How to Craft Effective Letters of Inquiry w/ Margit Brazda Poirier
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In this 60-minute grant writing deep-dive session, Margit Brazda-Poirier from Grants4Good will share her 1-page formula for writing LOIs that get attention from funders every time, and we'll dive deep into two registrants' draft LOIs for feedback so you can see what a grant writing expert thinks about when crafting effective LOIs.
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Margit Brazda Poirier founded Grants4Good LLC in 2009 and has since helped thousands of nonprofits achieve their grant seeking goals. She has over 25 years of nonprofit management and grants experience, a GPC, and is a GPA Approved Trainer, having written and received over $30 million in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants.
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June Grant Writing Deep-Dive with Margit Brazda Poirier on Crafting Effective Letters of Inquiry - Grant Training Transcription
Will: Hello, everyone. And welcome to this June grant writing deep dive with Margit Brazda Poirier on Crafting Effective Letters of Inquiry. Over the course of this workshop, we're going to actually bring on some live examples that you guys have submitted. We'll also learn some tips and tricks that we'll be able to really apply in taking some of these principles into your own sorts of work after this workshop.
And just as a heads up for everybody, this is a more experimental event where we're really trying to bring in real world examples from like the attendees and give some real feedback as well. So hopefully a few of the folks that we've selected for today are gonna be in the audience and can really give some feedback that way.
But yeah, so from here, I'm gonna go ahead and pass it over to Margit to give a quick introduction to herself. She'll have the bulk of the hour and if you have any questions along the way, please do share it with three hashtags in front of your question. And I'll flag that for Margit to make it easier for her as she works through the presentation portion of today's workshop.
And thanks so much, Margit. Why don't you go ahead and take it away from there?
Margit: Yeah, hi, Will. Thank you for just bringing us up to speed on some of the logistics of the webinar. And I'm excited to be here because I love working with people on helping them improve their grant writing skills. And today I wanna focus on the letter of inquiry, which is often that first step of contact with a funder.
So in the chat box today, if you could. Um, oops. Oh, let me introduce myself first with the cover slide here. So today, we're gonna be talking about crafting effective letters of inquiry. And my name is Margit Brazda Poirier. I have a master's in science and grant professional certification through the Grant Professional Certification Institute.
I'm also the owner and founder of Grants for Good. I started the company back in 2009 while we were in a recession. Yes, another one. And I really just have a passion for helping nonprofit organizations find and get the funding they need so they can do amazing work in the community. I have worked for nonprofits.
I've been the executive director of a nonprofit. So when I teach these trainings, I really appreciate the difficulty of this. I am someone who's speaking from experience and someone who made a lot of mistakes when I started out, because when I did start out writing grants, it was the 1990s way back when. And there weren't webinars, there weren't many training sessions, so it was hard to get the training.
So I'm happy to be here with you all and with Instrumentl because I think sometimes we forget how training is at our fingertips. And today we can call it a webinar, but it's really more of an interactive workshop. We've picked some letters of inquiry that people submitted before the workshop and we're gonna use those as examples to help you really craft your own really strong letter.
But before we do that, I'm gonna share with you my tips and tricks for crafting an effective letter of inquiry. Also on this slide, you'll see two websites, which are a great way to contact me. Grants for Good is my company website. I also run a self-paced online grant writing course because I find whenever people leave these webinars, they say, Margit, can you just walk me through every step of the grant writing process?
And I said, well, yes, I can now because I developed this online course. You can check it out at allaboutgrantwriting.com. So I would love to know, if you could put in the chat box, your name, your organization, and give me a number about how many letters -- oops. Someone's drawing on the screen. About how many letters of inquiry do you write per year? Is that you Will on the slides? I'm not really controlling these.
Will: No, that is not me.
Margit: Okay. Well, that was interesting. All right, so I will be checking the chat to see -- I just -- I wonder if we've been hacked somehow.
Will: No, I think somebody is a little lost right now in their annotation, if you potentially, because you are owning the screen share, if you want to go and restart the screen share.
Margit: I'm going to do that.
Will: Yeah. And if folks can hold off.
Margit: Meanwhile, I'm excited to see who is here. Oh, Aloha from Maui. Brian and Claudine. This is your first time here. Welcome. Pam from Ohio. I love it. We've got Peggy from New York City, Jamie from the Raymond A. Wood Foundation and she's joining from Virginia. Awesome. First workshop. Oh, I love it. And we've got Esca from Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women.
That's right in Rochester, New York, where I am joining you from. So excellent. Thanks for that. Central Virginia Horse Rescue. I love it. We've got Molly here. We've got Cammy from Northwest Washington. This is great. Whitney heard about this webinar through my email. Thanks for opening my emails, Whitney.
I'm so glad. I'm glad you've been in my presentations before. This is Barbara's first presentation. Good. So yeah, I'm curious, your organization and about how many letters of inquiry that you have written. If it's zero, this is per year on average, if it's zero, 10, or you just plain lost track because you write so many of these. So let's see what you got.
This is great. Oh, Maryanne Cooper. Thank you. Maryanne says, this online course, All About Grant Writing is wonderful in caps, highly recommended. Great to see you Maryanne. This is awesome. She's doing some amazing work both within the U.S. and internationally. We've got Morgan from the High Plains Food Bank.
