Statement of Organizational Mission
Mission: Your second paragraph will usually present the your organization’s mission. State this in a simple and concise way, not using legalese or boilerplate from your bylaws. Point out specifically how this mission is furthered by your proposed project. This shows the foundation that you are passionate about fulfilling your vision rather than trying to design a project so that it will appeal to someone and get funds. This is important to funders, who want to ensure that this is a project that it critically important to you and to your recipients.
Format: Consider the reader when formatting your letter and remember that he or she is probably reading lots of these. Use techniques that are easy on the eye: break your letter up into logical, short paragraphs; use bold headlines where appropriate; use bulleted lists (these are also useful in forcing you to be concise). Keep it simple!
Headings: Some people like to use headings that are generic and could apply to any Inquiry Letter. We suggest making them more specific to your request, such as “Serving the Disabled”, “Expanding Job Training”, etc. If you do so remember to use parallel construction, and don’t use too many headings. One or two on a page is sufficient.
Brief Description of Organizational History & Accomplishments
Highlights: You don’t have a lot of space to work with here so save the details about your story for the full proposal. At most offer a few short paragraphs about your history, whom you serve, what you provide, and your successes. Your goal is here is similar to a resume: be concise and provide enough information to get to the next step. In this case, that next step is an invitation to submit a full proposal.
When choosing your highlights and facts, focus on the people you serve and your community rather than your own Board or Staff. You might choose events from a few dates that span the lifetime of the organization: whom you served and helped in your earliest days, how the numbers and your impact has changed and grown over the years, and any special associations you might have created with major organizations.
Models: Foundations can be kind of like banks: they like to help people and organizations that are already successful. You will be looked on with favor if you can show that you have a positive track record and reputation within your community and even nationally and internationally if that is the case. Providing this information also indicates that the project you seek to fund will also be widely visible (and reflect well on the grantmaker).
Acclaim: Don’t despair if you haven’t yet won such wide acclaim! There are many simple things you can do to increase your visibility and stature within your community, and you should begin to do that if you don’t already. Put your focus on tangible evidence of your local impact. Perhaps you can include responses on satisfaction/feedback surveys done with your clients; get your staff involved as speakers or panelists at conferences; send press releases and human interest stories to local news media and community newsletters. Keep a file with all the results so you have this information easily at hand when it’s time to apply for grants.