Letter of Inquiry Preceding a Full Grant Proposal
The background. In this assignment, you are representing a nonprofit organization seeking a
grant to support your organization’s charitable goals. Submitting a preliminary letter of inquiry is
a very common step in current grant writing processes: the letter allows both the foundation
supplying the funding and the grant applicant to see whether there is a reasonable fit between the
expectations of both organizations—a good reason to move forward with the more formal
Apart from its connection to a grant writing endeavor, your experience in composing a letter of
the inquiry might help you, in the future, propose your ideas and interests succinctly to a local
a government entity, to the management team at your company, or to a task force within your
company. The letter is an efficient means of testing the waters before you invest a great deal of
time in creating a fully developed plan or proposal.
In this assignment, you are writing—as a team—a letter of inquiry to the New Horizons
Foundation (see the RFP on Moodle). In this letter, you want to show the foundation that you
have a worthwhile and feasible plan for a nonprofit project and that you should be encouraged to
submit the full grant proposal by the foundation’s deadline.
You will need to imagine or create a worthwhile nonprofit project. You will also need to do some
preliminary research on the population that would benefit from the project in order to see what is
actually needed and feasible. For example, if you wanted to help the homeless in Detroit, you
would need to research the homeless demographic in the Detroit area, getting answers to
questions like these:
- How many homeless are in that area?
- What are their ages and ethnicities?
- What are the reasons for their homelessness, and what are their various needs?
- What is already being done for this population?
Then, to find a good niche for your own nonprofit efforts, research what types of services and
interventions seem to work for this homeless population, and what still remains to be done.
Let’s assume in this application that your nonprofit organization already has a five-year
history of successful projects and that you have raised $28,000 toward the new project that
you want to propose to the New Horizons Foundation. Thus, in the letter, you will be able
to make some (imagined but plausible) claims about your nonprofit endeavors.
First, take a close look at the New Horizons Foundation RFP to see what they are offering to and
The purpose. Your letter of inquiry must attend carefully to the New Horizons RFP and make a
compelling case so that the foundation will encourage you to submit the full proposal. That’s your
central purpose. To be convincing, you will need some specific ideas to demonstrate that you have
thought closely and creatively about your proposed project and that you have done enough
preliminary research to show that the project is needed by a particular constituency and is both
Adapted from Ramsey, J. (2016). Business writing scenarios: Writing from the inside. Bedford: Boston.
feasible and affordable. (You should include hypercitations or footnotes that specify the sources of
research data that you cite in your letter.)
The audience. Philanthropic individuals and foundations that fund nonprofit projects want to
make good things happen in the world, and they want to lend their financial support to worthy
organizations. At the same time, they want to be sure that their money will be spent wisely and
effectively—that you, the petitioner, have a clear understanding of the need being addressed, the
solution, and the costs. They will expect to see in your letter a solid understanding of the issues
you want to address and a feasible and affordable plan of action.
The communication strategy. Combine your creative thinking about the desired nonprofit
project with some preliminary research. (You should identify three or four credible information
sources that you refer to in your letter, and be sure to provide a working hypercitation for each
source. Each member of the team is responsible for providing at least one source.) Remember, the
central strategy is to combine your idealistic desire to accomplish good with a reality-based
assessment of how you would actually make good things happen.
Contents of the letter of inquiry. Using the block letter style format (see Moodle Book Week 3),
address the letter of inquiry to the contact person referenced in the New Horizons Foundation
RFP and provide the full address of the foundation.
Write a letter of one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half single-spaced pages and include the following
components: an introduction, a description of your organization, a statement of need, your
methodology for addressing the problems or issues you have identified, a brief discussion of other
funding sources, and a final summary. The overarching goal is to “tell the story” of your
organization’s successes and aspirations.