Wonderful. Cammy has not written one yet, and you're ready to learn. You're in the right place. Glad you're here. Linda, we're a new startup. Excellent. Getting ready to write your first LOI. I love it. Melissa voters, not politicians, education fund, 15 to 20 LOIs a year. Good. Good for you. Michelle from World Telehealth writes 15, 12 to 15.
Excellent. Nicole writes more than 10. We've got Claire from the Women's Animal Center writes about five a year. Okay. Catherine, Paws with a Cause. I love it. I've never written a letter of inquiry. I just inherited our grant program and I'm blowing off the dust. All right. My heart goes out to you. You're gonna catch on to this fast.
Definitely jump into my All About Grant Writing course. This is made for you. Great. We've got just a nice whole big variety of people. All right. Gary, National Marine Mammal Foundation. Gary writes 30 to 50 letters per year. So Gary, I hope I have something to teach you on this call. So stay tuned. So far, I think you've got the biggest number of LOIs that you write.
Hi, Susan from Camp Haccamo for persons with disabilities, Rochester, New York, again, local. Oh, we've got folks from Nairobi, Kenya, Zara. Nice to meet you. Fumi, nice to meet you. This is fantastic. I love it when we're international. Well, we're gonna move on and let's jump to our slides.
All right. So today's agenda, we're gonna offer you an introduction to letters of inquiry, what they are, why you do them. I'm gonna give you step by step on how to develop an LOI because I never like those webinars that you attend and when you leave, you say, hmm, what did I actually learn? And can I really use this?
So, uh, everyone who is in my online course knows, I like to have very specific steps and structures. So I'm gonna give you my formula for developing an LOI. Also, the really fun part about this. We've selected a couple of letters of inquiry that we're going to critique live, and don't worry, the folks who submitted these LOIs agreed to this ahead of time.
So we're gonna offer you some really constructive input on this, which I know will help everybody on the call as well. So what is a letter of inquiry? It's really the first step towards contact with a funder. If you haven't already met the funder, if you haven't emailed them or had a phone call with them, it's often your first step. Sometimes it's even required.
So the LOI is often required before submitting a full grant application. And I've been in the grant field, well, I wrote my first grant in the early '90s. That was when I worked for an agency that desperately needed funding. Does that ring a bell? I think everyone's probably nodding their head. Yep. I can relate.
So I got my feet wet very quickly with this work without a whole lot of training and with a lot of trial and error. So my LOIs were not always the best when I started out, but since then, I've probably written thousands of them, especially since I started Grants for Good back in 2009.
And the trend I've seen in just the last 13 years, since I started the company, is that we're doing a lot less paper LOIs and a lot more online. Now this isn't gonna surprise most of you here, but anyone who worked in the '90s and the change of the millennium remembers, yep. We actually did paper grant applications.
And I still work with some funders who want only that. So the paper letter is not buried yet, but a lot of LOIs are online. So that's why I wanna distinguish between two different sorts of classes of letters of inquiry. One is that nice kind of one page paper, right? Where you write it out, you sign it and you mail it, or you attach it as a PDF to an email, all good options.
The other class of LOI, which we won't get into as much today, but everything you learn is gonna apply to that is the one where you get on a foundation's website. Assuming they have one and they have an online application process, but theirs requires that you first complete an LOI. They might call it a letter of interest.
They might call it a letter of introduction or a letter of inquiry. It doesn't matter. The basic thing is they want to know a little bit about your program to see if they wanna ask you for more information, that more information is your full grant application. Now, for those of you new to the field of grants, I know many of you are here.
Grant applications can be very time consuming, especially the first one, two or three times when you do them, but it starts to become more automatic as you develop these template grant applications, where you can kind of cut and paste and send your same proposals out to different funders? So you can start to patch together the full funding you need to implement your program.
The LOI, similarly, is something where you may wanna take your time doing that first one, and then you can also modify it. You can change how it aligns with different funders. You can reuse it over and over again, even the online forms, they're all a little bit different, but they're going to ask pretty much the same thing that I'm gonna teach you today to develop in a one pager.
All right. So you're gonna be able to cut and paste a lot of what you do today right into those online forms that funders often request. So why do I think the LOI is a good thing? Well, people might be saying, yeah, Margit, it's an extra step in the process. Why should I be doing this already? And I like it because I would rather have my customers, my clients spend their time doing a really strong one page letter and knowing right away, if yes, the funder wants your application or no, they don't. It can be very frustrating. And I feel pretty disrespectful of your time to put together these very large grant applications when perhaps it wasn't a great fit or the funder views it as not being a great fit.
So wouldn't it be nice to have that information ahead of time? Also, if they say no, they don't want a full application, it's an opportunity to still reach out to the funder and talk a little bit about your program to see if there is some more direct alignment. After you've done all your funder research, of course, but that's a whole 'nother course and it's also covered in All About Grant Writing. But the LOI is a good thing. I find it actually saves people time. So it is worth investing your time here today and also doing this one-pager.
So the purpose of an LOI, well, there might be a number of reasons for it. First of all, you might want to simply introduce your organization or your program to a particular funder that may not know anything about you. I know one of our participants today said they're a startup and another person said she just inherited the grants program. So you may want to introduce a particular funder to you in your new role or perhaps your organization just hired a new executive director. You may wanna share any kind of new or exciting news going on at your organization.
