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  • Office of Institutional Effectiveness

Constructing a Competitive Letter of Intent (LOI) for Your Research or Scholarly Project

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

Cori Ruprecht, Grant Writer, Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Lindenwood University


A letter of intent (LOI), or intent to apply, is a pre-proposal composed in response to a competitive solicitation from a foundation or corporate funder and serves as a truncated version of the full proposal. Not all funders require an LOI ahead of a full application, however. Developing an LOI may also be useful before you have identified a potential funder, as it will ensure you have thought through the project in preparation for a feasible award. Funders use the LOI to determine whether an applicant’s project warrants invitation for full proposal and occasionally reviewers will provide thoughtful feedback that may assist with enhancing your scope of work and overall project plan. Planning your LOI thoroughly, with expectations to submit a full application, is key to the success of your submission. Visit our Grants and Funding Resources to get started!

TIP: Create a detailed, line-item budget using allowable costs associated with your project in the LOI phase. Engage key partners (e.g., community partners, co-Principal Investigators (co-PI), HR, Finance, Research & Compliance, evaluators) while developing the budget, as they have useful input to provide. The budget request should not change between LOI and full application, so building it early is important.

Grants & Sponsored Research Services at Lindenwood University offers a variety of tools to get your project off the ground beginning with the Grants Handbook. Lindenwood also offers Pivot, which allows faculty and staff to search for grant funding opportunities, fellowships, and awards.

Questions to consider as you develop your project plan:

· Will you serve as the Principal Investigator or will you engage a co-PI?

· What is your overarching research question?

· What is your target population, including geography (if applicable)?

· Do you have the required partnerships to execute the project or do you need to incorporate partnership building into a planning phase?

· Have you obtained IRB approval (if applicable)?

· What is the length of your study/can you establish a timeline?

· When might you start your project and when do you expect it will end?

· Can you create a logic model to illustrate the scope of work? “A logic model is a graphic depiction (road map) that presents the shared relationships among the resources, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impact for your program. It depicts the relationship between your program's activities and its intended effects.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Program Performance and Evaluation Office, 2018)

· Will you obtain other sources of support (e.g., matching funds)?

· Do you have thoughts on sustainability and/or replicability?

· How will you disseminate your findings?

TIP: Know your funder and use a voice that will appeal to them. A private family foundation might appreciate emotional appeal in your LOI, whereas corporate or governmental sources typically prefer demonstrable data, strong statement of need, and methodological soundness.

Grants & Sponsored Research Services at Lindenwood University offers support for project planning and development, LOI development, budget and grant writing and submission. Check out our FAQs and reach out to us at with any questions you have.

Always follow the funder’s guidelines and criteria to a fault. If the funder does not offer specific guidelines, you may follow the general guide below. Keep your LOI succinct, while thoroughly explaining the project.

Structure of an LOI

1. Opening (1 paragraph maximum)

a. Brief project summary. Be direct.

b. State your research question(s).

2. Statement of Need/Background (3-5 paragraphs)

a. Brief analysis of relevant historical and contemporary (within 5 years) knowledge and

research related to the proposed topic. Provide in-text citations throughout.

b. State issues to be addressed and why you plan to address them (e.g., gap in

knowledge, literature, etc.).

c. Who do you expect will benefit as a result of the project (population/geography)?

d. Outline partnerships/collaborations.

3. Methodology / Activities (2-3 paragraphs)

a. Describe and justify the proposed research design and methodology you will use.

b. Clearly define the characteristics of your research participants.

c. Provide an overview of project activities not included in Statement of Need, including a timeline for the work.

4. Evaluation/ Data Analysis (2-3 paragraphs)

a. Explain what evaluation and assessment measures you will use.

b. Explain what qualitative and/or quantitative analyses you intend to use.

c. Provide a rationale for the chosen measures and analyses.

5. Outcome Recommendations (1-2 paragraphs)

a. Provide an overview based on predicted results of the project. State specific goals/

outcomes anticipated by the project.

b. What outcomes or recommendations may result from the project?

c. Why are these significant to the community/ target population?

6. Credentials (1-2 paragraphs)

a. Demonstrate that proposed research group and partners/collaborators have

experience and resources necessary to complete the study and accurately assess


b. Provide an institutional overview; may include history, awards, accreditation, etc.

7. Budget (1-2 paragraphs)

a. General description of budget items and total request (do not include a line-item

budget or justification unless requested by the funder, but be prepared to submit it

upon request).

8. Closing (1 paragraph)

a. Include proposal contact name and information.

b. Express appreciation for the opportunity to submit an LOI and sign or provide

institutional authorized signature, if required.

9. References

For Lindenwood University colleagues: Once you have developed the LOI, submit your Pre-Award Proposal Review Form at least one month ahead of the funder’s submission deadline. The Grants & Sponsored Projects Review Committee at Lindenwood University provides input and prepares departments to manage the award using this form.

Cori Ruprecht has worked in the non-profit social services field in the St. Louis area since 2012 in direct service, development, and grant writing and management roles. Her experience with government and private funding led her to join Lindenwood University as a grant writer in February 2020 where she has had the opportunity to assist with the development and submission of several federal and foundation proposals.

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