November 24, 2015
How to Write Meaningful Letters of Support
We concluded last month’s “tips” article with a note about the importance of letters of support in developing a successful grant application. We emphasized that letters of support are most impactful when they are written later in the application drafting process in order to reflect as many final details of your proposal as possible.
The essence of letters of support is to make a good proposal even better by demonstrating commitment and thoughtful collaboration with appropriate partners.
Here are some more tips for writing meaningful letters of support:
- Draft the letter yourself. At first glance, it may seem less than genuine for an applicant to write a letter of support for a collaborator or partner to sign. However, this is standard practice for several reasons. First, it lays out your expectations for your partner – including what you will contribute to the project and what they are expected to contribute. This gives partners a chance to edit expectations if needed, helping to avoid confusion and conflict later if you are awarded the grant. Applicant-drafted letters also facilitate timeliness, as the applicant is more likely to be motivated by the application deadline.
- Address letters to the funder. While addressing letters to the applicant may have been a trend in the past, we now recommend that all letters of support act as direct communication to the funder.
- Write the letter from the point of view of your partner. This seems obvious, but we can’t leave this detail out!
- Spell out the partner’s role and responsibilities. This is the purpose, i.e. the meat, of your letter. What will this partner provide? Financial support? If so, how much? Time and services? How much time and what kind of services? Tying in to our original advice to wait until the collaboration is firm and finalized details are available, this is when funders are looking to see if the letter matches what your application states your partner will contribute.
- Keep letters to one page each. Keeping letters short forces you to include the most critical information about the collaboration and keeps reviewers from getting, well, bored. It’s also a very handy guideline to follow as you track your application page count throughout the writing process.
- Avoid extraneous letters. It’s quality over quantity here, folks. You want letters from committed partners that will follow through on their roles and responsibilities when it’s time for project implementation. Two strong letters of support are better than five vague letters of support.