You may also be writing particularly because you want to gain an invitation to submit a full proposal. So let's say you've found a funder doing your research, using Instrumentl. You've got maybe five or 10 funders you've identified that you know you're aligned with their mission. You just, you know it, you've done your research.
They're a good fit. They fund in your community, your state. So if there's no way to submit an online LOI and if nobody can introduce you to this foundation, I recommend doing the letter of introduction I'm gonna call it. It could also be a letter of inquiry. Doesn't matter. Do that LOI, introduce your organization, keep it to a page, and then follow up with that phone call or email.
And I have heard some interesting evidence that paper mail is often more opened than email. And you can probably guess why. We get less paper mail. There's less competition there. There's a lot of competition in your email inbox. That's not to discourage you from doing that as well. I still recommend emailing as well as the paper.
But definitely that's one good way to approach the funder to see if you can apply. A third reason might be perhaps you have done all your research on the funder. You've checked their 990s, you've seen what they're giving trends are with Instrumentl or whatever your search tool is at the moment.
Maybe you've gone to a website if they had one. After you've done all that, let's say there are still some questions. Let's say you have a capital program that you wanna work on a building, but you don't own the building you lease it, but you want to make some capital improvements to a leased building. So now you're wondering, well, wait a minute, do they fund capital programs only if you own the building or could we apply for this even though we're leasing? Giving that example because it just happened to me this week.
So there might be some more particular questions that you want to ask. Okay? So you might write an LOI for one, two, or three of those reasons or all at once. Now you might also wanna know if maybe you have a couple different programs and you wanna bounce some ideas off funders, see which one's most suitable.
Maybe you need some technical assistance. Maybe you wanna ask for an in-person meeting. That's a great thing to put into a LOI or a virtual meeting, more likely in this case. Those are all some good reasons to write that LOI when you aren't completing the online form.
So here is my magic structure and I know you're gonna get these slides, not the slides, but you're going to be getting the -- you're going to the slides, too, but you're definitely going to be getting the webinar recording, but there is research out there that shows when you take notes and write things down like we did way back in the old days and I still do, you retain more.
So I would encourage you to write this formula down. Okay. Pretty simple. Your LOI has five components. And as we look at your LOIs, I'm gonna jump into some of those five components. And we're also still going to leave time at the end of this for Q&A. So if your letter didn't get accepted and you said, well, Margit, I really wanna know if I'm on the right track, there's time for Q&A.
So first and foremost, when you write this LOI, you want to briefly introduce your organization. If the funder already knows it, great, you can still lead with something like we just wanted to thank the Parish Foundation for all your support of Big Brothers, Big Sisters over the last five years. We would like to continue this partnership into fiscal year 2023 and every proposal that we believe really aligns with your mission.
So if there's already familiarity there, that first paragraph will naturally look different, but if there isn't, it's a great chance to introduce your organization, mention you're a 501c3 nonprofit if that is the case or your school district or church. And in those first couple sentences, you have the opportunity right away to grab someone's interest by saying what it is you do.
You can either do that by sharing your mission verbatim or some of you work for organizations where I bet this happens. You look at your organization's mission and you say, oh, you start yawning. You're like, oh my god, this mission is so boring. I don't even know what it means. Right? So if that's the case, don't use it.
Instead paraphrase, have a sentence that will tell the funder what it is you do and why it is so important. Okay. So we're gonna grab their attention in this first paragraph. In the second paragraph, I use this as an opportunity to provide a little bit more detail about the specific program.
So the first paragraph, let's say, is about our adaptive recreation organization, a 501c3 based in Rochester, New York that has been serving 3,000 people since its inception in 2016. Okay. So right away, we've got some numbers. Someone gets the size, the scope, the location.
In one or two sentences, in that first paragraph, you can share a lot of information without tiring the funder or boring the reader. In the second paragraph, now that you have their attention, let's talk about the program. We work, let's say, for looking at adaptive recreation, let's say, we're based in Rochester, New York.
We work with veterans that are returning from recent conflicts with physical or emotional with physical injuries or traumatic stress syndrome. You name it. Now you can start to, who do you work with? How do you help them? And essentially describe your program in a couple of sentences. The LOI is not the place where you have to get into the details of how we meet four times a week at these different locations to engage in these particular activities.
And then twice a year, we do this and then three times a month, we do this. So you don't wanna get into that level of detail. Okay. This is a time to still have a broad overview, but at the same time, give the funder more information where they say, oh, this looks interesting. And the reason you want them to be interested is you wanna make sure your ask --
This is what I do, somewhere in the middle of my letter I put the ask and it's usually the third paragraph because now they're interested. And this is where I say that most of our funds come from charitable donations, from foundations, or government grants, individual donors. You fill in the blanks. Tell them where your funding comes from and how important it is to have the support and the partnerships with the foundation, X, Y, Z Foundation, whoever you're applying to.
And also in this paragraph, you have the opportunity to ask to apply for put in the dollar amount. Now let me hold on there for a second. Sometimes you don't wanna put in the dollar amount, if this is your first time contacting somebody, they don't even know who you are, you may do a softer approach. And by softer, I mean, rather than putting in the dollar amount right away.
Say we would love to partner with you and would welcome a grant from your organization. Now just because I tend to -- I was kind of brought up in a more direct family. I do tend to put in the dollar amount almost every time, but I know that with some foundations, you just don't do that.
