How to Get a Letter of Support on Time
The dreaded Letter of Support.
This is the one that you forgot to get and then go to upload the grant application you’ve been working on for weeks and realize you forgot to get your partners to endorse your project.
Yeah, this is one of the first things that I have my clients to gather as getting letters of support from partners can take TIME. If they are out of town or just busy (as most are), Letters of Support can take weeks to get signed and approved, and returned to your nonprofit.
Now, this is different than a Letter of Commitment. We will talk about Letters of Commitment next time. Letters of Commitment have a bit more teeth and can teeter on Memorandums of Understanding, referred to as MOUs.
Sometimes a Letter of Commitment and Letter of Support can be very similar based on the funding source, but with federal grants, there is a bigger difference.
So, let’s get back to Letters of Support. These are the softest letter of them all but can offer your nonprofit a large stamp of validation. These can also be required from certain funding sources and other funding sources may allow you to include these as attachments. These should not be included with Letters of Intent or Letters of Inquiry unless specifically requested by the funding source.
Basically, a letter of support is where your community says that they support your project that you are requesting funding for. You can, and VERY OFTEN you will, write a template letter of support from your partners and send over to them to put on their letterhead and sign.
This is a very common practice. They will read the letter of support (or should) and may change some language, but really don’t want to do the work. They don’t mind skimming over something and signing in the off chance that you actually get the grant awarded! (If you want a downloadable template of a Letter of Support, join the waitlist for the GW&F Changemakers Members Club!)
Who should you ask for letters of support? You should ask the partners that make sense for the project you are submitting a grant application for. If you are writing a grant for a suicide prevention program for youth, then you may want to get letters from your partners in the community that serves youth, such as the Department of Youth Affairs, other Youth nonprofits, middle and high schools in your community, and so forth. This demonstrates that your community will support you in implementing the grant. It does not state that they will get paid a subcontractor anything else, that is for your Letter of Commitment or an MOU.
Okay, so how are these written?
- Make sure your partner has their letterhead on the paper and that it is signed by your partner’s authorized official, such as the director or acting director.
- Make sure they are dated and addressed to the funding source, NOT to your nonprofit, to include the address of the funding source.
- The salutation should be to the director of the funding source.
- The letter should be one to two pages maximum
- The first part of the letter should include an appreciation of your partner to submit a letter of support for your nonprofit for the specific grant. Include the CFDA number of the grant (if it’s federal), the title of the grant program and the source the funding is from; i.e. the Office of Violence Against Women or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It should also include the project name and what the project will do (think objective), the project grant amount, and the duration of the grant. For example, the Community School will support the Suicide Prevention Nonprofit’s YES LIFE! A project that will provide a suicide prevention summer camp for at-risk youth, ages 12-years-old to 16-years-old for three years totaling the amount of $200,000 from the AMAZING Foundation under the Youth Grant Project.
- The body of the email should include how your nonprofit and your partner have worked together in the past (on which projects, etc.) and/or are currently working together. This part of the letter can also include why the project is a good idea and some statistics to support the need of the project.
- In closing, your partner can mention again that they support the project and the impact the project will have on the community.
- For the signature, include the name of the director of your partner’s organization including a title, signature, and contact information.
That’s it! This letter of support can provide a competitive advantage to other nonprofits who submit grants but do not include letters of support or have weak partners.
So the trick is to draft this letter of support for your partners and ask them if they would be willing to sign it as soon as you decide to go after a grant!
Do not just email it to them and expect an immediate response. In my years of grant writing, the most effective way is to personally call your contacts and explain to them the project and ask over the phone (or in-person) if they will provide a letter of support. Ask them if they would like a template (most likely they will) and then let them know you will email it over to them. If you don’t hear back from them, then follow up with a call or text to let them know you emailed the letter. This will substantially increase the number of letters of support that your nonprofit will receive.
If you just email one to them and never call, do not think that they hate your project or are a terrible partner. The email may have gone to SPAM or got buried in their inbox. Make signing this letter the easiest thing in the world by giving them a head’s up, sending it via email, giving them a kind reminder, and even physically picking up the hard copy from their office if you are in their town. At this point in time signed PDF letters are accepted (and could be how you email it to the funding source anyway), but if you can save them the time from scanning the letter over, then do it.