Letter Proposal

A letter proposal is prepared in standard business letter form and should be based on a thorough knowledge of the funding source to which it is being sent. Throughout the letter, try to incorporate the language the funding source uses to describe its areas of concern and focus. Most importantly, seek to convey strongly the sense of relevancy your project has to the funder's priorities.


OBJECTIVE: to summarize in one or two sentences the entire proposal.
PREPARING TO WRITE: Study the critical elements of the sentence, including:

  • SELF-IDENTIFICATION: Who are you? What is your organizational name? 
  • ORGANIZATIONAL UNIQUENESS: Cite a brief "claim to fame" from a mission statement that explains your reason for being. 
  • SPONSOR EXPECTATION: Explain what you want them to do. 
  • BUDGET REQUEST: Identify how much money you are requesting. 
  • PROJECT BENEFIT: State the major project outcome.

EXAMPLE: Quintessential High School, recently described by the Governor of Connecticut as "A role model for secondary schools throughout Connecticut . . . a benchmark of excellence that others should strive to follow", invites your participation in a $200,000 special project to increase the multicultural learning experiences of Quintessential High School students.


OBJECTIVE: to explain why you are approaching this sponsor.

  • Conduct background research on the sponsor to determine prior funding patterns, usually available in annual reports, tax records, and the Foundation Grants Index. 
  • Identify values that the sponsor seems to cherish as evidenced by its funding patterns (e.g., high-risk projects not normally funded by the government, cutting-edge research, demonstration projects with a national impact, or low-cost/high-benefit projects). 
  • Summarize key funding patterns that attract you to the sponsor.

EXAMPLE: Since 1969, the Big Bucks Foundation has systematically examined the increasing impact of missionary work on almost every aspect of our lives. For instance, your current supplemental list of grant awards shows over $400,000 in project support with a substantial percentage targeted for missionary service. It is on the basis of this commitment that I approach you with a $90,000 international missionary project.


OBJECTIVE: to briefly summarize the current problem.

  • Focus the problem or need statement from the funder's perspective, not yours. Funding your project is not their end goal. You must show how funding your project can be a means for them to reach their end goal--their mission. 
  • A "need" is really a gap between "what is" and "what ought to be." Document that gap with statistics, quotations, reasoning, or surveys and express it in human terms. Limit your documentation to brief but clear statements. Beware of the excessive use of statistics which only confuse the reader.

EXAMPLE: The purpose of this proposal is to initiate a psychological support service for families with aging, dependent parents. The results of a recent Sacred Heart University study revealed that 38% of the households in the Greater Bridgeport area have frail parents over age 65. These families experience a growing strain in trying to balance family and work responsibilities.


OBJECTIVE: to describe your approach to the problem.

  • Summarize the objectives that you will meet with your approach. 
  • Convey confidence that you can close the gap between what is and what ought to be. 
  • Detail your precise methodology in a brief (one-page) attachment by use of a Time and Task Chart. Do not include methodological detail in the letter proposal.

EXAMPLE: A qualitative single case study approach will be used for this investigation. The design also allows for simultaneous replication of cases. This study is based on Magoo's (1993) entry into a nursing home as a status passage.


OBJECTIVE: to establish your credentials to do the project.

  • Your job is to establish three types of credibility: you have a creditable organization proposing a creditable idea to be directed by a creditable project director. 
  • You must establish what is unique about you to show that you can solve this problem.

EXAMPLE: Stemming from the University's solid history of 30 years of doctoral studies in biological science, its faculty includes. . . . This academic core cumulatively represents 224 years of productive research experience at our University.


OBJECTIVE: to request a specific dollar amount in the proposal.

  • Ask for a precise amount.
    • Base your request on the review of tax records or other giving references so you are asking for a reasonable amount as viewed by the sponsor. 
  • Express your request in meaningful units (e.g., hours of instruction or numbers of students). 
  • If the per unit costs are too high, spread the figures out over several years. 
  • If you plan to submit this or a similar proposal to other sponsors as well, mention this.

EXAMPLE: We are requesting a grant in the amount of $100,000. This represents an investment of $150 in every student that will use these microprocessors in the next five years.


OBJECTIVE: to identify the desired action by the sponsor.

  • Identify a contact person for more details if requested. 
  • Have a "heavyweight" sign the letter, preferably the highest ranking official or administrator in the organization.

EXAMPLE: In making this investment, the Big Bucks Foundation will be supporting a cost-effective approach to the delivery of health services for the minority communities where major problems exist. Mr. Smart Guy, Director of the Center for a Better World, can be reached at (203) 123-4567 to answer questions or give further information.