In the grant proposal world, Letters of Intent (LOI) are sent to sponsors as a formal indication that you are preparing a response to their solicitation. An LOI stage serves at least one function: identification of an appropriate quantity and quality of reviewer. The vast majority of LOIs are non-binding and simply provide enough high level information to indicate the type of project you’ll be proposing. Sometimes, albeit rarely, LOIs are binding and/or competitive. In other words, you will be required to submit an application that reflects the content, usually the individual and organizational leadership described. In the case of a competitive LOI, the letter serves as a decision gate for the sponsor to accept an application.
I always recommend that you complete LOI information with a competitive eye. That is, treat it as an opportunity to pitch your project in the best light possible. It might take a bit longer for you to complete, but there are benefits. Namely, drafting a competitive LOI will cause you to begin critically thinking through the selling points of the project, aid in identifying the weaknesses, help gel the project structure and strategic partnerships, and create a launching point for elaboration in the full application.
Importantly, an LOI is not an executive summary, a project summary, or an abstract. It is brief, succinct, and provides the bare minimum of information. However, it does not have to be devoid of nuance. It is an opportunity to construct a document that captures the essence of your project. Text that is used sparingly, must also be used wisely.
Pushing the content of an LOI to make it as persuasive and competitive as possible is just one way to add a professional edge to your application.
What would it look like if you wrote your LOI as if it were binding and competitively evaluated?