Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Story About Letters of Support

I was working on a grant for a client recently, and the grant called for the inclusion of some letters of support. As we were discussing it, the client asked if I would provide a template that her project partners could simply put on their letterhead and sign. I said, no, because templates are a bad idea. Rather than demonstrate collaboration and support they are actually a demonstration of the opposite.

Think about it.  If you really supported someone's effort, would you show it by signing a form letter that was exactly the same as 20 others or would you write one that spoke to your personal reasons for suporting the person?

Instead of providing a template, I developed some guidelines (in writing, of course) for the partners to follow when developing their letters.  It explained the purpose of the letters and what information should go in each of three paragraphs.  It also gave some examples of potential contributions to the project that they might not think about.

I've used similar guides in the past and the result was excellent letters of support.

Several times during the planning process,however, the client would ask me about a template. I repeated my response and provided yet another copy of the guidelines.

As the deadline approached, the letters started pouring in and they were.....identical. Instead of following my instructions, the client chose to have someone in her organization develop a template and distribute it to the partners.

Not only was it a template, but it was a bad template.  It did not include the specific information that the RFP said should be in each letter.  Apparently, the client didn't even read the guidelines because that information was all there.  We had even talked it through at one point early in the process, but that information apparently was lost as the process continued.

The client was paying a lot of money for an experienced and successful grant writer to write the proposal and guide her organization through the process, but she chose to ignore the advice they paid for. As a result, their application package ended up being substantially weaker than if they had followed the directions. They tried to save everyone some time, and the cost of that effort may be that they don't get the grant.

I guess that makes it a pretty expensive template.


Here's more information on writing good letters of support.

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Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.