So I'm gonna leave this kind of discretion up to you or to have it meet how you like to work. But I would probably ask, we would like to have you consider a $20,000 grant for X, Y, Z, maybe to support, to double the number of veterans we serve in 2023 just to give you an example. Notice how I'm using numbers so that people who read this letter, get a picture of the scope of what you're really doing.
Now this fourth paragraph is I think it's the most important because if you've gone to any of my webinars or if you're in my online course, you know that I'm always talking about one thing and that is that funders are interested in the impact that their funding has. They're not necessarily interested in the fact that they are buying a van for your organization or that they are funding 35% of the program at coordinators' salary for 12 months.
Yeah, you're gonna have to indicate all those details when you submit your full application and your project budget, but for now, I recommend really focusing on the impact. So let's say I'm the funder. You're writing your letter. You're writing to me. And I'm thinking to myself, yeah, I'm interested in this organization.
Never heard of it, but they do great work. Looks like the program looks great. 20,000 isn't too much to ask considering our foundation's assets. So now I wanna know what difference is it gonna make? And the key is what difference will it make to the people that you serve? I'm gonna just stick with the same example.
I use different examples all the time, but you wanna tell the funder not so much what difference it makes for your nonprofit organization, what difference it makes for the people you serve, maybe physically disabled veterans or maybe it's youth who are at risk of dropping out of high school. Maybe it's women who are trying to get out of abusive relationships.
You want them to know the impact of their funding on those people that you serve. Your really critical, important target population. And sometimes I'll have, it's literally a sentence, but I may have two or three or four different ways that this funding is going to help the population. I make sure to list that.
And then the closing, this is the simple part. This is where you, again, thank you for their consideration of reviewing this, give them the information they need to contact you with any questions to set up an in-person or virtual meeting. And that you may be following up with them. That's an opportunity, too, because oftentimes you send these LOIs and you hear crickets and nothing else.
There is no response. So that is when you need to do your email, follow up your phone call, follow up. So that is the closing. If you do decide, I typically don't recommend sending attachments like annual reports with your LOI. I would say wait until you are invited for the full application. I kind of like to leave people wanting to know a little bit more.
Okay. And you get invited for that. Now, I think, you know the answer to this last question, how long should the LOI be? Technically, it should be as long as it needs to be to cover these five elements. I do prefer to keep it to a page. I really do. That's my preference. If it goes into a page and a half, will it matter?
No, probably not. If it's two pages, it probably won't matter. If it's anything more than that, I think you're gonna lose the attention very quickly. I still 100% recommend the one-page, but grant writing is both an art and a science. And I think you need to sometimes go with your own knowledge and gut instinct and past success as well.
So if it's a little longer, that's fine. But I love this quote, which apparently was attributed to Mark Twain. But as I dug deeper in the research, there's any number of people that could have said it, but the important concept is the same. I didn't have time to write you a short letter. So I wrote you a long one and if anyone's nodding their head, they're like, yep.
Those short letters are the hardest to write. The grant applications where they give us 250 words instead of the 10,000 words that I need, those are the really hard ones to write. So I'll give you some tips on LOIs. I wanna turn it over quickly to Will 'cause he's gonna talk a little bit about how Instrumentl -- I know some of you have Instrumentl. Some of you are considering it. He's gonna tell you how this relates to developing your LOI.
Will: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much, Margit. I'm gonna drop a link in the Zoom chat in case you haven't already checked out Instrumentl before, but there's really two key areas that Instrumentl can help support you as you're starting to work on developing your LOIs. The first one is really just mission matching. So when you set up your account on Instrumentl, you are going to create a project and those projects are going to allow you to get a curated list of open and active grant applications that you can actually apply for.
So a few of you guys in the audience have been asking about what to do with unsolicited or unopen opportunities. That's something you don't have to stress as much about when you create a project on Instrumentl because we will have a dedicated section where it's going to be active opportunities that you can start working on.
So when you work through that, you're gonna see things like you see on the left hand side of the screen here, where the opportunities are going to also detail for you, the backgrounds behind those foundations. And so, exactly what are they doing and does it align to the sort of work that you guys are doing as well?
And you can support that with some of the data insights as well that we'll pull out for you through the 990 reports. So that's in the next slide in which essentially what Instrumentl will do is when it's available for you, we'll give you some unique insights, such as the openness to new grantees, the giving by NTE codes, stats that you won't be able to find on some other tools, like the percentage of new grantees versus repeat grantees. And these will just help you when it comes to really pinpointing down on fit and identifying good fit funders. We have a free workshop on how to find new good fit funders. You can find it on our blog and it's self-paced as a follow up later on today, if you ever are curious about answering that question.
But these are just two of the ways in which Instrumentl can help you out in this capacity. And then the other thing that you can do also is Instrumentl has with its projects, a tracker, and once you start saving grants into your trackers as well, you can start to create different tasks for each of the grants that you're working on, that way if you know, for example, you have to draft an LOI for a particular opportunity in the next week or so you can stay organized with everything while also maintaining all of that research in the same place, too. So those are just a couple of the ways that you might find value out of using a tool that's all in one like Instrumentl. And again, there's that link in the Zoom chat in the case where you haven't created your own free account.
