This is the first of a two-part series — This article will explain how to ask other Community Groups, Businesses and other Partners, for a ‘Letter of Support’ for a project to show to grant providers that other groups will benefit from the project.
The second article in the series, “Writing a ‘Letter of Support’ for a Grant Application” will cover how actually write such a Letter of Support.
What is a Letter of Support?
For grant submissions, a Letter of Support is a letter written by people in the community, often representing other community groups, local businesses, or other key stakeholders, to show support for a project and why that project is important for not only the grant applicant, but also the wider community.
Most grant applications now require at least one or two Letter(s) of Support to be included with the grant application to demonstrate this broader community support.
Who to ask for a Letter of Support
It all depends on what the project is that you’re requesting funding for and who is the actual organisation that’s providing the funding as to who you ask to supply you with a Letter of Support.
Some suggestions include;
Local Council — If your project is going to benefit a number of residents or local organisations, many Local Councils may be willing to provide a Letter of Support for your project.
State or Federal MP — Many state and federal government grants may require you to obtain a letter of support from your local MP — where as others may specifically state that a Letter from your Local MP MAY NOT be included.
That said, even if it’s not a formal requirement of the grant, it can often be beneficial to still have a such a letter of support — or even just make your local Member aware of your organisation and the project.
Often the relevant Minister of the Department providing the funding (or someone from their office) will approach your local MP and ask “What do you know about Dragon Breeders Group or the grant application?” and if your MP has to respond “I’ve never heard of them” than this can dramatically reduce your chances of getting your grant application approved.
But, on the other hand, if your local MP (or their staff) can respond with something like:
“Oh yes, they are a wonderful group. There’s about 20 of them involved ranging from a couple of 10 year olds, up to a lovely lady who just turned 99… and you should how cute those baby dragons are… but the current breeding cages are so old it would be nice to see larger ones with a nice new nesting area… and the more dragons they can breed the better protection the local castle treasure rooms will have… OH!!! and did you know that the Werewolf Breeders have also expressed an interest in leasing them during the winter months…”
the better the chances of your application progressing to the next stage of processing and hopefully approval.
Landlord/Building Owner — If your project involves major structural renovations, or new buildings to be erected on a property owned by someone else, you will usually need their permission to commence the project.
This written permission can also become a Letter of Support! In their letter, they not get to say they approve of the project, but they can also demonstrate they actually actively support your project.
If you are limited to number of Letters of Support that can be included with your grant application (sometimes there is a limit of say 6 pages or 3 letters) and other “tenants” or users of the premises can also benefit from your project, a simple way to get more organisations listed without going over the allowed page or file limits is to have your Landlord include a paragraph along the lines of
“Not only will the Dragon Breeders benefit from this project, so will other community groups utilising our premises. These include the Vampire Association, Frankenstein Dating Group and the Witches Coven.”
Seek permission from these other groups first, asking if it is OK to mention their organisation; and then when approaching your Landlord for the Letter, suggest they list the groups that agreed to be included.
Crown Land Manager — If your project occurs on Crown Land or a Crown Reserve, than you may require a letter of support from your local Crown Reserve Land Managers, stating they approve or support the project. This may be your local Council, a Government Minister, or an ‘independent’ Land Manager organisation.
They are effectively your landlord, so the advice about multiple groups that use the Crown Land, that could also benefit from your project would apply here too.
Like-mind Community Organisations — More and more often funding suppliers are looking at ways they can maximise their grant funding and one of the simplest ways for them to do this is to see that more than one community group will benefit from the project. So clearly demonstrating that other groups can also benefit from your project, even indirectly, can increase your chances of successfully obtaining funding.
Local Businesses — Often community lead projects can benefit local businesses and those businesses might be willing to provide a Letter of Support for your project.
They might want to focus on the economic benefits a particular project might bring to the local community or how a project may provide opportunities for local youth, the unemployed or disadvantaged and how these improvements could improve the local community.
