More and more, funders – including government agencies, corporations, foundations, and individuals – are asking non profits to save the paper and email their proposals or submit them online. They can then take highlights out of your pitch, if they review it, to present to their board, or only electronically distribute the best asks.
If you are like most nonprofits, you focus on having a solid proposal first, then maybe a good paper cover letter attachment. Are you focusing on what might be the most important determinant as to whether or not they actually review your proposal with interest though – namely the first words you present in your email to them? And even if you are submitting entirely online through a system, it is a best practice to send the same sort of email to the program officer to make your proposal stand out, if you can.
Five basic tenants of your e-cover letter for your proposal:
- Keep it short, highlighting only the most important need and goal aspects of your proposal to grab attention. It should be no more than 250 words.
- Relate that need and goal back to the funder’s mission. Directly mention the funding program to which you are applying, and quote exactly funder goals when possible.
- Make it personal but still professional. Use “hello” as a medium between “hi” and “dear” as a greeting, and use first person throughout even if you used third person in your proposal. Use exclamation points, but avoid all text jargon like smiley faces, LOL, etc. This might be your only opportunity to make a personal connection to the program officer, which can put you ahead in the review process!
- Thank them at least twice. Show gratitude for their time in reviewing your proposal – even though it is their job to do so, all people like to be thanked for their work, and they are in a power position over you in the giver/receiver paradigm. Respect that!
- Send it from the highest official possible. If someone on your board knows the funder or would be recognized by the funder, ask them to email it for you. If not, send it from the board chair or executive director to show buy in and commitment by organizational leadership.
Following is an e-cover sample you can adapt for your non profit:
Hello Ms. White,
On behalf of [nonprofit], thank you for taking the time to review our attached proposal for our work to provide shelter for our community’s abandoned cats. As you probably know as one of the community’s leaders in protecting abused and homeless animals, more than 300 cats roam YourCity any given fall, and are at risk of dying in the winter months if not collected and placed in homes.
We are not only addressing the immediate needs of the kitties sustainably by organizing volunteers to collect them, house them via our kitty round up days in September, and take the initiative to list them online for adoption with their social networks, but we are also addressing the need to educate tourists via “pack your cat” information stations on the beach weekly all summer long.
I am thrilled to be a part of this program because it is modest, unique, and focused, needing minimal support to address the needs of these unrepresented animals. In that spirit, a full proposal for a part of those funding needs from your emergency needs animal shelter program is attached, specifically addressing your goal to “leave no animals homeless for the winter.”
Thank you so much again for taking your time to consider us for a gift this year.
Executive Director or Board President
>>More fundraising letters here.