Letter of Intent Templates for Nonprofits: The Ultimate Collection
So you’ve identified your ideal funding opportunity and have carefully read through the guidelines to determine what your next steps will be (great job!). For this foundation, the opportunity requires submission of a letter of intent for nonprofits (an LOI) as opposed to a traditional grant application.
Now you’re asking yourself: what exactly is a letter of intent, and what does this mean for me as I create my grant writing plan?
In this post, you will learn what a letter of intent for nonprofits should be, industry standards in creating one, and have a collection of templates you can utilize in the future. So let’s dive in!
What is a Letter of Intent and Why is it Important?
When it comes to nonprofit grants, a letter of intent is essentially a document created by the interested grant applicant (aka you!) to introduce their organization and express interest in cash or in-kind support.
Writing a quality letter of intent for grant funding is a keystone aspect of grant writing and development. For many grant opportunities, it is the first introduction to your nonprofit’s mission and the amazing work you do.
Abbreviated as “LOI”, a letter of intent is often used interchangeably with “letter of inquiry”, “concept paper”, and “letter of interest”. The only distinction between letter of intent for nonprofits and letter of inquiry/interest is the level of commitment of the “I”: intent, inquiry, and interest.
For example, letters of inquiry/interest may be unsolicited general requests to a foundation, whereas letters of intent imply an intent to apply for a specific opportunity.
The practice of requesting letters of intent is used by foundations and other grant funding organizations to screen potential applicants. It functions much like a cover letter for a resume in that it:
1. Shows that you have done your research and understand the organization
2. Communicates that you are interested in pursuing a particular opportunity
3. Explores a potential relationship
4. Illustrates that you have the credentials that make you an excellent candidate for the opportunity
A letter of intent for nonprofits can also be described as a streamlined version of your full grant proposal and a way to pique interest in the reviewer for a more in-depth application.
When first establishing a relationship between a funding organization and your nonprofit, explaining your aligned missions through a letter of intent is not just for the grant funding opportunity you’re currently working on. It’s also for opening doors to discussions about additional support opportunities in the future.
Letters of intent also act effectively as the first section of a grant proposal, as you cannot move on to the next round of the review process without wowing the reviewer with the letter of intent.
Letters of intent illustrate that you have thoughtfully considered establishing a relationship with the funding organization, including following any guidelines laid out for the construction of the document.
On that note—what should a letter of intent for nonprofits look like? Let’s take a look at that next.
The Ultimate List of Letter of Intent Samples
A letter of intent for grants will be unique to each opportunity. Each funding organization will either provide different sets of instructions and guidelines, or might also ask for a letter of intent without getting into specifics. Read the instructions thoroughly and lead with them as the guiding outline.
If a funding organization asks for a letter of intent without additional guidelines, there are some industry standards that you can use to inform your writing.
You should still be careful to craft your letter of intent specifically to the funding organization, but you can start off with a boilerplate narrative that introduces your mission and the program/initiative you are looking to get funding for.
As part of Indeed’s career development resources, they included an overview of letters of inquiry, a how-to, and a solid template you can use as a guide while writing your own LOI. Bulleting your program objectives can be a good way of simply outlining the work you plan to accomplish with your program.
UMASS Amherst does an excellent job of breaking down each component of a letter of intent, including the importance of background research and technique you can use while writing.
Each component of a letter of intent is broken down but in greater depth in terms of the construction of each section. Of note, they also emphasize the importance of already having a well thought-out proposal in mind before beginning to write a letter of intent.
This LOI overview provides both a template and structural advice on how to compose your letter of intent. Foundant does an good job of explaining page count, focus alignment, and a thorough overview of a submission timetable to ensure that you get your LOI in on time. Their template leads with funding first and foremost:
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Alright, so we’ve had a chance to check out some fantastic letter of intent samples from experts in the industry. We've discussed the fundamentals of LOIs, what the process is for a letter of intent for grant funding, and what a nonprofit letter of intent should look like in essence.
