Best-practices for collecting Letters of Support
Every once in a while a client will approach me about how to collect Letters of Support (LOS) and often they ask if I have a template.
One of the most difficult parts of the development & fundraising process is collecting high-quality letters of support from project partners and individuals that can speak to the proposal and your ability to run the project should it be funded.
Here are some best practices to help ensure that you are collecting high-quality Letters of Support (LOS)…
- Addressing the LOS: Each should be addressed either to the Project Director or Executive Director of the organization submitting the proposal OR to the granting agency – check the guidelines of the specific grant.
- Align LOS to Proposal: Your partner letters should ideally reinforce and support what your proposal. If the LOS is not aligned with the proposal, at the very least it should speak to the ability to project director or executive director’s experience and ability to handle or run the organization’s endeavor.
- Include the signature of the organization decision maker: The signature of the superintendent or executive director is generally more valuable than the signature of a coordinator or project manager; however, if a letter from a lower level employee in the organization would be more inclusive of details about how the agencies work together; do it.
- No form letters: Each should be unique and written from the point of view of your collaborator(s) or key stakeholders (which can include parents, teachers, partners, elected officials, and colleagues within your field). Using a form letter for all of your letters of support (just substituting the letterhead and the name of the organization) actually demonstrates a lack of collaboration, which is opposite to the effect you want.
- State Relationship History: If you have worked with this collaborator before, be sure to say so. It demonstrates that a relationship has already been established.
- Use official letterhead: Each LOS should be printed on their letterhead and signed by the appropriate party (someone authorized to make the commitment of support). This makes it look much more official than a letter on plain white paper.
There are two approaches to writing a strong LOS.
Approach 1: This approach is great for targeting specific funders
Paragraph 1: Who is the agency authoring the letter? The paragraph will include basic information about that organization and the author.
Paragraph 2: What is the relationship between your organization and the person authoring the letter? If possible, the section should include the history of the relationship and how the parties are working together on the project in question.
Paragraph 3: What is the contribution over the life of the grant, or at least over the next year? It should clearly delineate if the contribution is an in-kind donation of services or if the agency will be compensated for the contribution through the grant.
Approach 2: This approach, a formula, is great for the letter writer to speak to a project director or executive director’s ability to do the project or run the organization.
There is a big problem/ issue that must be solved: what problem is the that the project director or executive director trying to solve? [keep this short. It should be two to three sentences]
The project director or executive director has an innovative solution: what is the solution? What are they trying to accomplish? [Talk briefly about their approach and what they are going to do. Keep it to one paragraph]
They have demonstrated success OR can prove it works OR that it will solve the problem [Provide evidence of success or evidence of success on other similar projects. Keep it to one paragraph]
The project director or executive director are qualified to implement this solution [breifly explain qualification/experience. Why are they awesome? Keep it to one paragraph]
I (or ‘we’) support this approach/method to the problem [quick concluding statement on why you support this team].