Knowing How Many Letters You Need
You must have letters of support from every formal partner and every organization highlighted as a collaborator in the grant-proposal narrative; it sends up red flags if they are not included. Listen to what a program officer at a local foundation says about a grant proposal that did not contain such letters:
“I did a site visit after receipt of a program proposal I thought fit our mission well and held promise for providing early education services through a local college. The proposing college had stated that it was collaborating with three local agencies focused on child care, child abuse/neglect, and systemic services for indigent families.
Some letters of support are really partnership agreements and are required by the grantor. Make sure that, if you write them, you outline the scope of work for both partners and that both partners read, understand, and agree to the division of responsibilities, their roles in the partnership, and the dispersal of grant funds.
“Something didn't feel right during the site visit. The proposers were evasive in their answers to some of my questions, particularly regarding the roles of their partners. I decided to investigate further. I called all three collaborating organizations and learned that they had never even heard of this project, let alone been asked to collaborate.
“Needless to say, the trustees of the foundation turned down the proposal.”
It's also a good idea to provide as many letters as you can that support the case for need for the service you are proposing. Letters of support from leadership agencies and individuals are simply “icing” and can be attached or not, as you see fit.
Be sure to check the instructions for page limits on attachments. Select from the very best and most critical support letters if you have a limit. Also encourage all support-letter writers to keep their missives to one page only.