Foundation Engagement

Guidelines for preparing a Foundation Letter of Inquiry


Before contacting a foundation, you should first extensively review the foundation's website, mission and goals, recent annual reports, grant guidelines, and previous awardees. After reviewing this information, you will then submit a letter of inquiry (LOI) that provides a brief summary of your project (an LOI is also known as a “letter of intent” or a “concept paper”). An LOI allows the foundation to quickly assess if there is a good match between the foundation's interests and your project. This information was developed by the Office of Research Development and we recommend you contact us for a consultation before applying.


  • LOIs are typically no longer than one page and addressed to a specific person. While an executive summary would dedicate a full page to your project description, in an LOI it should be no longer than one paragraph. If the foundation stipulates a page limit, do not exceed it!
  • LOIs must be concise yet engaging. Avoid jargon, overuse of acronyms, superfluous adjectives, and flowery subjective statements that are not supported by facts. Focus on composing a logical, persuasive argument that emphasizes how your project can help solve a significant problem or gap in the field (this should be related to the foundation’s mission).


  • The introduction serves as the executive summary for the LOI and includes your organization, the award of funding needed or requested, and a description of the project. The qualifications of project staff, a brief description of the evaluative methodology, and a timetable are also included here.
  • The organization description should be concise and focus on the ability of your organization to meet the stated need. Provide a very brief history and description of your current programs while demonstrating a direct connection between what is currently being done and what you wish to accomplish with the requested funding. Make a direct connection between what you currently do and what you want to accomplish with their funding.
  • The statement of need must convince the reader of the important need that can be met by your project. The statement of need includes a description of the target population and geographical area, appropriate statistical data in abbreviated form, and several concrete examples. Consider a table or graphic.
  • The methodology should be appropriate to your statement of need and present a clear, logical, and achievable solution to the stated need. Describe the project briefly, including major activities, names and titles of key project staff, and your desired objectives. As with the organization description, this will be presented in far greater detail in a full proposal.
  • Other funding sources being approached for support of your project should be listed in a brief sentence or paragraph.
  • The final summary restates the intent of the project, affirms your readiness to answer further questions, and offers thanks to the potential funder for consideration. Note: Attachments should be included only if directed by the foundation and should be specific to application guidelines.

Submission Process

Prepared LOIs should be routed through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) before uploading to the Foundation’s grant system or emailing to the Foundation itself.

Supplemental Information

Bioscience Writers, NIH Guide Applications, The Anatomy of a Specific Aims Page