Letters of Support – How Useful Are They?

February 24, 2012 | By Guest Contributor | Post a Comment

(This post first appeared as an article in Thompson’s Local/State Funding Report and was written by Karen Norris, grants manager for Montgomery College in Rockville, Md. She has more than 20 years of experience supporting educational institutions in the state of Maryland and as a grants consultant. She is currently a board member of the National Grants Management Association.) Letters of support for a grant proposal can have implications both during the proposal development process and throughout project implementation. In some cases, letters from partners can make or break a proposal. If a particular partner is required, as stated in the proposal guidelines, the absence of an attached letter could disqualify the proposal from review. If a collaborating partner is not required but is included in the program design, the absence of an attached letter could severely diminish the competitiveness of the proposal.

When letters of support are included, they should describe the concrete type of support the partner intends to provide. A general comment along the lines of “we support this project for its benefit to our community” will carry little weight with reviewers unless the support being provided is also disclosed. The support can be valued in dollars or as an in-kind contribution, such as providing monthly employee volunteers. The support could be a commitment to participate on an advisory committee. Whatever the support, it should be clear. This strengthens the proposal and better defines a commitment that must be tracked and reported throughout the implementation of the project if an award is received. Otherwise, the absence or ambiguous nature of any pledged support could later become an audit finding.

Partners will often ask for a template or sample letter before preparing a letter of support. When grant applicants have more than one partner, it is easy to mistakenly send all partners the same template. Even when each partner is providing similar support, their letters should reflect differences in composition and style. Despite the cautions, when used appropriately, letters of support can have significant positive impact.

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