Letters of Inquiry

You need to convince your prospective funder that:

  • Funding your project will benefit many people in need. Foundations want to change the world for the better but do not have the resources to meet all needs. Show them how far their investment will go with your proposal.
  • What you propose is novel, a new way of looking at things, and shows exciting promise. Foundations want to be associated with new, cutting-edge work, especially if it becomes a standard by which others operate or if it changes policy in a way that supports their targeted constituencies and issues.
  • Your work will be done collaboratively with local government, nonprofit and community groups, higher education, and/or business.
  • Your project is inclusive of those you seek to help, either in planning, or directing, or execution.
  • Your organization has made its own investment into the project. The nonprofit best shows the value it places on a project by the degree to which it tries to make it happen.
  • The outcomes of your work are replicable so as to benefit many more. Foundations want their investments to go as far as possible.
  • You can demonstrate that the work will be continued after the foundation grant has ended.


Additional Tips for Writing Letters of Inquiry to Foundations

  • Be clear, concise, cogent, and correct
  • Use standard English. Proofread your letter carefully.
  • Ask someone not familiar with your idea to provide a critical analysis.
  • Stick to one page. A separate page for your project summary may be appropriate.
  • Use the correct names and titles of individuals at the foundation.
  • Use current references or resources if you are going to cite these in your letter. Make sure that any documentation, charts, or tables directly support your case. Do not add statistics just because you think that they are impressive.
  • Be clear the way in which your idea is a perfect match for the foundation.
  • State how much money you are requesting.
  • Be precise (name, address, telephone number, fax number, and e-mail address) about how you contact the foundation.
  • Make your writing interesting and creative. Remember: Foundations may get hundreds of letters. You want yours to stand out -- not bore the reader!

If instructions are unclear, call the foundation and ask for an explanation.

By Deborah Koch,
Director of Foundation Relations at Massachusetts University, Amherst

Sample Inquiry Letter

Article from The Grantsmanship Center, by Chuck Putney