You’ve reviewed a federal RFP and decided it’s a good fit for your agency. Time to write! Wrong! (ha pun intended)
You’ll start writing soon, but there is one action item to always check first – partnership requirements, and specifically any that include written commitments like an MOU (memorandum of understanding) or a support letter.
Why? Well, most of the grant proposal is within your control – when and what to write, how to budget, filling out forms, or creating attachments like work plans. With these you can plan ahead (or work late into the night) to make sure everything is ready to submit by the deadline.
But partnership documentation relies on others to provide critical materials correctly and on time. And partners likely have competing priorities, often need approval from their Board, and/or need to coordinate with the busy schedule of their Executive Director to get documents signed.
And this becomes more and more true the bigger and more important the partner is. Getting the letter from the Mayor of your city can be very different from a partner letter from a free legal services provider in your community that you’ve worked with for years.
As such, it is critically important to reach out to partners as soon as you know you want to include them in your grant proposal.
Amazingly, this RFP may not be at the center of their universe, as it could be at yours for the next few weeks. Often, they are doing a favor for you or your agency in partnering or at least providing a letter of support. So it’s important to be mindful of what is required in the letter and take as much work as possible off their plate.
Make sure you pay close attention to RFP requirements for partnership documentation, which are often VERY specific about the language that needs to be included in the letter or MOU, and who is authorized to sign it. This is especially important when matching funds are documented in letters or an MOU, as the funder may not count your match commitments if they do not conform to RFP requirements. And as the grant writer, it’s your job to make sure required documentation meets the federal funder’s guidelines.
Always provide your partners with a draft letter or draft MOU – they are helping you out by providing a letter or MOU (particularly if they are not getting a subcontract), so make it easy for them to complete what you need. This includes doing some legwork like looking up the partner’s mission statement to put in the letter, and filling in details about the proposed project and how the partner is supporting the project.
What has your experience been in getting letters from partners?