Submitting a Letter of Inquiry
Private Foundation grant makers often ask an applicant to "Apply in Writing” or submit a ‘Letter of Inquiry’ with little or no further guidance how to do so. The Wheel recommends the following as a template to putting together a written application.
Try to limit the main body of a free-form application to three A4 pages (both sides) unless a shorter (or longer) application is specifically requested. Shorter is often better than longer. Always use a word processor or typewriter. Use short sentences and avoid jargon. And always, always check your spelling!
A covering letter should be a summary of:
- your group/organisation
- your project
- your application
- grant request
- your previous contact with (or support from) the funder.
Where possible you should always write to another person by name (how do you feel when you receive a letter starting 'Dear Sir/Madam'?). Check to see that you are writing to the right person (get their job title if possible) and that you have spelled their name correctly.
The covering letter should be on your group's headed paper. The headed paper should have your Office of the Revenue Commissioners number (if any), your Company Registration Number (if any), your address, telephone/fax numbers, and email address.
End with the offer to send the funder further information if required and an invitation for them to visit the project. Always include your title and evening contact details.
Background to your work (two paragraphs):
- Why and how did your group start?
- What is your group aiming to do?
- Who is currently involved?
- How is the group run and what sort of work does it do?
- What sort of support do you have within your community?
- How many people do you work with?
- Where are you based? What geographical area do you cover?
- What previous successes have you had?
Background to your area or client group (2-3 paragraphs):
- What are the needs of your area or client group?
- Can you back up your case with facts and figures?
- How do you know that there is a problem?
- How long has this problem been there?
- Has anyone else tried to do anything about it?
- Why did they fail?
Project rationale (1 paragraph):
- Define the reasoning behind your project
- Why do think this will work?
- Is it based on anyone else's work or experience?
- Why are you the best group to carry out the work?
Project (3-4 paragraphs):
- What is the name of your project?
- Can you summarise the work of the project in a couple of sentences?
- What does the project aim to achieve?
- Who will your project benefit?
- How will they benefit?
- What type of work is involved?
- How long will it run?
- Who will operate and manage the work?
- How will you know that it has been successful?
- What will happen at the end of the project?
- Can anyone else benefit from the project's work?
- How much is required to run the project?
- Have you broken the budget down into headings?
- Have you included hidden costs, eg insurance costs?
- Have you included inflation costs for 2/3-year projects?
- How much can you raise yourselves?
- Who else have you applied to?
- How much are you requesting from the funder?
- If you have a shopping list of items, what do you want them to support?
Most funders ask that groups submit a copy of their constitution and their most recent audited accounts. Occasionally a copy of the most recent annual report is also requested. Some funders refuse to accept any additional information at all.
Do not include anything that could act as a substitute for your application. Do not make the mistake of submitting a very detailed development plan with a covering letter demanding money. Having a development plan shows that you are forward thinking but a funder will expect you to summarise the relevant bits for the application.
A funder will only have a short time to look through your application. They will not have time to watch that video of your youth group in action. If you are applying for funding for a post, the funder may want to see a job description and/or personnel specification.
Do not overload the funder. A constitution and annual accounts may be all that you need to include. Mention that there are other publications and if the funder is interested they will come back to you.
Do remember to post the letter and send a stamp addressed envelope for the grant-maker to return to confirm receipt of the application. Many funders will not spend their own resources on acknowledging an application given the quantity they receive.
When you are successful in securing funding/donations, always remember to thank the donor. This is not only good manners but also helps to raise the possibility of maintaining an ongoing donor relationship in the future.