The ROI in Crafting an LOI

May 3, 2024 | Grant Writing

Stack of handwritten addressed envelopes tied with a red ribbon

Letters of Intent (LOIs) can be beautiful things when it comes to streamlining your grant-seeking process. Over the past 10 years, more and more funders are using these (usually) shorter applications, or formatting for an actual letter, to screen applicant organizations. Several federal agencies are requiring LOIs or a form of them now.

While I am usually not a fan of extra requirements in already overly complicated grant applications, an effective LOI process is a win-win for grantseekers and funders alike. The LOI allows you to make an initial pitch and impression without having to invest too much time.

Think of it like meeting a potential funder for coffee in a public place first—the equivalent of a safe dating strategy. If all goes well over that first coffee, you’ll get invited to provide more details through a complete grant application.  For more awkward similes comparing LOIs and dating😊, and a larger discussion of related documents, check out the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast HERE.

To make the most of this first meeting, here are the top 5 pieces of advice:

  • Know Your Audience
  • Lead with Impact
  • Outline the Proposed Work
  • Demonstrate Prior Success
  • Make it Readable.


Knowing your audience is crucial – research the funder’s mission, priorities, criteria, and previously funded projects to understand their interests. Use language from their own materials to highlight your alignment.

Leading with impact means opening with a brief statement of the need your project addresses and the anticipated impact numbers like people served or results achieved. Include your funding request amount tied to specific deliverables.

When outlining the proposed work, describe your project/program and quantify the outputs and outcomes using data and metrics. Highlight your expertise and qualifications to execute this plan. If you have received prior funding from this funder, demonstrate the success achieved and quantify the impact of their past support. Reference any reported metrics.

Finally, make the LOI readable and “skimmable” with clear formatting like short paragraphs, bullet points, and headings. Proofread carefully to eliminate errors, and have someone else review with fresh eyes.

A compelling LOI grabs attention, builds credibility, aligns with priorities, and uses concise, data-driven language – giving you the best chance at moving to the next step. And isn’t that what grant-seeking is all about?

Kimberly Hays de Muga
Fundraising HayDay

A podcast about grants & such.

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