Margit: I love that tracking feature because Grants for Good. It's myself and four people. And we have a lot of clients that we're tracking so many deadlines all the time. So the research tracking and the deadline tracking is extremely helpful.
Will: As is the searching for funders. I love the fact that you guys send us weekly emails about updates to the funders that we're interested in and also any new opportunities. So I appreciate that. So now, okay, this is fun. Let's go look at some letters of inquiry and thank you to everybody who submitted an LOI.
I know it's kind of hard putting yourself out there sometimes, but thanks for doing that. This is the best way to learn. So I'm gonna stop sharing this screen and I'm gonna bring up, let me see if I can get out of my view here.
Margit: Sorry. This is...
Gosh, Will, for some reason I'm having trouble getting out of this.
Will: What are you facing?
Margit: I'm having trouble getting out of my full screen view. I mean, I've done that a zillion times, but I keep seeing your slides and I would like to bring up a letter to show people.
Will: Have you tried the escape button?
Margit: Okay, here we go. I think we're on it now.
Margit: Thanks for bearing with us here.
And can you now see a letter that at the headline says, dyslexia reading connection?
Will: Yep. And if you could zoom in a little bit, that'd be useful, too, in terms of the bottom right corner, where it says 100%, if you can zoom it in a little bit, that might be useful.
Margit: Yeah, I can do that.
Zoom in on Zoom.
All right. So here we go. This is an organization called Dyslexia Reading Connection. I love this because one of my very first clients in 2009 was a tutoring program for children with dyslexia. So this LOI is clearly going to the Antioch Foundation in Wisconsin. And I'm glad that right away that you have a name to address it to.
I know it's not always possible, but in your grant research, if you can find the name of someone, it really does make a difference. And what I'm seeing here is right at the beginning is to please accept this letter of inquiry. We positively, we hope to secure a grant for 7,000. One way to, that's not bad, but one way I would probably change that around a little bit is I like to start right away with introducing yourself.
So when I look at that second paragraph and I see that the dyslexia center has been aiding students and adults with dyslexia since 2006. And there is your mission, world learning and literacy in Northeast Wisconsin. That gives me a lot of information right away. And I like to really use that real estate of the first paragraph carefully.
So I would jump right in with here's who we are, here's what we do. You can get into the 7,000 ask later if you want to do that. I would hold off on that. I love that you mentioned it's the largest organization working within your region. And you said since your inception you've helped hundreds of students. I would love to know how many students. So as a funder, you're thinking, wow, 2006.
So how many people in Northeast Wisconsin have gone through the program? How many are reading better now as a result of this program? So that's where I would insert some more numbers. And the reason some of these areas are highlighted in yellow, and by the way, we have your email, since you submitted the letter, I will send you this highlighted letter, personally, so that you have it.
You don't have to screenshot anything here, but the sections I highlighted in yellow are the ones that I feel say the most. They're the most important sections for the funder to know. That doesn't mean you need to include it this way, word for word, but this is the information I would include in the LOI.
Okay. So you can see I'm skipping through the paragraph that talks about Orton-Gillingham approach, which I'm very familiar with. I'm interested in NIH and its research. Save this for the full application. This is all great information for a broader, full application. Where I do think you can really grab the interest and anyone can do this is to share some statistics about your population.
I never would assume that everyone knows what dyslexia is, even though it's been in the media more in the last decade or two. It's great that you said what it is, that it affects 20% of the population. I did not know that, that it's an inherited neurological condition. I wouldn't assume everyone knows that.
So this is fantastic to jump right into this even in your first paragraph. I also like that you talk about the results. It can cause frustration, anxiety, anger, and then that can lead to poor grades in school, high school dropout, low paying jobs, difficulty voting. I like that you talk about all those negative things, all those consequences that can happen because this is interesting to the funders, still. They're saying, okay, well, tell me more.
What are you guys gonna do about it? So now you can get into describing your program. This last part where you give, and I love statistics, when you talk about the Department of labor and 225 billion a year lost in productivity, maybe include it, maybe not. I find it interesting. It should definitely go in your full application, but your choice, if there's room to include that. I would definitely leave out some of these other sections.
Again, these are really important paragraphs to include in your application because this starts to get into the reading levels of the kids that are coming to your tutoring center and the reading levels after they leave. So it speaks to your results. So what you might want to do instead is find a way to paraphrase and make it clear what your results are.
Better yet, you can include those results in your fourth paragraph, which is the impact that the funder has on the people you serve. So let me go into that in a little more detail. Again, here's a nice yellow section that I like. You're talking about who you currently tutor, 117 students, half of whom are online.
That's great information because I know from having read this LOI that the funding you're asking for is specifically for online tutoring. So I like that you included this. I like that you describe the average age as nine years old, and that they're close to two years below grade level. That gets my attention. And that you meet with them one-on-one.
Okay. That's important. So that's one thing. I would probably steer away from titles like methodology or project budget at this point only because I really think you can tell this story in one page and keep the reader engaged without having to break it up into different headlines. So I love this result.
The average student increased 2.2 grade levels within their first year of tutoring. So I would put that into paragraph five. Your $7,000 grant from the Antioch Foundation will support X number of students, over a hundred students in 2023, and based on our past results, enable them to increase by two reading levels in the first year of tutoring.
So now we've got some specific results that their $7,000 will achieve for the people you serve. You may even wanna throw in one or two more impact outcomes. Things like increased likelihood of graduating from high school, less emotional behavioral disturbances. You know your field better than anybody else here.
