The whole point of submitting letters of support with a proposal is to document your collaboration and the contributions to be made by various partners. If your letters do not accomplish that point, they are more of a hindrance than a help.
Here are some tips to help you write and gather great letters of support:
- Don't use a form letter. Yes, everyone is really busy, but 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. If you want to provide samples for your partners, fine, but be aware that some folks will just copy those samples unless you work with them very closely. If your partners are unable to put together the kind of letters you need, it would be a better idea to write each individual letter for them and submit them to your partners for their approval and signature. They can then make any changes they need before putting the letter on letterhead and signing. They will be grateful for the help, and you'll get better letters.
- Include the identity of the partner, the nature of the relationship, and the nature of the contribution. That's three core paragraphs. The identity of the partner paragraph should include basic information about the agency authoring the letter. The nature of the relationship paragraph should discuss the history of the relationship and how the parties are working together on the project in question. The history of the relationship would go here, too. The nature of the contribution paragraph should focus on what contributions the partner agency will make to the project during 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.
- Quantify contributions whenever possible. Contributions can be quantified, but folks often hesitate to do so because they are afraid they will be asked to produce that donation in cash at some point. That is not the case. If you're that worried about it, say in the letter that the contribution is in the form of services, not cash. An estimate of the actual dollar value of the contribution is enough. This is a letter of support, not a tax receipt.
- Put the letter on agency letterhead. This makes it look much more official than a letter on plain white paper. Remember, in the computer age, letterhead can be easily created for free.
- 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, go for it! Remember, the content matters.
- Make sure the letters match what you said in the narrative. This is why grant planning and writing can be so challenging. Your partner letters need to reinforce and support what you said in the main grant narrative. That means your partners really need to play some role in the planning and know something about the proposal. They don't necessarily need to see the full proposal before you can expect a letter, but they should at least know something about it. The more they know, the stronger the letters will be.
On Friday, February 26, 2010, we'll be hosting a Tips from the Grant Goddess BlogTalkRadio episode on this very topic. You can listen to the show live (and call in to ask questions, if you'd like) or you can listen to the recording of the show on-demand any time after the live broadcast at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Veronica-Robbins . Of course, it's free!
In addition, sometime within the next few days, we'll be posting a FREE webinar on the topic (Writing Great Letters of Support for Grants). You can access it through the webinar page on our website.