An inquiry letter is similar to a cover letter but inquiry letters are sent unsolicited to potential employers. Send inquiry letters to companies who have not advertised job openings. In your letter, demonstrate to the potential employer why you are a qualified applicant.
Many foundations prefer or even require grant-seeking nonprofits to submit an LOI, or Letter of Inquiry, before sending a complete proposal.
The LOI allows the foundation to quickly screen potential candidates for funding, making sure that they do not waste time on ill-conceived ideas or those that do not fit with the foundation’s mission. For you, the nonprofit, the LOI is a way to get an invitation from the foundation to submit a complete proposal. Your goal is to get a call from the staff at the foundation, asking for more.
tips to writing a good LOI:
- If the foundation has published guidelines for an LOI, follow them exactly. These might be called suggestions or guidelines rather than rules. In any case, follow them precisely. Not doing so ensures that your LOI will not get very far in the foundation’s screening process.
- Type “Letter of Inquiry” at the top of your letter. LOIs receive a very quick initial screening to weed out irrelevant mail. It is helpful if you make it plain that you are submitting an LOI right from the get go.
- A typical LOI is three pages long, plus a budget, and includes the following:
- A brief and “catchy” title. The title should catch the attention of the reader and draw him into continuing.
- A one- or two-sentence summary of your project. Make it concise, compelling, and clear. The summary should:
- Answer the question, “What are we doing?” Teitel suggests that you get a few people together and ask this question, and see what you come up with.
- Receive your utmost attention. Put the most effort into writing the first sentence of the summary. Write and rewrite it.
- Strike a tone suitable to the foundation’s interests. Learn from, but don’t copy professional marketers. Use interesting, even riveting prose, but don’t write as though you are selling soap. Even though you want the foundation to “buy” your idea, your ultimate goal is a partnership with the foundation to address a need.
- Not use buzzwords that make unrealistic claims or general, unverifiable, statements. Don’t use “unique,” “cutting edge,” or “raises awareness.” Don’t use flowery adjectives and vague generalities.
- Include facts, concrete verbs, and sentences that show action. Emulate good journalistic writing. Don’t manipulate, exhort or lecture the reader.
- An explanation of the issue you are addressing and how you will do it.
- A description of your organization.
- A budget. This may or may not be required. Refer to the foundation’s instructions.
- Make the LOI short and succinct. Although the LOI is a mini- proposal, do not just chop down your proposal to fit on three pages. The LOI should capture the essence of your proposal briefly but powerfully. Do not just cut and paste from a proposal, nor let your enthusiasm for your cause result in pages and pages of information.
20 October 2009
Jane Smith, Executive Director
555 S. Smith St.
Washington, D.C. 22222
Dear Ms. Smith,
When we attended the International Electronics Trade Fair in London last month, we visited your stand and saw a very interesting demonstration of your automatic high-security garage doors. The ability to drive straight in and out of your garage from the comfort of your car, as well as your emphasis on theft protection appealed to us. We believe that there is a ready market for this in the United States.
Our company is a wholly owned subsidiary of the international Zetax Corporation, well-known in the security and theft prevention industry.
Would you please send us your current sales literature and price list? Of course, we will be glad to provide the usual credit and trade reverences if we decide to order from your company.