Non-profit organization for the preservation of honeybees in Michigan


Letter of Inquiry Preceding a Full Grant Proposal

The background. In this assignment, you are representing a nonprofit organization seeking a

grant to support your organization’s charitable goals. Submitting a preliminary letter of inquiry is

a very common step in current grant writing processes: the letter allows both the foundation

supplying the funding and the grant applicant to see whether there is a reasonable fit between the

expectations of both organizations—a good reason to move forward with the more formal


Apart from its connection to a grant writing endeavor, your experience in composing a letter of

the inquiry might help you, in the future, propose your ideas and interests succinctly to a local

a government entity, to the management team at your company, or to a task force within your

company. The letter is an efficient means of testing the waters before you invest a great deal of

time in creating a fully developed plan or proposal.

In this assignment, you are writing—as a team—a letter of inquiry to the New Horizons

Foundation (see the RFP on Moodle). In this letter, you want to show the foundation that you

have a worthwhile and feasible plan for a nonprofit project and that you should be encouraged to

submit the full grant proposal by the foundation’s deadline.

You will need to imagine or create a worthwhile nonprofit project. You will also need to do some

preliminary research on the population that would benefit from the project in order to see what is

actually needed and feasible. For example, if you wanted to help the homeless in Detroit, you

would need to research the homeless demographic in the Detroit area, getting answers to

questions like these:


  •  How many homeless are in that area?
  •  What are their ages and ethnicities?
  •  What are the reasons for their homelessness, and what are their various needs?
  •  What is already being done for this population?


Then, to find a good niche for your own nonprofit efforts, research what types of services and

interventions seem to work for this homeless population, and what still remains to be done.

Let’s assume in this application that your nonprofit organization already has a five-year

history of successful projects and that you have raised $28,000 toward the new project that

you want to propose to the New Horizons Foundation. Thus, in the letter, you will be able

to make some (imagined but plausible) claims about your nonprofit endeavors.

First, take a close look at the New Horizons Foundation RFP to see what they are offering to and

requiring applicants.

The purpose. Your letter of inquiry must attend carefully to the New Horizons RFP and make a

compelling case so that the foundation will encourage you to submit the full proposal. That’s your

central purpose. To be convincing, you will need some specific ideas to demonstrate that you have

thought closely and creatively about your proposed project and that you have done enough

preliminary research to show that the project is needed by a particular constituency and is both

Adapted from Ramsey, J. (2016). Business writing scenarios: Writing from the inside. Bedford: Boston.


feasible and affordable. (You should include hypercitations or footnotes that specify the sources of

research data that you cite in your letter.)

The audience. Philanthropic individuals and foundations that fund nonprofit projects want to

make good things happen in the world, and they want to lend their financial support to worthy

organizations. At the same time, they want to be sure that their money will be spent wisely and

effectively—that you, the petitioner, have a clear understanding of the need being addressed, the

solution, and the costs. They will expect to see in your letter a solid understanding of the issues

you want to address and a feasible and affordable plan of action.

The communication strategy. Combine your creative thinking about the desired nonprofit

project with some preliminary research. (You should identify three or four credible information

sources that you refer to in your letter, and be sure to provide a working hypercitation for each

source. Each member of the team is responsible for providing at least one source.) Remember, the

central strategy is to combine your idealistic desire to accomplish good with a reality-based

assessment of how you would actually make good things happen.

Contents of the letter of inquiry. Using the block letter style format (see Moodle Book Week 3),

address the letter of inquiry to the contact person referenced in the New Horizons Foundation

RFP and provide the full address of the foundation.

Write a letter of one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half single-spaced pages and include the following

components: an introduction, a description of your organization, a statement of need, your

methodology for addressing the problems or issues you have identified, a brief discussion of other

funding sources, and a final summary. The overarching goal is to “tell the story” of your

organization’s successes and aspirations.