Optimize the Persuasiveness of Your Grant Proposal in This Way

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Grant writing is part of the job for researchers who don’t have an unlimited funder to turn to every time they need money for an experiment. Scientists need funding for projects, and these grants are usually a “one and done” award. You’ll have to write a proposal every time you need funding, and chances are, yours will, like many others, get rejected more than it will get approved.

These rejections can be excellent growing points, though. You learn what the reviewers for particular funders are looking for, what you should leave out, and how to improve your proposal overall. One of these frequently learned mistakes is that you must persuade a complete stranger that your idea is better than everyone else’s who applied. To do that, you should include a letter of support alongside your grant application.

What a Letter of Support Does

Every researcher faces the challenge of acquiring funds for their project. When you’re successful, it’s worthy of a pat on the back and then some. The problem is that it can be intimidating to submit the proposal, especially as the deadline arises, and you know other researchers just as smart as you are applying for the same grant.

What many of them aren’t doing is including a letter of support with their proposal. You did (or are going to), which automatically moves yours a little higher on the “potential” pile. Letters of support aren’t a guaranteed way to receive approval, but they do increase your application’s chance of success by making it stand out from the competition. If your letter is written by someone well-regarded in the field, it makes it even more likely to get accepted.

A letter of support is simply something written by a third party that recommends your project and you as a researcher as credible and worthy of the funding. This third-party testimony reinforces that they believe your project can be successful and the outcome you’re predicting is possible. In short, it enhances your reputation and your project’s importance, making the funder consider the idea that other organizations may steal the thunder that could have been theirs had they approved your grant proposal when they had the opportunity.

Should You Include One in Your Proposal?

Letters of support are supplemental documentation, so they aren’t necessary. You should only consider adding them if you have someone influential that can back up your project’s worthiness. Otherwise, skip this in your application steps.

Strong letters of support are often composed by someone from a partner organization or another foundation, a representative of Congress, a business unaffiliated with you and therefore without a conflict of interest, a stakeholder in the outcome, or a group of community members who may be impacted by the results. 

How to Write a Strong Letter of Support 

While different people could be writing your letter of support, the general structure is the same for all of them. They should have an opening statement, a body, and a closing statement.

Start with a header that includes the name of the person writing the letter, the institution with which they are affiliated, and the date they penned the document. This should be on the organization’s letterhead if possible.

Underneath this section, include the recipient’s name and contact information, then begin with your salutation. An appropriate choice of greeting for a letter of support would be to directly address the recipient with their title, such as “Dear Ms.” and their last name.

In the opening statement, the letter’s author should identify the project. Remember, the goal is to be persuasive, so this introduction should include a hook that will catch the reader’s attention. After the writer introduces themselves and explains why it’s a big deal that they’re writing this letter, they can include an introduction of the project through emotional appeal or another catchy sentence. The introduction is possibly the most important part of the letter. If the reader doesn’t see the connection between the researcher and the writer, the writer’s credibility, and the project’s potential importance, they likely won’t read further.

In the main body, the letter should thoroughly cover why the grant funding should be used toward this particular project or initiative. The author should clarify that they believe the project, and the intended results, are worthy of the expense and time. The reader probably doesn’t know the letter’s author or researcher. This letter’s job is to persuade the unknown person that the project is impressive enough to receive the award by covering any potential gaps, questions, or concerns the reader may have.

The ending, or conclusion, should summarize the key points and refresh the reader with those important topics. However, this letter shouldn’t extend longer than two pages and should follow a professional structure and formatting expectations.

When you receive this letter of support, always read it over before submitting it with your grant. If it has any errors, request that the writer fix them first. This might be embarrassing or time-consuming, but it’s vital that there aren’t any mistakes, or the reader may lose confidence in the proposal.

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