A letter of intent (LOI) template for a nonprofit serves as a formal expression of interest, clarifying the organization's goals and intentions regarding collaborations, grants, or partnerships. With our template, you will effectively kick-off discussions and relationships with funders.
Who is this template for?
What are the main sections covered in this template?
So you’ve identified your ideal funding opportunity and have carefully read through the guidelines to determine what your next steps will be (great job!). For this foundation, the opportunity requires the submission of a grant letter of intent (an LOI) as opposed to a traditional grant application.
Now you’re asking yourself: what exactly is a letter of intent, and what does this mean for me as I create my grant writing plan?
In this post, you will learn what a letter of intent for nonprofits should be, industry standards in creating one, and a collection of templates you can utilize in the future.
So let’s dive in!
What Is a Letter of Intent?
A grant letter of intent (LOI), as the name suggests, is a letter expressing your intent to apply for a grant. It's not a comprehensive grant proposal but rather a concise introduction to your organization and project.
An LOI serves as an initial brief communication with potential funders by outlining your nonprofit’s interest in applying for a grant.
However, the term "Letter of Intent" can also be used to refer to a document submitted along with a grant application, outlining your intention to use the grant funds for a specific purpose or project. So, its specific meaning can depend on the grantmaker's guidelines.
While an LOI is not as detailed as a full grant proposal, it plays a vital role in capturing the funder's attention and determining whether your project aligns with their priorities.
Why Is a Letter of Intent Important?
A grant letter of intent sets the stage for your entire engagement with funders. Let's explore why an LOI is so crucial for your grant-seeking endeavors.
First Impressions: Setting the Tone for Your Grant Application
An LOI serves as your organization's first introduction to potential funders.
It's your opportunity to create a compelling initial impression and set the tone for the entire grant application process. Funders often receive numerous applications, and your LOI must capture their attention and demonstrate your seriousness about the opportunity.
Streamlining the Grant Review Process
Grantors receive numerous applications, and LOIs help them quickly assess whether a project aligns with their mission and goals.
Your LOI provides a brief overview that allows grantors to quickly evaluate whether your project aligns with their priorities.
Building Initial Relationships with Funders
Submitting a well-crafted LOI also demonstrates your organization's professionalism and seriousness.
This early engagement can be the foundation for a positive and enduring partnership with the grantor.
Now that we've established the importance of an LOI, let's dive deeper into what sets it apart from other documents in the grant application process.
What’s the Difference Between a Letter of Intent, Interest, or Inquiry?
Because we often use the abbreviation, “LOI”, a grant letter of intent is often used interchangeably with “letter of inquiry” and “letter of interest.”
However, they are all subtly different from each other.
Letter of Intent: A brief document submitted to a funder to express your interest in applying for a specific grant opportunity. Funders often request these to gauge the number of potential applicants and the general scope of their projects. They include a concise overview of the project, the organization's mission and capacity, and a request for permission to submit a full proposal.
Letter of Interest: Often unsolicited, these propose a collaboration with potential funders or partners. It outlines a project idea, highlights your qualifications, and proposes a meeting or further discussions.
Letter of Inquiry: When you’re seeking information about a grant opportunity before investing time and effort in preparing a full proposal. It's a preliminary inquiry to gather more details about the application process, the focus area, or specific guidelines for the grant application.
What Sections Should Be Included in a Grant Letter of Intent?
A well-structured LOI includes several key sections, each with a specific purpose. Let's break down the essential components of a grant letter of intent:
Introduction: Presenting Your Organization
In the "Introduction" section, you introduce your nonprofit organization to the potential funder.
This initial part of your grant letter of intent serves as a brief overview of your nonprofit.
Your Mission: Start by introducing your organization and proceed to provide a concise overview of your mission and core values. This is the first step in conveying what your organization stands for and how it aligns with the potential funders' priorities.
Your History: Highlight how your organization's history demonstrates your track record. Make sure that it’s related to the funder’s grant opportunities.
Your Current Initiatives: Share insights into your organization's ongoing initiatives and the programs you're currently involved in. This demonstrates your commitment to your mission and how you're actively working toward your goals.
Project Overview: What You Aim to Achieve
The "Project Overview" section is all about addressing the problem or needs you're targeting, explaining your strategy to overcome them, and discussing the positive outcomes you anticipate.
Problem Statement: The problem statement is the foundation of your LOI. Here, clearly define the problem or need that your project addresses. Use data, evidence, and real-world examples to underscore the significance of the problem, setting the stage for why your project is vital.
