Letters of Support, a.k.a. Letters of Commitment, document your partnerships and the contributions they bring to the project.
Follow these 5 keys to secure great letters of support:
- Ask early! Put your partners and supporters on alert as soon as you decide to apply for a grant. Give them a brief summary of the grant purpose, the estimated deadline for their letter, when you will provide more details about the proposed project and when they can expect a draft from your organization. The more time you give your partners and supporters the more likely you are to get the kind of letter that boosts your grant rating!
- Draft each letter. Providing an individualized and specific letter of support draft for each partner ensures three things:
- That the letter will contain the information required by the grantor
- That the letter contains specific information regarding strengths of the partnership, which boosts your grant score
- That the letter will be returned to you in a timely fashion
- NO form letters. As stated above, draft each letter! You know what makes your partner valuable to the proposed project as it relates to the grant requirements and scoring. You and your grant professional can highlight partners’ strengths. Be specific! Show how the partner will contribute to meeting grant benchmarks, support funder outcomes and influence the overall success of the project (and beyond). Letters should contain:
- Addressee – identify the specific addressee and avoid using "To Whom it May Concern"
- Opening Paragraph – identify the partner's role, the grant identifier number, the proposed project name and why the partner is writing (support, commit resources, cash, etc.)
- Body Paragraph(s) – Briefly identify proposal strengths and supporting organization's role strengths relevant to proposal.
- Concluding Paragraph – Restate the partner's support for the proposal and indicate how this will meet the larger goal of the project and/or the grantor.
- Quantify ALL commitments. There is tremendous value in partnerships and community support. Cash commitments are more obvious than other forms of contributions. In-kind contributions, in the form of services, space, staff time, and much more, have a monetary value and should be quantified as such. Did you know that volunteer’s time had an estimated value of $21.79 per hour in 2011? In-kind donations are critical for organizational capacity and for program sustainability. Furthermore, acknowledging the value of your supporters’ in-kind commitments by quantifying ensures two things:
- The partner’s decision maker will understand that you and the project truly value their contributions, both in-kind and cash
- Increases the match percentage of the project, which can increase your grant application score.
*Your budget documents must match your letters of commitment, including in-kind contributions.
- Organization Decision Maker signature. All letters of support should be on the organization’s letterhead and should be signed by the organization’s decision maker. Sure, the program manager or project coordinator will know more about the partnership and details about how the agencies work together. They can be your biggest asset in the process of developing and getting great letters of support. It is also an opportunity for you to shine a spotlight on their good work! Involve those program managers and project coordinators in drafting the letter, showcase their work, if possible, and have the manager/coordinator bring the letter to the organization’s decision maker.
Letters of support are extensions of your grant narrative and your budget documents. These letters are an opportunity to showcase your collaborations, previous experience, collective expertise and overall community need and support. When grants are overwhelmingly competitive, great letters of support can be the tipping point to winning a grant award!
What are your keys to unlocking great letters of support? Please share your thoughts and questions.
Of course, JM Grants can assist you developing great letters of support. "Get Grants, Do Good!"