29.06.2017 Uncategorized No Comments

Grant Writing Tip #5: The Letter of Introduction

Have you noticed the increasing number of foundations in recent years that no longer have open submissions and have resorted to invitation-only? Given the numbers of foundations going this route nowadays, the situation is disheartening especially if they seem like a perfect fit. But smart minds in philanthropy are now writing letters of introduction in response to invitation-only funders. This letter provides a short and sweet way of introducing your organization and program and may lead to getting your foot in the door. While doing prospect research, I learned that the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation in California invites such letters, http://www.fcfox.org/what-we-do/want-to-apply/. So, this is progress.

As you may know, foundations took a financial hit in the recession and there’s been an uptick in applications. So the invitation-only scenario gives them control over their workflow, or just how many proposals they want to review in any given funding cycle. Some fund-raisers find that foundations are not offended by the letter of introduction, which sometimes leads to funding…so what have you got to lose?

Although there may be several approaches to this letter, I’ve outlined two below. These two have one important thing in common: don’t broach the subject of funding with this letter. This is a no-strings-attached communication to let foundations know 1) who you are and 2) the important work you’re doing. Keep the letter to one page, if possible.

Here are the two approaches recommended by professional fund-raisers:

1) Tony Poderis of raise-funds.com recommends beginning the letter as follows:

Please accept this note, not as a means to solicit funds, but as simply a letter of introduction and to respectfully ask the following questions:

  • “What would it take to enable our organization to be considered to be on your charities’ priority support list?
  • “How often do you add new grant recipients?”
  • “With our pledge that we will not ask for money, would you be interested in learning more about our organization directly with additional information we would be pleased to provide through an informal information-only meeting with you, or perhaps you may be interested in having a site visit with us to see our organization in operation?”
  • A possible last paragraph: “I will follow up with a telephone call _______ (exactly when). At that time, I hope you will discuss the possibilities I cited in this letter in order to introduce our organization—with no obligation to you, nor any expectation on our part—and otherwise receive your valuable guidance.”

Poderis then recommends waiting ten days for a possible response, and if none, follow up with a phone call. He says that sometimes things do change and there’s always a chance for an opening. He also recommends being spare and selective with any enclosures or attachments. (These might include a 501(c)3 letter, Board of Directors list, and an organizational or program brochure.)

2) A Twin Cities, MN fund-raiser says that foundation staff will read your letter and surprisingly, they will open your attachments (supporting documents). This letter should be open-ended and not have an expectation of a response from the funder…so there should be no mention of following up with them. This fund-raiser reports success by following up with a small post card about a month later.

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