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Getting Stellar Letters of Support for Your Grant

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by Meredith Noble, Co-Founder & Visionary
January 1, 2020
 Getting Stellar Letters of Support for Your Grant

A common topic that comes up is how to get quality letters of support. Below is the 7-step approach we teach in the Global Grant Writers Collective on how to collect genuine, inspirational letters of support that can nudge your application ahead of the rest. Don't waste this opportunity to pull your reviewer's heart strings!

Step 1: Develop A Contact List

We provide a spreadsheet template in our online Grant Writing Training, but it’s something you can easily reproduce. Before you host your kick-off meeting, list any and all organizations that benefit or would support your project. At a minimum, your spreadsheet should include: organization, contact name, phone, email, and columns for tracking if the letter has been sent and received.

resource letter of support

Letters of Support Spreadsheet

You can download a free spreadsheet template here. Remember to go File > Make a Copy or File > Download > Excel.

Google Sheet

Stumped on who to request a letter from?

Seek support from as many disciplines and perspectives as you can. When we seek letters of support for EPA brownfield grants for instance, we collect them from neighborhood groups, environmental organizations like the Nature Conservancy, housing authorities, development organizations, professional associations, and non-profits.

When casting a net that wide, you can accomplish two things: 1) demonstrate broad support among unlikely collaborators (i.e. environmental groups and land developers); and 2) basically get 15 more pages of narrative content! Target a list of 15-20 organizations.

What if I’m a rural community and don’t have many options?

Here’s what we have to say about that, it’s a self-limiting belief! No matter how small or isolated your community is, there are many organizations and neighboring communities that care about your project’s success. Consider these options when you feel stumped:

State departments in health and social services, environment, and transportation. Cultural organizations like Museums, Heritage Centers, or Art Councils. Neighboring communities. Professional associations like AARP and their Livability program. Job or skills training organizations and programs. Regional and State colleges and educational programs. If you are an Alaska Native tribal community, consider a letter from your Village Corporation, Regional Corporation, and organizations like the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

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Step 2: Prep Your Request For Letters Of Support

We also provide a template for this in the Global Grant Writers Collective but the basics is that you want to provide instructions on how to submit a letter of support to you. This structure provides a comfortable outline as a starting point, while still allowing plenty of room in the "sandbox" for them to add creative anecdotes. Prepare the following information in a Google Doc or Word Doc:

  • An overview of your organization and name of the grant you are pursuing.
  • A 1-2 sentence description of your project.
  • A request for a letter of support from the organization you are inviting to respond.

Instructions for the letter including:

  • Putting on organization letterhead.
  • Addressed to whoever the grant guidelines specify or your organization’s highest in command.
  • Brief description of their organization as it applies to the project.
  • Statement confirming support and, if applicable, information on how they will support the project during implementation.
  • Statement describing any past collaboration.
  • Close with a deadline on when letters are needed back (10-14 calendar days).

Step 3: Who Will Request Which Letters

Decide during the grant kick-off meeting who will request which letters. Getting letters of support from people in senior roles requires some tact. In many instances, the best way to get the letter is if the person highest in your organization (or as appropriate), requests it.

Generally, you want to match whoever has a personal or professional relationship within your organization with the other organization you seek a letter from. This helps pull letters through as it's easier to agree to the chore of letter writing if you are doing it for someone you respect.

After deciding who is requesting which letter, provide your team with the information developed in step two. Our preference is to include the information above in a word document so the organization can use it as a quasi-template. People also tend to shy away from long emails. It’s less intimidating if we only write 2-3 sentences in an email when requesting a letter of support (often following a phone call first).

Step 4: Prepare To Be Amazed!

When you ask for a letter of support and don’t provide a ghosted template, you receive far more compelling, heart-felt, free-form letters than you could possibly produce on your own. The authenticity of the letter shines through when you read it, and your grant reviewer will feel it as well. Pretty quick, you will have several more pages of content that essentially serve as extra narrative!

Step 5: Only Write a Ghost Letter If You Must

Sometimes an organizational representative will ask that you ‘ghost’ or prepare them a letter that only requires signature. This will happen, so be prepared to write a template letter. We still try to highlight specific areas where they can add personalized content like past collaborations. Generally though, this doesn’t happen with more than one or two letters.

Step 6: Save Letters Immediately

Save letters immediately in your project folder. As always, we recommend saving any attachments or emails related to your project immediately in your project folder. Nothing is worse than losing track of a letter (or worse – forgetting to include it!), because your inbox swallowed it. Track incoming letters in your spreadsheet.

Step 7: Assemble Your Letters As An Attachment

Once all letters have been received, consider including an attachment cover sheet that lists all organizations that provided letters. This helps the reviewer locate a specific letter and gives them a general overview of what to expect.

Want to Learn More About Letters of Support?

If you want to learn more about letters of support, or any common attachment, we encourage you to take our FREE grant writing mini course or download our FREE audiobook on the grant writing process.

Serious about becoming a grant writer? Learn about our online grant writing training course.

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About the author...

Meredith Noble is the Co-Founder and CEO of Learn Grant Writing, Meredith inspires other women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. She secured over $45 million in grants before teaching others how to build a flexible career in grant writing. Meredith is a fifth generation black angus cattle rancher from Wyoming now living in the mountains of Alaska.

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