Existing Sponsors or Grant Providers — If your current project is part of a larger program or project that has already received funding or sponsorship for another component, then sometimes it can be advantageous to have the first funder provide a letter of support.
For example, let’s say that the current project we are applying for funding is for new Breeding Cages for Dragons… and stage one of the project was to build the Dragon Dungeons under your castle, which has already been funded and completed thanks to a previous grant received from the Goblin Bankers Association, you might ask the Goblin Bankers to write a Letter of Support along the lines of:
The Goblin Bankers Association were pleased to provide funding to allow the Dragon Breeders and Trainers of Fairyland to build new dungeons under their castle to allow them to expand their dragon breeding program. They finished the project 3 months ahead of schedule and kept the project on budget.
We fully support the next phase of their project — the purchasing of new, improved breeding cages. The cages currently in use were transferred from the old Dragon Cave and are in need of urgent replacement — unfortunately our funding criteria only allows for Major Capital Projects (like new buildings or major renovations to exisiting premises) and does not allow for “operational equipment expenses” (like the cages) otherwise we would consider a further funding application for this project.
We wish them success with finding appropriate funding for the next stage of their project’s development.
Think Outside the (Town) Square — Consider any, and every, community group, sporting club, local business, resident and visitor who might benefit from your project receiving funding to enable to proceed.
Also consider any groups from outside your immediate local town or location — often your “local” project may enable other groups from nearby, neighbouring communities to have some benefit from your project.
How to ask for a Letter of Support
It all depends on how well you know the person you’re going to be asking AND how well they know your project!
If you know the person well enough and they already know about your project, then often a simple email will suffice.
If you know the person, but they aren’t fully aware of your project, a quick phone call to explain the project and to ask if they’d write a letter might be appropriate — follow up with an email containing the details below.
If you don’t know the person who will write the letter very well — let’s say you know the Treasurer of the organisation you are asking for a Support Letter extremely well, but you are aware the Secretary or President will be the ones writing and signing the Letter, and you don’t know them that well, it may be better to try and meet in person (or via Zoom) with all the people involved to discuss the Letter.
If you meet in person (or via Zoom) to ask about a Letter of Support, ALWAYS follow up with an email that contains all the required information — immediately! With ready access to email on Smartphones and Tablets, you could send the email at the end of the meeting — if not, try and send it within an hour of leaving the meeting (even if you have to get someone else to send it on your behalf). If you wait too long, the importance and urgency can be lost.
What to include in your request for a Letter of Support
There are a few keys points you need to include in your email when requesting another organisation to supply you with a Letter of Support so that you get a quality and usable Letter of Support in response.
What your project is all about
First of all, be sure that you list the Project Name, so it can be referred to in the Letter of Support — and try and keep the project short and succinct, ideally under ten words!
Then, include a couple of paragraphs about what your project involves, so the Letter Writer has a clear understanding of your project. Maybe link to your web site if you have relevant information about the project up there.
Who you’d like the Letter of Support addressed to
Avoid having the Letter Writer use vague salutations like “To whom it may concern” by providing precise details on who the letter should be addressed to — usually you’ll want it addressed to your own organisation and normally to either the Secretary or President by name.
Provide the correct spelling of the relevant person’s name and your postal address (even though the Letter of Support should be coming via email).
If the particular grant provider requires the Letter of Support to be addressed directly to them (and if this is the case the letter also often needs to specifically reference the actual grant name and round identifier), then provide this information and clearly state you need you the letter addressed to the grant provider and not you! [This is not common, but it occasionally happens]
When you need the Letter of Support
See the section below called “Time Frames” for more details
Some Bullet Points
No one likes staring at a blank page or screen! Provide a couple of bullet points with some key factors about your project to help the letter writer’s creative juices flow.
If there is a single point you want the supporting organisation to highlight about your project, make this clear in your request. If you are approaching multiple organisations to provide letters of support then try and give each one at least one unique fact or idea — this can help prevent all the letters sounding exactly the same!
