Writing Winning Executive Summaries in Grant Proposals

Executive Summaries often are developed at the very last minute in grant proposals.  That may be inevitable because so much time needs to be spent on the main contents.  However, Executive Summaries are not unimportant.  In fact, the first page of your proposal may be the most important one.

Executive Summaries are very important because they are the first – and perhaps the only – pages reviewers will read carefully.  They provide a road map to reviewers who probably no nothing about your organization and its services.  Consequently, your Executive Summary must tell them in just a few pages who you are; what you propose to do; and why your solution is the best one.

Follow these rules, and your Executive Summaries will be compelling and persuasive:

  • Always include an Executive Summary, even if the grant guidelines do not call for one.
  • Focus on the funder.  Your Executive Summary should address the evaluation factors in the order in which they appear in the grant guidelines.
  • Tell the funder why you are superbly qualified to achieve the goals and objectives of the grant guidelines.
  • Write clearly and straightforwardly so that any educated person could read your Executive Summary and understand it in just a minute or two.
  • Use visuals to help make your points, if room permits.  For many reviewers, a good visual may be more informative and convincing than several pages of text.
  • Emphasize your benefits, not your features.  Save the details for the rest of the proposal.  Explain how your solution will benefit the funder.
  • Address the issues that matter most in the grant guidelines.

Many foundation and corporate proposals may only be several pages long.  In this case, you should still include an Executive Summary, but keep it to one or two paragraphs.

The Executive Summary is your best opportunity to engage reviewers and encourage them to read your proposal seriously.  In your Executive Summary, it is not enough to state that you will comply with the terms of the guidelines.  You must convince skeptical reviewers that you have the experience, skills, and solutions needed to address the main problem identified in the grant guidelines or in the funder’s mission.

Use your Executive Summary to set the tone for your entire proposal and connect your solution to the funder’s most critical needs and concerns.

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