Proposed Solution: Explain how your project aims to address the problem. Offer insights into your strategy and approach.
Expected Outcomes: Provide a forward-looking perspective that explains the positive changes your project will bring about. Make sure to connect your goals with the funder's objectives to underscore the alignment.
Get specific about the financial aspects of your project. Provide details about the overall project cost, the exact amount you're seeking, and how you plan to allocate these funds across different project components.
Total Project Cost: Provide an overview of the total cost of your project and clearly state all its financial requirements. This gives funders a clear picture of the scale of your initiative.
Specific Funding Amount: Specify the exact amount you're requesting from the funder. Make sure this aligns with the budget breakdown you provide in the full grant proposal.
Allocation Breakdown: Offer a breakdown of how you plan to allocate the requested funds. Explain how the funding will be distributed across different project components. This transparency is critical in assuring the funder that their support will be used effectively and efficiently.
Closing: Expressing Gratitude and Next Steps
The "Closing" section is where you wrap up your LOI with courtesy and professionalism. Focus on leaving a positive impression and building a potential future partnership.
Appreciation: A courteous and thankful conclusion goes a long way in building a positive relationship. Showcases your professionalism and acknowledge the funder's time and effort in considering your proposal.
Contact Information: Provide clear and accurate contact information. Ensure funders can reach out to you easily if they have questions or need further information.
Follow-Up Mention: Let funders know that you're open to further discussions. Make sure to indicate your interest in moving forward with a full grant proposal.
How to Write an Effective Letter of Intent for Your Next Grant?
Now that you know what an LOI should include, let's dive into the process of writing a compelling and effective grant letter of intent. Follow these steps to ensure your LOI stands out and piques the interest of potential funders.
Understanding the Purpose of an LOI
Know Your Audience: Understand your potential funders. Research their mission, priorities, and guidelines. You can use grant databases like Instrumentl to research grant opportunities and the specific funders that offer them.
Set Clear Objectives: Define your objectives for the LOI. What do you want to achieve with it? Are you aiming to secure an invitation for a full proposal, or are you simply introducing your organization? Be clear about your goals from the start.
Researching the Grantor Thoroughly
Thoroughly Understand the Grant Opportunity: Your journey to crafting an effective Letter of Intent (LOI) begins with thorough research.
Study the grantor's guidelines and criteria to gain a deep understanding of what they are looking for in potential grantees and ensure that your nonprofit and project align with their priorities. This will allow you to tailor your LOI to align precisely with what the grantor is looking for.
Instrumentl’s 990 tool can help you gain insight into a funder’s past grants, giving priorities, and funding history.
Contact the Grantor (if Appropriate): If you have questions or need clarifications about the grant opportunity, don't hesitate to reach out to the grantor.
Doing this can clarify any uncertainties and enable you to fine-tune your grant letter of intent, making it even more appealing to the grantor. This personalized touch shows your genuine interest and proactive approach and can significantly enhance your chances of success in the grant application process.
Structuring Your LOI for Clarity and Impact
Start With a Strong Introduction: Your LOI serves as the initial introduction of your organization and your project to potential funders. That’s why it is crucial to craft a compelling opening for your LOI that introduces your organization and the essence of your project.
Make sure it grabs the funder's attention right from the start. An engaging introduction sets the tone for the entire document, making the funder eager to learn more about your project.
Keep it Concise: Remember, an LOI is a brief document. Be clear, concise, and to the point, and avoid unnecessary jargon or verbosity. You don’t want your potential funder to lose interest in your mission. Ensure your LOI is straight to the point and is able to convey your message succinctly.
Highlight Alignment: Funders are not just interested in supporting projects; they want to support projects that align with their own priorities and values.
Use your LOI as an opportunity to clearly articulate how your project aligns with the grantor's priorities. Use specific language and examples to demonstrate this connection.
Personalizing Your LOI
Reference the Funder/Foundation: Mention the funder or foundation explicitly. Make specific references to their mission, priorities, or previous work that aligns with your project.
Highlighting their previous contributions or initiatives that relate to your work shows that you've taken the time to understand their values and goals. This level of personalization not only demonstrates your commitment but also connects your project directly to their mission.
Show Impact: While it's essential to describe your project's objectives and activities, remember to focus on the outcomes.
Use data, real-life stories, and evidence to illustrate the positive changes your project can achieve. Paint a vivid picture of the transformations your initiative will bring about in the community or field. Funders are more likely to support projects that demonstrate a clear and meaningful impact.
