Letter of Intent


A foundation will often require as a first step in the application process that the applicant send a Letter of Intent. The foundation will review the Letter of Intent and invite an application or full proposal based upon the review. Letters of Intent are often the first contact an applicant will have with a foundation.

The Letter of Intent may also be referred to as a Letter of Inquiry or a Query Letter. Letters may be invited to be mailed, emailed, or submitted via an online application process.

Applicants should have their project well-planned and know the total cost of the project and how much they intend to request from the foundation when preparing a Letter of Intent. The content of a Letter of Intent will introduce the applicant organization, summarize the project and expected results, and present the total cost of the project and the amount the applicant will be requesting from the foundation if a full proposal is invited.

The Letter of Intent is similar to a Cover Letter. It should be written on the organization’s stationery (if it can be mailed) and limited to preferably one, but not more than two pages. It should also be signed by the highest ranking official in the applicant organization ((i.e., Executive Director, CEO, COO, President, Vice President, Department or Program Chief, etc.)

The applicant should clearly and directly state that the organization is seeking funding for a project in the first sentence of the Letter of Intent. The applicant might begin the Letter of Inquiry with the statement: I am writing to state our intent to apply for a grant for $300,000 from the ABC Foundation to support meals for homeless men in Cincinnati, Ohio; and conclude the Letter of Intent with the statement: I welcome your invitation to submit a full proposal.

The applicant is not making a grant request per se from the foundation in a Letter of Intent, but rather, stating the intent to ask. Grant makers often criticize Letters of Intent stating that applicants do not give enough attention to them. Essentially, the Letter of Intent should provide enough information for the foundation to make a funding decision although, at this early stage in their grant making process, they are using the Letter of Intent to screen applications to determine which applicants will be invited to submit full proposals.

As more foundations move to online application processes, an applicant may be required to submit a Letter of Intent in an electronic format, either by email or through the foundation’s website. Foundations will request the same information from applicants regardless of the format. Be advised that some online applications limit word or character counts, and others may require applicants to provide the organization’s tax identification number and establish a password. Letters of Intent are screened and, if interested, the foundation will invite an applicant to proceed with a full application online. It is often difficult to access an online application form until the Letter of Intent has been approved by the foundation.

To view the online Letter of Intent requirements, please visit the websites of the following foundations:

Kresge Foundation, www.kresge.org

Public Welfare Foundation, www.publicwelfare.org

Aetna Foundation, www.aetna-foundation.org

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, www.mott.org

Ford Foundation, www.fordfoundation.org

It is recommended that the project and amount of the request to the foundation remain the same and not change between submitting the Letter of Intent and later, upon invitation, a full grant proposal.

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