What is a Grant Cover Letter and Why Should I Write One?

Sections of this topic

    In my December 6th (2012) post, I introduced the third step in the four-step grantsmanship process: Grant Proposal Development; and I also briefly introduced the cover letter.

    This month’s Grants Posting will provide more information on what to include in a cover letter and why you should write one.

    I’ll start with recommendations from the Foundation Center:

    •  “All proposals should be accompanied by a cover letter addressed to an
    appropriate person.”
    •  “The cover letter should be a brief, to the point, summary of what we can expect
    to read in the proposal. For instance it might read — Dear Appropriate
    Person — Our organization does such and such. We are in need of X amount
    of dollars for — name of project or general support. We are attaching — and
    then list the documents appended.”
    •  Links to sample cover letters are provided at the Foundation Center’s website.

    I follow these recommendations when submitting grant proposal to most private and corporate foundations. I do, however, make exceptions, especially when proposal content is limited by word/character count constraints.

    As I have written previously on this blog, relationships are at the heart of all fundraising, including foundation grants. It is therefore critical to connect the foundation leader(s) to your clients and their unique needs. So, when proposal guidelines – or electronic formats – limit what I can include in the target population and needs statement sections, I often include more qualitative and heart-felt information in the cover letter. I usually include a client photo on the first page – again for the purpose of connecting the person at the foundation to the people (or animals) he or she will be helping by funding the grant.

    I also make the connection between the foundation’s mission and that of the NPO submitting the proposal. Foundations are receiving many more well-designed and well-written proposals than they can fund, so it is critical to show them that your NPO will deliver the services and outcomes that matter to them.

    I conclude cover letters with a statement, such as: “I thank you for your consideration of this request and look forward to partnering with the ABC Foundation. Please feel free to contact me directly at executive.director@NPO.org or at 012-345-6789 if you have any questions about the enclosed proposal or would like to arrange a site visit.” This opens the door for you (the grant manager) to follow-up by phone to arrange a site visit if you did not already make such a call prior to submitting the proposal.

    Be aware that some foundations require that you include a cover letter signed by your Executive Director and Board President with your grant application. In these cases, follow their specific cover letter guidelines.
    Lynn deLearie Consulting, LLC, helps nonprofit organizations develop, enhance and expand grants programs, and helps them secure funding from foundations and corporations. Contact Lynn deLearie.
    Look for Lynn’s ebook on Grants & Grantsmanship. It’s part of The Fundraising Series of ebooks
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