So you can speak to some more of those things that are happening as a result of your work. So I put impact here and it says you're seeking funding from the foundation to allow the center to serve more students with limitations. So I would delete that sentence and really go back to what I was saying about being more specific, the number of students, what's gonna change for them, and stay with that.
Also in closing, we didn't talk about the ask, but it looks like you're doing that right here at the end. I would probably move that up a little, although in this case, the way this letter flows, I like the ask at the end. So yeah, I just gave you five steps, my formula, but use your own guidance.
I like it here at the end this time. And I like this, too. Everyone deserves the gift of reading. Respectfully submitted Kimberly Stevens. Great job, Kimberly. And you're the executive director. So I know you do a million things in any given day. So thanks for taking the time to submit this LOI for us.
I appreciate it. And again, I will email this to you so that you have it to look at. I want to go to another one and I try to pick just a few that were just a little bit different enough from each other. So let's find another one. Here we go. These were so interesting to read, by the way, I really liked seeing what everyone's doing and what kind of projects you're working on, what organizations you work with.
Okay, this is a fun logo. I have to say, Dare to Run. It looks like the colors are running. I love it. Okay. Dare to Run. This is -- remind me of the name. This is from Rochelle Suisa. Sorry. If I pronounced that wrong. My name never gets pronounced right. This is from out of Brooklyn, New York. And she is writing to the Kirby Foundation.
If you didn't find a name of someone you can use to whom it may concern or you can write dear board of directors. And the reason why is when you're sending it to the Kirby Foundation, which is a private foundation, they're going to have a board of directors that will be reviewing this at some point.
So I would recommend using that instead of to whom it may concern. Better yet, see if we can jump on Instrumentl and look up Kirby Foundation and see if there's someone you can address it to. So you can do that after this webinar.
Will: And Margit, if it's possible just to zoom in a little bit more, that'd be great. Oh,
Margit: Oh, yeah. No problem.
Margit: Thank you for that reminder. So with this letter, I highlighted again a narrative that I think is really significant in an LOI. What I like about Rochelle's letter is that she kept it short. It was already a page or just slightly over a page. It wasn't two pages. But with this one, I selected it because I would love to see a little more information in it.
So I think you can keep this to a page by deleting, you are the introduction to you and get right into Dare to Run. Dare to Run is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. These words in capital letters, these are mine. I put this thing 'cause I'd love for you to write in based in wherever you are, Brooklyn, New York.
As I see from your header incorporated when whose mission is to -- you can make that two sentences if you like. But your mission is clear. You're training women how to run for public office at the local, state, and national levels of government. I love it. It's straightforward to the point. I get it.
This is where there's confusion for me as a reviewer. We offer a two semester training program for women who are interested in running for office in their local communities and wanna get more leadership development. Great. That's clear. When I hear semesters, I think K through 12 and I think college.
So right now I'm wondering, these are my letters and caps here is this a college program? So you might wanna phrase it differently or keep the semester part, but try not to confuse the viewer and maybe this is a college program. And if so, you'll wanna state that. It's just, I'm not sure from seeing it.
The other thing I would suggest is after you've in that first paragraph talked about your organization, your next paragraph, here's where the program starts. When you write about the first semester, I would eliminate that. In your program, I would say we currently train or our goal is to train X number of women each year in the following, how to run a successful campaign for office, campaign management, fundraising, and political.
I don't know what PACS is. So you wanna spell that out? Public speaking, in addition, once you're in office, we provide training, et cetera. And then as a third component, the internships and mentoring. So I would divide your program. I would have that paragraph and highlight three key things.
The first part of your training, the second part when you're in office, and the third part, the internship and mentoring. Why do I like to divide things into categories? Because my eyes as I'm reading and this has been proven, too, you start to lose attention. This is a long paragraph. There's a lot of great information here, my brain needs to be able to chunk it into bits.
So three bits in one paragraph. Perfect. Okay, there's your program. The funder's interested because they've never seen anything like this and they love it. Dare to Run is seeking a grant in the amount of -- perfect. That's your middle paragraph. There's your ask. Your third paragraph, Dare to Run is seeking a grant, et cetera.
With this, I like that you wrote that the grant -- well, first of all, I would not put your operating budget in here right now. I'll tell you why , because you're asking for a big chunk of your operating budget. I would leave that out for now. They'll ask for that in the full grant application, unless you're completing an online form where there's a little place that says, what is your operating budget, by all means, put it in.
But I like that you wrote that 25,000 would enable you to expand the program, but I'm wondering, expand it from, I'm gonna assume New York, 'cause I'm reading this carefully, but you're gonna wanna very clearly say expand the program from New York state and into Pennsylvania, Delaware, et cetera. And you mentioned a strategic plan outlined on their website, on your website.
I would, if you're going to do that, I would in parenthesis, put the URL to your website. We never like to make readers, funders, reviewers work any harder than they need to. I want them to be able to get through this letter really quickly. And if they want to click on your website, check it out, but definitely have the link directly to that strategic plan if you decide to include that.
And then you're near the end of the letter now, but we haven't gotten into the impact of funding yet. Okay. That fourth paragraph and the most important one. So we're starting to get into that here. Bringing the Dare to Run women's leadership program to these states would enable us to reach a wider, more diverse group of women across the country and increase numbers of women running for public office in those states.
