No Space for Letters of Commitment?

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The grant application guidelines allow 15 pages of attachments, with ten consumed by required documents (IRS determination letter, board list, etc.). You’ve got 15 letters of commitment from diverse community groups pledging resources, volunteers, facilities, transportation, and other significant benefits. It’s a conundrum! The letters are powerful. Which do you use? Which do you leave out?

The commitments community partners make to your proposed program are a huge asset. You’ll reference them in the narrative, but a powerful commitment accompanied by a signature enlivens these pledges and makes them less abstract. Here’s a good workaround for this “positive problem”.

• Get a specific, thorough letter of commitment or memorandum of understanding from each partner that’s pledging support.
• Develop a brief but specific summary of the commitment each partner is making.
• Develop a Commitments Chart with columns for: (1) Partner organization name; (2) Partner commitment; (3) Name and title of person signing; and (4) Date of the signature. At the top of the page, before the chart begins, include a paragraph informing the reader that you have a commitment document on file from each partner and you’ll be glad to provide them upon request.
• Fill in all columns, except the signature.
• Assign a staff member to get an original signature from each partner on the chart.

This process is time-consuming and can be logistically challenging, but the result is impressive. In only one or two pages, the Commitments Chart gives readers a bird’s eye-view of the community support that’s in place for your program, and seals the pledge with a signature.

When you’ve done deep planning, and engaged a strong network of community groups to address a problem, don’t settle too quickly when confronted with restrictive application guidelines. Yes, you do have to follow the funder’s directions exactly, but think creatively! Fully representing the power of your partnerships will give your grant proposal the competitive edge.

— Barbara Floersch, Executive Director


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