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Making the Request


This resource provides general guidelines for grant writing in general and in the scientific disciplines. While grant proposals are almost always overseen by a faculty member serving as the primary investigator (PI), this resource is intended primarily for graduate students and junior faculty seeking to learn more about grant writing in their fields. It is organized according to the following stages of the writing process: I) project planning; II) researching funding opportunities; and III) writing and submitting the grant proposal. Note that the specific requirements of funding agencies vary significantly, and should always be consulted carefully before a grant proposal is begun. It also discusses a number of language considerations regarding grant writing. 

Contributors:Dennis Koyama, Stacy Nall
Last Edited: 2015-02-18 05:25:18

After your opening, you should make your request. This is arguably the most important part of your letter and should be the most informative. Your recipient should be able to make an informed decision about whether to donate, and including the following in your request will help them do so:

Describe and Justify the Need

Be specific and clear about what your need is. If you want your audience to contribute, they must first believe that there is a need. This explanation should go beyond the obvious – the need for a donation. For example, if your college organization needs money to attend a conference, explain why your organization needs to attend the conference, not just why they are in need of monetary donations.

Consider how to best convince your audience that there is a need. What information will they be more likely to respond to? Generally, relevant quantifiable data such as statistics and other numerical data should be included, if available, to help describe and justify a need. You may choose, however, to describe the need using a brief story or by quoting those who have been involved in your particular program or event in the past.

It may be the case that meeting the need you described will be or can be seen as difficult. For example, if there is a tight time constraint. If there are possible obstacles to your success that are easily identifiable, don’t ignore them. Instead, mention and then counter them – briefly. Minimize them by showing the competency of the group on whose behalf you write.

Ask Clearly

Your audience should know exactly what it is you are asking of them. For example, if you are requesting a contribution in the form of product, your audience should know how much product – a particular monetary amount’s worth? A particular number of items? Even if you are willing to take any amount, state your goal amount. Being unspecific may come across as unorganized, unprofessional, and makes your audience less likely to contribute.

Remember that you can (and often should) ask for different contributions from different recipients, based on their resources and your relationship with them. Remember that the other aspects of your request should be modified to fit the type of contribution you are requesting. You may also choose to provide several donation options for your recipient to choose from.

Be sure to ask more than once. It is customary to ask once near the beginning of your letter, and once again before closing. Never apologize for asking or for imposing on your recipient’s time. Your request should be reasonable and mutually beneficial, so there is never anything to apologize for.

State Benefits

Ultimately, the contribution should clearly benefit not only your cause, but your audience as well. Make sure that you state clearly and in concrete terms what the donation you are requesting will do for both parties, particularly if you are writing to a business or other formal organization.

For you:

When requesting a donation from your audience, make it clear what their donation will do. After all, you have just convinced them of the need for their donation, and now you must show how their donation can and will meet that need. It is important to provide concrete, specific details to help your audience imagine the impact of their donation and to support your professional ethos as an organized individual or group.

For instance, if you are requesting donations in increments of $5 for an after-school Thanksgiving dinner, tell your audience how far $5 will go with detail: “A donation of $5 will provide a hungry middle-school child with a home cooked turkey dinner”. Don’t forget to include details about the benefits of the different options available, if there are any.

For them:

For most formal or professional organizations, donating is ultimately a business transaction. They may have a specific budget set aside for donations, and you certainly won’t be the only one vying for their resources. Therefore, it is important that your audience sees how their donation will benefit them directly. The benefit for the audience should be clearly identified and should meet their particular values and needs. Possible benefits are:

Whatever you promise your audience, be sure that you can deliver, and make sure to show your audience that you can deliver. For instance, if you promise publicity at an event, provide statistics related to how many individuals, businesses, etc. have attended your events in the past. You need to be able to not only provide these benefits, but to convince your audience that you can provide them.

Provide a Path of Action

Now that your audience knows what you need, why you need it, and what their donation will accomplish, tell them exactly how to proceed. What is the next step? Do they mail in an enclosed envelope? Do they call the sender? Do they go online and fill out a form? However you want your recipient to proceed, make sure that it is clear and simple. Making their next move as easy as possible will increase the chance that they will complete it. For instance, you could include a pre-addressed and stamped envelope with your letter, if it is in your budget.

If you are requesting monetary donation, your audience should know how to send their money. By check? Money order? Online? In person?

It is also important that you include a time frame. When do you need to know if they will contribute? Is there a formal deadline? Is the need urgent or ongoing? Can they still contribute to you or your organization after the event has passed?

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