I love it. I would include some goal numbers. How many do you hope to reach as you expand to other states? I think that's important. Better yet, I would take this paragraph, highlight it, and I would make this your impact paragraph. So this is where you're gonna rephrase all of this to say a $20,000 grant will -- they already know it's gonna help go to other states or expand to other states, but more specifically, reach more women, better yet, let me backtrack.
I like the idea of looking at the impact of the funding in terms of the results. So you might want to project X number of women in this program, in these states that will in turn, run for public office and in turn, make positive changes in their communities. So however you wanna phrase it, but focus on the results just as we did in that last letter of introduction or inquiry.
And lastly, you've got the closing statement. Great. If you have any questions, you tell them where you can be reached, maybe a little thank you for taking the time to review this letter and you are off and running to the races. Pardon the pun. But I love this Dare to Run. Great. Good luck with this. I wanna take a little time to just jump back into my slides.
I wanna summarize what we did and then I'm happy to stay and answer any other questions. As I'm doing this, I did notice several questions about unsolicited proposals and I encourage you to go to our slides. Clear, Will, thumbs up?
Will: Yeah, they look good. Mm-hmm.
Margit: Okay. So yes, use letters of inquiry to reach out to people when they say they do not accept unsolicited proposals. Absolutely. This is sort of that softer way of getting in to make contact with those foundations without sending them a full application, without wasting your time completing a full application. So I have used, and I do use the letter of introduction or inquiry to reach out to funders that explicitly say they won't fund unsolicited proposals 'cause you never know when they're gonna change their mind. So it is always a way to do it. Better yet, if it comes from your board member and they know someone on that board and you have a connection, perfect.
Real quick three takeaways. One, you learn from this review, be concise. And from what I saw of the letters, they were fantastic. There's always room for improving those, but be concise, show how your work aligns with the funder mission. Better yet, if I were to rewrite this slide, I'd say, show funder impact. Love that word and get help. After you write the letter, have one of your peers review it and give you some feedback if they understand what it means.
Use Instrumentl to research the funder first. Go to my All About Grant Writing course. I would love for you to be there. Not only will you complete your entire grant application when you complete all eight modules, but I include a whole bunch of free templates, including a template to letters of inquiry and project budgets and full grant applications, et cetera, et cetera.
That's an old picture from when I was doing a lot of in-person trainings, which I hope to get back to, but this is an online course. It's self-paced. You have till June 21st to sign up and get a coupon code. Since you're within -- you're here with us in Instrumentl ,use grants100. Okay. So G-R-A-N-T-S, 100.
When you get into all about grant writing, you will get $100 off as long as it's before Tuesday, June 21st. You'll save a ton of time. Maryanne, thank you again for saying how great it's worked for you. You were one of my first customers back in 2000, 2020. Sorry, 2020. I appreciate that. And lastly, here's my contact information.
You can email me anytime, [email protected] Check out the websites, the online course. I love LinkedIn. So please connect with me on LinkedIn. I will definitely accept your invitation and we'll continue our chat. And last but not least, get that Instrumentl, save $50, and try the two-week.
And Will, you take it from here. I'm gonna start looking at some questions that I can still answer.
Will: Awesome. So I just put in a feedback form into the Zoom chat. Like we mentioned, this is an experimental event having these sort of live examples from folks like you. And so, please let us know what you thought of this respective event.
Some feedback for us, both good and bad. We'd love to hear from you as we continue to tweak these sorts of events in the future. As a thank you for doing that, we've got two freebees for you. We've got Seven Steps for Grant Success from Margit, as well as a variety of different freebies from us as well once you submit that feedback form.
So just go ahead and give us your feedback there. And we hope to also see you at a future event. I believe we're back next Wednesday as well for some other live events and Mar, I've got a ton of questions. So I'm gonna try to lightning round these with you. I think a couple of them may have been tackled, but I will go ahead and start asking them.
So, Deborah, Deborah asked, what is the difference between a letter of inquiry and letter of intent or letter of request?
Margit: Yeah, they're sometimes interchangeable. Although, once in a while with federal and state grants, you have to submit a letter of intent so that they know about how many applications you're going to get and they can pick out how many reviewers. Sometimes they're interchangeable, sometimes not, it just depends on the instructions associated with those.
Will: Got it. Megan asked, I just got my first grant and it funds part of the program. Can I write additional grants to cover the other parts of the program and how does this work?
Margit: Yes, absolutely. This is a bigger question that I definitely address in my online course, but the short answer is yes. If you have a program that costs $100,000, you rarely find the funder that will pay the full cost. So you may have to patch together a couple of different proposals until you get up to that amount. Yeah. And congratulations by the way. Good job.
Will: And one of the nice things that you can do is once you create a project on Instrumentl, you can sort by the certain grant sizes, too, in terms of setting minimums and maximums. So if you wanna kind of bridge the gap of a particular funding opportunity, you can use that in your parameters, in your search parameters. Maryanne asked, how can you find out whom to speak with or who to send the paper letter to if the website does not list any information?
Margit: The website doesn't have an address or information, you can go to their IRS 900, Maryanne, and go look at their tax return. The only problem with that is some, just a little warning when you do that, sometimes the address you'll get is actually the financial manager, the one who invests the money, the assets of the foundation and not the actual address of where the foundation is.
