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Many private foundations may solicit a proposal in the form of a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) either instead of or before a full proposal. On occasion, a government agency may also request a Letter of Inquiry (or a pre-proposal, which may be much longer) before it accepts a full proposal.


Excluding any required attachments, a typical LOI to a private grant maker will be no longer than three pages. The LOI often will have six parts: an Introduction, a Rationale, a Capacity Statement, a Program Description, a Budget Statement, and a Closing Statement.


“Vigorous writing is concise.” Thus advised Strunk and White in their classic manual, The Elements of Style. Almost always, in writing a Letter of Inquiry, brevity and clarity are virtues.


Opening Statement or Introduction:

In an Opening Statement or Introduction, a smart applicant will:

  • Describe what it proposes to do
  • Specify the amount of funding requested and from whom
  • Indicate the proposed duration and time period

Suggested Optimum Length:1 paragraph


Assessment of Need or Rationale:

In an Assessment of Need or Rationale, a smart applicant will:

  • Hit the funder’s hot buttons (i.e., its interests and priorities)
  • Show who the need or problem affects
  • Discuss the factors or causes creating the need or problem
  • State what can be done to fix the problem or alleviate the need
  • Describe what it is doing to fix it and what still remains to be done
  • Discuss what may happen if the problem or need remains unchanged

Suggested Optimum Length: 1-2 paragraphs

Organizational Capacity Statement:

In a 1-2 paragraph Organizational Capacity Statement, a smart applicant will:

  • Outline its organizational history and mission
  • Discuss its organizational capacity to do what it proposes
  • Cite related major organizational accomplishments and initiatives
  • Describe the demographics of whom it plans to serve
  • Describe key staff

Suggested Optimum Length: 1-2 paragraphs


This post has covered the first three parts of a typical LOI; a later post will cover the others.


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