Review and Revise Before Submission
Don't rush: Take the time to review and revise your LOI. Ensure that it's error-free and effectively conveys your organization's mission and your project's potential.
Stay Proactive: After submitting your LOI, don't sit back and wait. If you don't receive a response within a reasonable timeframe, consider following up to express your continued interest.
Now that you have a comprehensive guide on crafting an LOI, let's dive into what an effective grant letter of intent looks like.
3 Examples of Letter of Intent
The following real-world letter of intent grant samples will provide you with insights into how different organizations present their intent to apply for grants.
1. University of Massachusetts Amherst
UMASS Amherst does an excellent job of breaking down each component of a grant letter of intent, including the importance of background research and techniques you can use while writing.
Each component of the letter of intent is broken down but in greater depth in terms of the construction of each section. Of note, they also emphasize the importance of already having a well-thought-out proposal in mind before beginning to write a letter of intent.
2. Northwestern University
This overview from Northwestern University is geared toward research field-oriented proposals and provides succinct guidance for what the body paragraphs should look like for a letter of intent in that category.
Keep in mind that research grant opportunities and the affiliated LOIs usually require very specific instructions due to the nature of the work.
3. Anschutz Family Foundation
This is a great example of what it looks like when a foundation sets specific guidelines and criteria for a letter of intent for nonprofits. The Anschutz Family Foundation provides four very well-defined areas that they would like included: an overview of your organization, an overview of what you do, financial information, and the amount of the request you are making.
Letter of Intent Template
Let’s put all we’ve covered into a solid template you can refer to and keep on hand to organize your thoughts each time you start the letter of intent process!
A grant letter of intent should be between 1-3 pages (without attachments), and/or should follow the exact guidelines given by the funder.
Attachments should also be succinct! Remember that this is not a grant proposal. Don’t include attachments unless the funder requests them or leaves an opening to include attachments that strengthen your proposal.
Keep it readable and avoid jargon and acronyms. If you are given flexibility for attachments, make sure they flow with the format of the letter.
Try to identify the specific addressee you are writing this letter to and avoid the generic “To Whom It May Concern”.
If there are no guidelines given, the body of the letter of intent should follow the guidelines listed below.
[Your nonprofit] is seeking support from [funding organization] through the [RFP] for its innovative new [program or project description].
[Your program’s staff] will [engage in program activities] and reach [target population] in [target area] to connect them to [projected program outcome]. We respectfully request [amount of money] to [program expenditures] integral to making this project a success.
Since [Your nonprofit] was established in [year] as the [important milestone for your nonprofit], we have expanded our programs and initiatives to develop [significant features of your nonprofit that you want to highlight].
We have a strong history of [insert your track record of success here, in 1-2 sentences] and the opportunity from the [funding organization] is deeply aligned with our vision of empowering our [target area].
[Your catchment area] is [description of target area/population your program(s) are serving]. According to recent Census data, [insert short 1-2 sentence statement of need highlighting quantitative data]
[Your nonprofit]’s vision is to [insert brief overview of mission/vision]. [Insert a few lines about how the programs/initiatives you are looking for support your mission/vision].
[Insert 1-2 sentences about projected improvements to your catchment area/target population, focusing on quantitative descriptions].
The total cost of our [program/initiative] for [project time period] is [amount]. [Include a description of any committed funding that has already been dedicated to your project]. Your contribution of [insert amount of request] will provide the funding we need to launch this program, and [include what the support from the funding organization will be used to cover]
Our [name of project] is an innovative solution to [the name of the problem your program/initiative is seeking to address] we have identified in our community. We know that the [funding organization] shares the same mission to [describe shared characteristics between your nonprofit and the funding organization] and that you share our passion for [describe a shared vision for the future]. By providing [short description of activities] in [target area] we will make genuine improvements to [area your nonprofit is seeking to change].
We appreciate your time and consideration and look forward to exploring ways that our organizations can partner together. If you have any questions, or if you would like to schedule a tour of our agency’s current programs and services, please contact me at [email protected] or call me at ###-###-####.
Wrapping it Up: How to Get the Most Out of Your Letter of Intent
LOIs are also one of the most popular ways that you can introduce your mission to outside stakeholders.
Set the tone for building successful relationships with grant funders by writing an effective Letter of Intent.
With the right tools, nonprofits can quickly scale fundraising and programming and take back their time. But, what makes something the “best” tool? And how do you justify an additional expense in a resource-constrained organization? Download this guide to learn more.