That's because so many family foundations don't even have an office. They just cycle all of their letters through their fiduciary or financial management company, like a JP Morgan Chase. If that's all you got to work with, send the letter there, but better yet, and I think Maryanne, you might have gotten Instrumentl, see if there's addresses there that you can access to. Definitely.
Will: There's also often, if you are gonna reference that form 990 report, you can look that up in Instrumentl and there's a direct phone number as well, as well as the websites and all the key people tabs as well. So that might be useful there. Kristen asked the question of, should a cover letter for a simpler application for a foundation be similar to an LOI?
Margit: Oh, I love that question. Yeah, I've done that. Kristen. I've done exactly that. Because oftentimes you have to submit a one-page cover letter and yeah, I'll use the same format as the LOI, but with the obvious difference of I don't ask for permission to submit a full application 'cause clearly there is already one enclosed.
Yeah, otherwise, absolutely. I think it's still great because in that short one pager, you're highlighting all the key things that the funder wants to know. Sometimes, too, I was, I didn't mention I was a foundation director with a private foundation for years, and sometimes that cover letter is only read by the staff, not by the board. So just don't assume that everyone's gonna read that, but it's good to include it. It's allergy season.
Will: Gary asked, what are your suggestions for making a compelling case for requesting funding for operating costs when programmatic expenses are already covered by other sources?
Margit: Wow. That's another big question. You can write your all away for operating costs, but I teach how to write grant applications and especially in my project budget module in the all about grant writing course, I really jump into how to get operating costs out of each and every one of your programs. So I would say to, in the time we have left, I would say the short answer is when you apply for program grants, make sure that you include some operating costs within that.
But I can get more detail on that.
Will: And feel free to email Margit for follow up there, Gary. Katie asked, can we send a prospectus as an attachment?
Margit: I usually don't recommend sending attachments with an LOI. Although, if a prospectus is maybe a two page fact sheet or a one page infographic or one-pager that describes your programs and looks great, then yeah, I might include that. I might include that, but I would not send a whole lot of information along with the LOI. Not at that stage.
Will: Mary asked, have you ever included images in your letter?
Margit: Oh, yeah. There's room, definitely. And in fact, there are some LOIs that end up being two or three pages. Here's why, we might talk with the funder first, and she might say, well, yes, submit, just send us a three page letter, you know, a two, three page letter, nothing more, and that's, I'll share it with the board. So what that executive director or foundation is essentially saying is you probably won't need to submit a full application, but we will look at a two or three page letter and it better describes things.
Now that's where I always include pictures right into, I put images right in there, especially if images of the people you serve, a program in action, or if it's a capital project are recently, we included an image of a bathroom that was torn apart and we need to fix this for this homelessness shelter. So yeah, definitely do that if you can.
Will: Nina asked if the LOI is over a page, say two pages, what do you think about printing it on front and back? Not using two pieces of paper?
Margit: Oh, I've never had that question before. I think that's your choice. If you do front and back then at the bottom, you'll definitely want something that says continued on the back, just so they don't assume that's the end of the letter is all. I love the idea of saving paper. My degree is in environmental science, so I'm glad you brought that up, but it's really your choice. Just make sure they know that they need to flip to the other side of logistics.
Will: Maryanne, and another person asked, how about including hyperlinks instead of putting the website URL in the letters?
Margit: I like that a lot better. If you are going, when you're emailing an LOI or if it's an online LOI, definitely do the hyperlink. With the paper letter of inquiry, you'll have to put in the URL, but definitely the hyperlink.
Will: And Joanne asked, should sustainability plans be addressed in the LOI?
Margit: Yeah, I was hoping you would get to that one, Will, because I think that's a fascinating question and also one that we could spend a lot of time on and I've taught one-hour webinars on sustainability. So Joanne, if you can, in one sentence, mention that your program will be sustained over the long-term through X, Y, Z.
Then by all means, you can do that. If you need more than that to explain it, I would say that it's always gonna be in the full application and if it isn't, you should explain it there anyway. But if you find a convenient way to put it in there, especially if you frame it in a way that says, with the White Coff Foundation's $25,000 grant, you will enable X, Y, Z organization to leverage this many dollars and reserve this many from our operating funds to sustain the program for the next three to five years.
I know that's really specific, but if you do something like that, I think that would really gain a lot of confidence in your application and you would probably be invited to submit an application. So great question. These are all great questions. Thank you.
Will: And the last question I'll take for you is from Whitney, does Instrumentl have any information that's useful to Canadian charities?
We primarily help U.S.-based nonprofits with at least 90K in operating revenue or consultants that are serving those U.S.-based nonprofits with at least 90K in operating revenue. So unfortunately, we won't really be able to help you out there, but if you are falling into the two camps that I just shared, then definitely check us out.
With that, we are at the top of the hour. It has been an absolute pleasure to welcome back Margit. And I'm glad that so many of you guys have found this workshop helpful. Be sure to share that in the feedback form and look out for that freebie from Margit as well as make sure you use that coupon code before next Tuesday, if you're interested in her course.
Margit: I wanna see you in the course. I wanna keep working with you all. So hope to see you there. Thanks again, Will. And thank you, everybody, for being here today.
Will: All right, take it easy, everybody. Have a good weekend. Bye now.