So let’s put all of that together into a solid structural overview you can refer to and then a sample letter of intent template that you can keep on hand to organize your thoughts each time you start the letter of intent process!
A letter of intent for grants should be between 1-3 pages (without attachments), and/or should follow the exact guidelines given by the funder.
Attachments should also be succinct! Remember that this is not a grant proposal. Don’t include attachments unless the funder requests them or leaves an opening to include attachments that strengthen your proposal.
Keep it readable- avoid jargon and acronyms. If you are given flexibility for attachments, make sure they flow with the format of the letter.
Try to identify the specific addressee you are writing this letter to and avoid the generic “To Whom It May Concern”.
If there are no guidelines given, the body of the letter of intent should follow the guidelines listed below.
[Your nonprofit] is seeking support from [funding organization] through the [RFP] for its innovative new [program or project description].
[Your program’s staff] will [engage in program activities] and reach [target population] in [target area] to connect them to [projected program outcome]. We respectfully request [amount of money] to [program expenditures] integral to making this project a success.
Since [Your nonprofit] was established in [year] as the [important milestone for your nonprofit], we have expanded our programs and initiatives to develop [significant features of your nonprofit that you want to highlight].
We have a strong history of [insert your track record of success here, in 1-2 sentences] and the opportunity from the [funding organization] is deeply aligned with our vision of empowering our [target area].
[Your catchment area] is [description of target area/population your program(s) are serving]. According to recent Census data, [insert short 1-2 sentence statement of need highlighting quantitative data]
[Your nonprofit]’s vision is to [insert brief overview of mission/vision]. [Insert a few lines about how the programs/initiatives you are looking for support your mission/vision].
[Insert 1-2 sentences about projected improvements to your catchment area/target population, focusing on quantitative descriptions].
The total cost of our [program/initiative] for [project time period] is [amount]. [Include a description of any committed funding that has already been dedicated to your project]. Your contribution of [insert amount of request] will provide the funding we need to launch this program, and [include what the support from the funding organization will be used to cover].
Our [name of project] is an innovative solution to [the name of problem your program/initiative is seeking to address] we have identified in our community. We know that the [funding organization] shares the same mission to [describe shared characteristics between your nonprofit and the funding organization], and that you share our passion for [describe shared vision for the future]. By providing [short description of activities] in [target area] we will make genuine improvements to [area your nonprofit is seeking to change].
We so appreciate your time and consideration, and look forward to exploring ways that our organizations can partner together. If you have any questions, or if you would like to schedule a tour of our agency’s current programs and services, please contact me at [email protected] or call me at ###-###-####.
Sincerely, [Your Name] [Title] [Your nonprofit]
Where to Find Other Letter of Intent Templates for Nonprofits
To complete your collection, check out these additional letter of intent templates and resources.
This overview from Northwestern University is geared towards research field oriented proposals and provides succinct guidance for what the body paragraphs should look like for a letter of intent in that category. Keep in mind that research grant opportunities and the affiliated LOIs usually require very specific instructions due to the nature of the work.
This is a great example of what it looks like when a foundation sets specific guidelines and criteria for a letter of intent for nonprofits. The Anschutz Family Foundation provides four very well-defined areas that they would like included: an overview of your organization, an overview of what you do, financial information, and the amount of the request you are making.
The Balance likens letters of intent to an audition–which in so many ways, they are! They provide a solid template and a checklist you can use to make sure that you hit each note in your funding audition!
Wrapping it Up: How to Get the Most Out of Your Letter of Intent
A letter of intent should be a staple of your nonprofit development plan for each of your programs and initiatives. Getting a head start on creating a template will put you ahead of schedule when you identify foundations that align with your mission and vision and decide on what funding opportunities to pursue.
Building relationships with grant funders is what grant writing is all about, and nonprofit letters of intent allow you to take that first step in a quick, efficient way. LOIs are also one of the most popular ways that you can introduce your mission to outside stakeholders, which ultimately is at the root of what you want for your nonprofit overall!
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