Six out every ten inquiries that we receive from NGOs is if we can help submit a request for proposal (RFP) that has just been released by a grantmaking organization. Many times, we advise our client not to wait until a RFP is advertised. Also that you might have been lucky to stumble on the RFP. NGOs need to be proactive in seeking grants, and one way to be proactive is by writing a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) to explore the possibilities of securing grants for your NGO.
‘Letter of Inquiry’ or LOI can be your first contact with a donor agency for raising funds for your NGO. It can be more relevant than a full proposal because if the Letter of Inquiry is found to be poorly written, no grantmaking organization will be interested to know anything about your NGO or your project. So as a first contact point, it is very important to develop a brief, well-researched, and compelling letter seeking funding partnership from the prospective donor.
Most funding agencies prefer to receive an initial LOI or Letter of Inquiry from NGOs. They are never interested in accepting and reading full proposals. If you are straightaway sending a full proposal to a donor agency, it is referred to as an ‘unsolicited proposal.’ An ‘unsolicited proposal’ is a proposal that has not been solicited or requested for by the donor agency, yet fund seekers end up sending it. An unsolicited proposal is never read and immediately rejected by grantmaking organizations that do not entertain such proposals. Some grantmaking organizations allow unsolicited proposals, but the numbers are reducing.
But this does not mean that donor agencies will not take an interest in reading your proposals. They will but only if there is a proper approach for it. The proper approach is to send the Letter of Inquiry first and if the donor shows interest in it, they will request for the full proposal, and you can submit a ‘solicited proposal.’
So, how can one write a Letter of Inquiry? In general, a Letter of Inquiry should be brief and straight-to-the-point with some basic information about the project and an indication of the budget. But along with that, different donor agencies have different guidelines on the format, look and feel of the letter. It is best to read these guidelines carefully on their website. Here, we will go through the guidelines of some major grantmaking foundations on how to submit the Letter of Inquiry for seeking grants from them.
Generally, an LOI basically seeks information about the applicant, his/her contact information; the organization and its contact information, and finally the project information. Within 6500 characters (around 2 pages), you are required to explain your project. You can begin an introduction to the project with its goal or vision and then list out the project objectives. Don’t forget to mention the geographical area of your project like district and country to immediately relate it to the foundation’s geographical priorities. You can then briefly mention the project approach, strategies, and activities briefly. In the end, you can give an indication of the budget you are requesting from the foundation.
There is no clarity on how much funding an organization can ask for but you can go through the previously funded projects to view the amounts funded by the grantmaking organization.In the country where your NGO is operating, there are bilateral agencies of government that provide seed funding for NGOs, you can approach them with your Letter of Inquiry.
As you journey into the world of developing your NGO or social enterprise, getting funding is important and a daunting task. Nevertheless, you are not alone, and there are NGOs that have surpassed that stage and are now receiving multi-year funding. Do not despair, focus on your mission, while seeking proper guidance. Do you have stories with writing your LOIs? Kindly share with us in the comment box below, we will be happy to respond!