all your hard work to be tossed in the recycling bin if you run a sentence or two onto page two. Make sure to include your IRS determination letter and any other requested supporting documents. Finally, make sure you send the what is an LOI by the correct means (via the foundation’s website, email, snail mail, hand-delivered, etc.) in time to meet the application deadline.
2. Be specific about how the money will be spent. It is understood that you won’t be able to fully document your nonprofit’s history of success or wax poetic about the difference you made in the lives of your constituents in a short Letter of Intent. One area where you are expected to be forthcoming, however, is your explanation of why you are requesting funds. If it is for construction or another short-term project, be as specific as you can: When will you break ground? How and by how much will the project improve your organization’s capacity to do good in the community? What is the total cost of the project? If you are requesting general operating support, enumerate the most important services you provide, how many constituents you serve (or expect to serve), and your total annual budget.
So, what is an LOI? It’s certainly a challenge for any grantwriter, more technical and less reflective of your unique strengths than writing a full application, but it is incredibly important to pull off well. If your Letter of Intent generates an invitation to continue the process, odds are good that the grant committee is truly interested in hearing more about your work. They have already decided that your ask request is reasonable. You can be confident when sending out your full application that it will be among a much narrower field of applicants under consideration.
At Wild Fundraising, we know that every step of the grantwriting process is crucial. Please contact us if you would like us to craft an impressive, concise LOI for your nonprofit.