Letters of Inquiry

Many foundations have no website, no one answers their phone, and there is no information to be found regarding their grant application process.  Maybe you only know about them by seeing a press release sent out by one of the foundation’s grant recipients or published in the newspaper.  How do you apply to them for a grant with so little information available?

Draft a letter of inquiry!  To do so, you need to confirm that your organization is a potential match for the foundation, and identify a way to apply.

You can pull up the foundation’s profile in the Foundation Center’s Grant Database, or some other similar database.  While the profile might have limited information, it will usually list the foundation’s funding priorities.  Priorities can shift, though, especially in rough economies, so it is important to compare listed funding priorities with recent grants listed on their Form 990.  This comparison can highlight the foundation’s current interests.  You can also perform a quick Internet search to look for additional press releases from other grant recipients.

Some foundations require that interested applicants send in a letter of inquiry prior to submitting a full grant proposal.

A letter of inquiry is meant to introduce an organization to a foundation and to briefly summarize how a grant from the foundation would be used.  Based on the information provided in the letter of inquiry, the grant making organization will decide whether or not it will consider a grant proposal from the applicant.

A letter of inquiry typically has the following components:

·         Introduction

Introduce your organization. How long has it been active?  Where does it operate?  What does it do?  How many people does it serve in how large of an area?

·         Explain the connection

Mention why you think your organization’s funding needs would be a match for the foundation’s grant program.

·         Build credibility

Demonstrate that your organization is credible and productive.  Summarize recent accomplishments that relate to the funding agency’s goals and list any accolades your organization has received.

·         Briefly describe the proposed project and related need

What need will the project address?  Back up your assertions with data, if possible.  Explain how the funding will be used.  Be clear, but concise.  Provide overviews rather than details.  This is not the place to get into the details of project implementation, but rather to share your overall vision with a potential funder.

·         Request their consideration

Express your organization’s interest in submitting a full proposal for the foundation to consider.  Note that you are not requesting a grant at this stage, but rather the opportunity to request agrant by submitting a grant proposal.  You are asking for their consideration, not a check.

·         Conclusion

Provide contact information, thank them for their time, and make sure they know you are available to talk to them.

The ideal length for a letter of inquiry is two to three pages, though some foundations allow a limit of one page.


Recent grants received by our clients include:

$25,000 for an agency that provides comprehensive housing, social, and educational services to homeless children and their families - for general operating expenses

$20,000 (3 grants) for an organization with a mission to change the educational, emotional, and financial futures of individuals, schools, and advocacy centers through creative arts programs - for general operating expenses

Murray Covens, Principal


North Texas Nonprofit Resources