How to Write an Effective Letter of Support
Letters of Support from Collaborators and Consultants
The following suggestions are for grant proposal letters of support from consultants and collaborators. Funding agency guidelines (e.g. NIH, NSF, other) and funding opportunity requirements take precedence over these suggestions.
If you need a letter of support, we recommend that you offer to draft the letter for your collaborator(s)/consultant(s). Providing a draft will help achieve two important outcomes:
- That the letter of support will contain all of the information you need, and
- That you will get the letter back from your collaborator(s)/consultant(s) in a timely fashion, assuming you give them enough lead time. We suggest 2-3 weeks.
Drafting your own letters of support also serves another important purpose. It can give both parties an early warning of unrealistic expectations. It is a vehicle for negotiating exactly what services, reagents, or expertise will be provided to support your work. Note that drafts of Letters of Support may need to be reviewed for compliance by the appropriate Tufts office before sending to your collaborator(s)/consultant(s).
The goals of a letter of support are to:
- Specify what the collaborator(s)/consultant(s) will contribute to the research
- Convince the reviewer that the collaborator(s)/consultant(s) will fulfill the request
- Convey enthusiasm for the work
- Lend credibility to your proposal
Letters of support should:
- Be unique and written from the point of view of your collaborator(s)/consultant(s)
- Be on institutional letterhead and signed by the appropriate party (someone authorized to make the commitment of support)
- Be addressed either to the PI of the proposal or to the granting agency – check the guidelines of the specific grant and/or agency
- Be focused on requested topics and not contain details that are expected to be in the research description section (this is required by NIH and a good idea for most agencies)
- Address any specific guidelines (e.g., particular assurances) required by the funding agency or the university, as outlined in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) or as requested by your Research Administrator.
- Meet all other requirements (e.g., page limits) of the funding agency. For example:
- 2020 NIH Research Forms F indicate that letters of support from consultants should include rate/charge for consulting services, level of effort, and if access to core facilities will be provided as a fee-for-service.
- Most NSF letters of collaboration have a specific, one-sentence, template that should be used unless the solicitation states otherwise; see the 2020 NSF PAPPG.
Be sure to follow all FOA, funding agency, and Tufts University guidelines. Beyond that, as long as your letter demonstrates specifically what your collaborator(s)/consultant(s) will be contributing to the project, there is no one way to draft a strong letter of support. One format that you might consider in the absence of specific agency guidelines follows.
Example Letter of Support Format
First Paragraph (1-3 sentences)
- Statement of support for the project/research – use words that convey enthusiasm
- Identify the research project by name/title
“I am pleased to support your research proposal titled xxxx.”
“Your proposal to do xxxx has my enthusiastic support.”
Body Paragraphs (1-3 paragraphs, or more as necessary)
- If applicable, state how the goals/research of the collaborator(s)/consultant(s) are well-aligned with the goals of the proposed research. What is the collaborator’s motivation to work with you?
- State as specifically as possible the role of the collaborator(s)/consultant(s) in the project.
- State why this collaborator/consultant is the appropriate person/organization/lab to perform the work.
- What is their relevant experience/expertise? Have they previously worked on a similar project? Do they have a successful track record?
- Do they have specialized equipment or reagents? Other resources?
- If you have worked with this collaborator before, be sure to say so! It demonstrates that a productive relationship has already been established.
- Be sure to include all information required by the funding agency; for example, for NIH, the rate or charge and level of effort for consultant services.
Last Paragraph (1-3 sentences)
- Include a cordial closing. The level of formality should be determined by the level of personal relationship between the PI and the collaborator(s)/consultant(s). If you know each other very well, it can be less formal.
“I look forward to collaborating with you on this work.”
“Best of luck with your grant application.”
Last updated: May 2020
Source: OVPR Research Development, Tufts University