There are many different ways to configure your inquiry letter. This is just one example.
[Note: Use your departmental/university letterhead for the first page]
January 12, 2013
Mr. Morris Smith
Foundation for Education, Inc.
12345 Central Avenue
Washington, DC 20000
Dear Mr. Smith:
[INTRODUCTORY paragraph: State your contact or reason for writing]
One of the persistent problems in higher education in the United States is the under-representation of minorities (African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans) in the sciences. Work by Tinto and others has suggested that the key to improving the recruitment and retention of minority students in our colleges and universities is integration of these students into the academic and cultural environment of the institution. This is especially true of minority students who often feel isolated in science programs where they may be the only person of color. In addition, it has been well-documented that involving science students in faculty research early in their undergraduate years increases their enthusiasm for science and their motivation to complete their undergraduate degrees and pursue graduate degrees.
[WHY THIS FUNDING SOURCE? paragraph: Use the information you have collected about the funding agency to show them why they should be interested. Tailor your letter to this funding agency. Analyze your research and extrapolate from it. Focus on the FUNDING AGENCY, not on you and your organization. Your proposal deserves to be read because you have taken the time to find out about the funding agency and what they need and want. Couching your idea in terms of how it satisfies the funding agency's needs and wants will increase your changes of a positive response.]
Our proposed project fits well with the Foundation's interests in improving science education and increasing opportunities for minority students in higher education. The Foundation’s “Accessible Education” Initiative is of particular interest to the University, as it matches the goals of our proposed project. Specifically, the Foundation’s commitment to “improving access to education for all students regardless of race, sex, socioeconomic status, or proximity to urban centers, ” is directly in line with our goal of recruiting and retaining minority students in the sciences.
[NEEDS paragraph: Describe the need for your project. Tailor your explanation to the funding agency's viewpoint and their values. Choose one or two statistics or an example or case study to document the need and motivate the reader to see the gap between what is and what ought to be.]
A recent report by the National Science Foundation has projected significant shortages of scientists and engineers by the year 2020, due in part to the low numbers of minority students choosing these fields. Our own statistics have shown a disproportionately low number of minority students are participating in science and engineering fields, with an even smaller number pursuing doctoral degrees in these fields. The impact of this disparity is felt by all parties with a vested interest in equitable education and opportunity, including the University, the Foundation, potential employers, and many federal agencies.
[SOLUTION paragraph: In three sentences or less, describe your approach to the problem. How will you solve the problem you have outlined in the Needs paragraph. You may want to list your objectives.]
An interdisciplinary group of faculty and staff at Northern Rocky Mountain University have designed an innovative intervention program to improve the academic and cultural integration of minority science students at NRMU. This program involves early identification of minority science majors, mentoring of these students by science faculty, and providing opportunities for student participation in faculty research at the undergraduate level. Additionally, campus seminars and off-campus site visits led by established minority scientists and engineers who can serve as role models for the students will occur. The goal of these activities is to provide the students with the academic and social support they need to be successful at the undergraduate level and to encourage them to pursue graduate studies in their field of interest. The ultimate goal of the program is to increase the number of minority students receiving doctoral degrees in the sciences.
[UNIQUENESS paragraph: Once you have shown the need and your solution, tell the funding agency why you are the best choice for doing the job. Include the client benefits and how you are uniquely suited to meet the needs of the clients (or do the research, etc.)]
Northern Rocky Mountain University has a distinguished record in minority student recruitment and retention. The University is addressing the needs of minority students through a comprehensive set of programs, from high school through the doctoral program. Many of these programs focus specifically on science students. For example, the University is the site of a Regional Center for Mathematics and Science for Upward Bound students, as well as being a site for a regular Upward Bound program. We also offer a program for talented minority undergraduate students majoring in science, called GRADPREP, which provides intensive preparation for graduate school and research. At the graduate level, minority students majoring in biology, chemistry, or mathematics as supported by Patricia Roberts Harris fellowships. All of these programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
In addition, individual departments offer mentoring programs for their minority students. The University is recognized nationwide for its efforts in recruitment and retention of talented minority students. I have been involved with the University mentoring programs for 15 years, providing skill development workshops for faculty in biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics. In addition, I have worked with the GRADPREP program for five years, offering orientation and training for GRADPREP staff and assisting in curriculum development.
[REQUEST FOR FUNDS paragraph: Indicate the amount you are requesting. If space allows, you can provide a brief breakdown of costs. Indicate other sources of funding, if applicable.]
We are seeking funding from the Foundation in the amount of $300,000 for a five-year period for one component of our comprehensive program -- providing summer research experiences for talented minority students majoring in science. This funding will allow us to provide stipends and research support for summer research experiences for 20 additional students per year. The University will contribute faculty and staff support, research facilities, and instructional materials.
[CLOSING PARAGRAPH: The closing indicates your desire to discuss the project with them further, either in person or by telephone. If you have an institutional official sign the letter, you can also use this paragraph to indicate yourself as the contact person within your organization instead of the person signing the letter.]
I will contact you on February 5 to discuss the program in more detail. If you have any questions before that time, please feel free to contact me.
[SIGNATURE: Normally you should have your institutional official sign the letter even though you wrote it. This indicates that the institution supports the research. You can also use a double signature: yourself and the institutional representative.]
Jane Doe, PhD.,
Professor of Higher Education
[ATTACHMENTS: You may want to attach your project timetable, a brief summary of your methodology, etc. These attachments should be brief and should be limited to as few pages as possible.]