Write a Letter of Support in Under an Hour
You’ve been asked to write a letter of support. Now what? Don’t panic. There is an easy formula you can follow to write a great letter without working overtime. Let’s get started.
Begin by pulling together some required information.
- The name of the person to whom the letter should be addressed (name and mailing address)
- Where the finished letter should be sent (back to the person requesting it, to the funder, someone else)
- Deadline for the letter (see Rule #1 below)
- Any background information about the person or organization requesting the letter and the project they are asking you to support
- Your own digital letterhead (see Rule #2 below)
Formatting a business letter can have subtle differences from office to office. I like to use this format, but feel free to change it to suit your own preferences.
- On digital letterhead
- Empty line
- Name and address of the person to whom the letter should be addressed
- Empty line
- Salutation, e.g. “Dear Mr. Smith:”
- Body of the letter in 11-15 easy sentences
- Your favourite closing salutation, e.g. “Warm Regards,” “Sincerely,” etc.
- Digital signature, or no signature (see Rule #3 below)
The body of the letter can be completed in 5 basic paragraphs.
A simple one-sentence opening tells the recipient why you are writing and that you are happy to be doing so. Mention the name of the person, organization, or project you are supporting in that first line.
I am pleased to provide a letter of support for the XYZ Youth Centre’s application for funding for a Summer Day Camp Access Program.
(1 sentence + 2-4 sentences)
Paragraph #2 includes 3-5 sentences about the person or organization you are supporting. Write as though you are telling the reader a few reasons why this person or organization is so awesome. Make sure this paragraph relates to the overall reason for the letter. Be positive.
Write the first sentence as a broad statement. Then write the 2-4 sentences that follow to expand a little more on each component of the first sentence.
What if you don’t know anything positive, or anything at all, about the person, organization, or project? Read the information they gave to you or visit their web site. Find something that appeals to you as positive and use that information to fill in this paragraph.
The XYZ Youth Centre is a leader in providing safe and empowering programming for children from low income families. Making true connections to families facing financial hardships isn’t accomplished from behind a desk. The XYZ skilled outreach team prides itself on getting out of the office and into schools, shelters, and community centres to work one-on-one with youth. This provides an opportunity to identify immediate client needs, match sponsorship dollars to high demand areas, and make sure no families are forgotten.
(1 sentence + 2-4 sentences)
Paragraph #3 follows the same format as the one before. This time write more specifically about the project you are supporting. Once again, keep it positive.
What if the letter isn’t for a project? Simply write another version of the paragraph before. Pick new reasons why this person or organization is so awesome.
Write the first sentence as a broad statement about the positive results that will come out of the project. Then write the 2-4 sentences that follow to expand a little more on each component of the first sentence.
Traditional summer day camp programs are often out of reach for low income families, leaving youth without safe or quality summer activities. Paying for child care or urban day camp programs during the summer, comes with a price tag that is usually too costly for families struggling to put food on the table. The XYZ Youth Centre eliminates barriers by paying for registration fees, providing safe transportation to and from camp locations, stays on location to act as the adult point-of contact, and provides lunch or snacks for youth participants. Youth benefit from a summer filled with fun activities and parents benefit by knowing their children are safe and family finances not impacted.
You’re nearing the end! The last paragraph is short and sweet. Three simple sentences.
On a scratch piece of paper, make a list of the awesome qualities about the person, organization, or project you are supporting that also match your organization’s core values. You will use these common values to write paragraph #4 and explain why you feel this letter of support is important. Essentially, you are proving that you are not the recipient’s mother telling people why he/she has such a good kid!
Let’s pretend you are the owner of Bright Valley Organic Farms, an organization that might be asked to support our sample XYZ Youth Centre. What values would you have in common with the XYZ Youth Centre? Here are some ideas: healthy eating, proper nutrition for youth, and giving back to the community. Great, now write the paragraph.
Bright Valley Organic Farms believes in providing the raw ingredients to help youth reach their full potential. Building tomorrow’s leaders starts with building healthy youth today. The XYZ Youth Centre’s Summer Day Camp Access Program is instrumental in ensuring youth have every opportunity to grow and succeed regardless of financial barriers.
A simple one-sentence paragraph to wrap up the letter and confirm that you support the person, organization, or project.
Bright Valley Organic Farms is pleased to support the XYZ Youth Centre’s application for funding for a Summer Day Camp Access Program.
That’s it, you did it, but wait, there’s one more step. Don’t worry, it’s easy. Put all the pieces together and read the whole letter out loud. Yep, that’s right, out loud. Why, you ask? Reading it out loud helps find errors, word phrases that don’t sound right, and checks for flow.
Make all your corrections, then send off a great letter of support.
I have a personal rule that I won’t write a letter of support without 5 business days before the deadline. This gives me the time I need to schedule the writing without taking time away from my own deadlines. Seem harsh? OK, OK, sometimes I bend the rules. If I know I have free time coming up, I might write the letter on short notice for a favourite group or worthy project. I know some of my colleagues will ask the recipient to draft the letter for them. Then all they do is tweak the content, sign it, and send it back on letterhead. There’s always a way to make it happen. Create a system that works best for you.
Don’t have digital letterhead? Write the letter as you normally would, print onto standard letterhead, then scan the finished letter to send digitally. Why not just hand them a hard copy letter? A digital letter of support can be useful to the recipient in a number of ways. Providing a digital letter allows the recipient to reprint as needed (spilled coffee on it, wants to include the letter with a different grant application). A word of warning, send that digital letter in a format (e.g. PDF) so your content can’t be edited.
I don’t use a digital signature, so I eliminate all the blank lines normally left for a written signature and type my name, title, organization name or ‘known-as’ organization name. This keeps the letter in a digital-friendly format.
CLICK HERE to view your finished Full Page Example letter of support.
I hope my post has helped provide an easy formula you can rely on whenever you need to write a letter of support.
Thanks for reading!
Hi, I'm Christie Saas, former board member, current Executive Director, and non-profit volunteer. I remember well, those early years when I lacked the training, the confidence, and the work-life balance to focus on becoming the best non-profit leader I could be.
Fast-forward past many bumps in the road, lessons learned, and you’ll find me still in the trenches, but a little wiser, a little calmer, and a whole lot happier. I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.
I created ChristieSaas.com to give you tools, tips, and templates to remove the mystery of learning to run a small non-profit. If you’re a brand-new non-profit leader, or a little more seasoned, someone who’s looking to make a meaningful contribution and still have time for a full life away from the job, you’re in the right place.
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