Ask them to explain how the project will benefit them!
This is the most important part of the Letter of Support!
Grant providers are looking at getting the best value out of the funding they provide — so the more community groups, local residents and others can directly benefit from a single project, the better.
If your project can assist other groups, ask the letter writer to explain how and why it will benefit their own group.
Ask for the letter as a PDF!
99.9999999% of the time you will want the Letter of Support supplied as a PDF! So be sure to remind the Letter Writer this is the format you’ll require the final letter to be supplied in.
By using PDF, it ensures the letter looks exactly as the original writer intended… if they provide it as say a Word document, your system (or more importantly the grant assessor’s) may not have a particular font used in the document so the layout may change.
Occasionally, the grant provider may request ALL documents be supplied in Word format (or Excel for Budgets) — if this is case, follow their instructions and ask your Letter Writer to provide their letter as a Word Document.
All modern word processors can export to a PDF!
On a Mac there is usually an Export option under the File Menu in most word processors… worst case scenario is use the PDF pop-up menu in the bottom left of the Print screen to Save as PDF.
Under Windows, recent versions of Microsoft Word have a Save as PDF option on the Save Window.
Give the authors of the Letters of Support as much time as possible to write the letter — ideally a minimum of a fortnight’s notice is polite. This allows time for the person you asked to seek formal approval from their committee, if required, to write such a letter of support and for them to actually have time to think about exactly how they want/need to word the letter.
But ensure you allow plenty of time before the grant application needs to be submitted — so you can chase up late letters, ask for minor modifications or clarifications to be made, or worse case scenario find someone else to supply a letter of support. Your cut off date for Letters of Support should be at least a week before the Grant Application needs to be submitted (You don’t leave the actual submission to the very last minute do you???)
Is it OK to ask for modifications to a Letter of Support?
Short Answer: Yes 🙂
Longer Answer: Yes, but think about what effect the change is actually going to have before asking for it to be modified.
If there is a glaring mistake in the letter, like “we support the Goblin Breeders project for new breeding cages…” and your organisation name is actually “Dragon Breeders and Trainers of Fairyland” then YES, ask the Letter Writer to fix the error and send through an updated version.
If it is a minor grammatical or even spelling error, you can usually let it pass — sometimes it shows that a human wrote the letter and it isn’t just copy and pasted from somewhere else.
If you personally don’t like the style (ie you think it’s too formal or too casual) don’t worry about that! The author may have their own corporate identity standards to follow and may be required to write that way if they are using that groups’ letterhead. Also the greater variety in writing styles helps show the grant provider that there is diversity amongst your supporters.
If you need the date updated because you are resubmitting a grant 6 or 12-months later to another funding provider, then ask the Letter of Support writer to provide a new copy with an updated date — DO NOT modify the letter yourself, even it if just a change of date!
If you really aren’t happy with the Letter of Support, it may be more diplomatic to simply seek an alternative supporter; rather than ask the original person for a major re-write.
What if someone says “No!” to a Letter of Support Request?
Politely thank them for their consideration of your request! And immediately move on to another contact to see if they can provide you with an appropriate Letter of Support.
Don’t take the negative response personally! There can be many reasons why they can’t assist you at this particular time, but they may be able to assist in the future for a different project.
Often the person who has declined your request will provide a short reason why — it may be that your current project doesn’t align with their organisational goals and aims. Or they may not currently have the time to write the letter at this particular moment, or the person who needs to authorise and sign the final letter is on leave until after your deadline. They may simply not have the same enthusiasm for your project as you do!
Also don’t ask the same people nor organisations time and time again for Letters of Support — try and approach different groups each time.
This article is part of a two-part series on Letters of Support for Grant Applications.
Part 1: Requesting a ‘Letter of Support’ for a Grant Application [This Article]
Part 2: Writing a ‘Letter of Support’ for a Grant Application