In our last post about getting the grant, we discussed developing a solid grant-finding strategy. While finding a grant is easy, finding the right grant—the grant that you can win for your nonprofit—is hard(er). Today, we’ll discuss next steps, including best practices for writing the Letter of Inquiry.
Once you’ve identified the right grant, you may want to establish contact with the grantmaking group. Many grantmakers (though not all—be sure to read that RFP!) tacitly assume applicants will reach out. So send an email or make a phone call to gauge their interest in your organization and its work. The effort ensures that both you and the grantmaker views the a grant as a good fit. It also helps open the door to a relationship: As most nonprofits already know, relationships are key to sustainability.
If you’ve established contact and learned more about your target grant, you will also learn about their preferred entry document. Often, this is a two-page Letter of Inquiry. The LOI provides an excellent warmup for writing the grant. It asks you to show off your organization and to succinctly articulate grant-relevant goals. The LOI may feel like a chore (and it is), but by enabling grantmakers to efficiently make a first cut, the letter helps save you from writing a grant you are not positioned to win.
If the grantmaking group offers an LOI template, use it. But if not, create your own LOI according to the following specifications, aiming for two pages in length.

  • Executive Summary: A one-paragraph summary that includes a “thesis statement” succinctly stating how much is requested and for what use.
  • Background and Needs: A brief history of the org that outlines the needs it serves and that explains the specific need for which the target grant is sought.
  • Program Model: A a description of the program that will be served by the target grant.
  • Goals and Objectives: A description of the measurable goals and objectives that will determine the program’s success.
  • Methods: An explanation of the ways in which goals and objectives will be met.
  • Evaluation/Tracking: An explanation of how goals and objectives will be followed.
  • Budget/Sustainability: A description of the program’s total cost, other funders, and the program’s future.
  • Timeline/Work to Date: A description of what has already happened to further the program’s agenda and what is planned for the future.
  • Organizational Information: A callback to the nonprofit’s history, mission, and partnerships.
  • Contact Info

Ideally, your LOI will be accepted and you’ll be asked to apply for the full grant. But that doesn’t always happen. In the weeks after you’ve sent your LOI, follow-up with a phone call, and consider requesting a meeting. Establishing relationships with grantmakers—even grantmakers who don’t ultimately award you a grant—is never a bad idea.
Now, as novice grant writers (also all writers) quickly learn, you need to start earlier, do more research, and write more drafts than you think you do. In the next post, we’ll turn to the writing process itself.