How to Write a Grant Application Cover Letter

1 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Constructing Your Grant Application

Thanks to the prevalence of the electronic grant submission process, nowadays most people use cover letters only for foundation and corporate funders who require one. (Government funders rarely, if ever, ask for a cover letter anymore.)

If you have to supply a cover letter, make sure it’s brief and to the point. When a funder opens your request for assistance, the cover letter should provide the first inkling of how well you understand the person you addressed the letter to — the funder. Also, avoid merely regurgitating the information in your grant request.

Write the cover letter last, after you’ve completed the entire funding request and are in a reflective mood. As you consider your great achievement (the finished funding request), let the creative, right side of your brain kick in and connect your feelings of accomplishment to the person who will help make your plans come true.

Follow these handy tips when you write your own cover letters:

  • Use the same date that you’ll send the complete grant application to the funding source. You want to create documents that are consistent, so the dates on cover letters and accompanying cover forms should be the same.

  • Open with the contact person’s name and title, followed by the funding source name, address, city, state, and zip code. Remember to double-check the contact information with a telephone call or e-mail to the funder. You can also search via the Internet for the correct information.

  • Greet the contact person with “Dear” plus the personal title (as in Mr., Ms., Mrs., or Messrs.), followed by the last name. This greeting is your first point of introduction to a potential funder, so you need to use a personal title. Call to make sure the personal title you’re using is correct.

  • Keep the first paragraph short and focused. Start by introducing your organization (legal name). Introduce yourself and give your job title. Finally, get to the point. Tell the funder how much you’re requesting and why your organization needs it. Write a couple of sentences about what your organization does. Validate your existence by adding at least one sentence that includes research-based evidence that there’s a need for your organization.

  • Write a second paragraph that’s brief and to the point. Include no more than three sentences stating your organization’s corporate structure status and the date it was founded. Then tell the funder your organization’s purpose and how it aligns with the funder’s mission or funding priority.

  • Wrap up your cover letter with a summarizing paragraph. Share a closing thought or reflection about what this funding partnership can mean for the future of your project’s target audience.

  • Use a creative closing, such as “Awaiting your response,” “With great hope,” or something else that fits your project’s theme/topic area. Sounding both thankful and optimistic as you close your request for funds is important.

  • Sign your first name only; doing so invites an informal, long-term relationship. Below your signature, type your first name, middle initial, last name, and job title.

  • At the bottom of the letter, include the note “ATTACHMENTS.” This note indicates that a grant proposal is included in the same packet. The capital letters signal that the grant proposal is important.

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Illustration by Ryan Sneed

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The Essentials of Constructing Your Grant Application

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