‘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 by the donor agency, yet fund seekers end up sending it. An unsolicited proposal is never read and immediately rejected.
But this does not mean that donor agencies will not take interest in in reading your proposals. They will but if there is a proper approach for it. The proper approach is to send the Letter of Inquiry first and then if the donor shows interest in it and requests for the proposal, 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 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. 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.
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
- Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
- Ford Foundation
- KIOS – The Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights
- MacArthur Foundation
- Mama Cash
- Open Society Foundations
- Rockefeller Brothers Fund
- Rockefeller Foundation
In some cases, the Letter of Inquiry can also be referred to as a concept note. You can know more on how to write a concept note at this link.