How to Write an Executive Summary for a Grant Proposal

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The grant marketplace is crowded. Whether you seek funds for a business or a non-profit organization, you compete with many other parties to get funding from a limited pool of resources. For that reason, your grant proposal needs to stand out from the very beginning — literally.

Before your audience gets into the weeds of your proposal, it’s important to have an eye-catching executive summary that outlines your project in concise detail. In this post, we’ll discuss how to write an executive summary for a grant proposal that will generate interest and enthusiasm. 

What Is an Executive Summary for a Grant Proposal?

The executive summary — also called an abstract or project summary — is a high-level, condensed synopsis of your business plan. It summarizes the most important aspects of your proposal in an abbreviated, to-the-point manner.

A typical executive summary for a grant proposal explains the need that your organization or business will address, your organization’s structure, its financial needs, and the positive impact your organization will have on its patrons or customers.

Why Is an Executive Summary Important?

Grant-makers — whether they’re government agencies or private foundations — get a lot of grant applications. Thousands come across reviewers’ desks every week. A typical reviewer can only examine a couple of dozen of these applications in a single day.

The executive summary is the first piece of information a grant reviewer sees on every proposal, so it needs to stand out. Many reviewers decide whether to take a deeper dive into a proposal based on the quality of the executive summary. It needs to elicit a sense of excitement and curiosity in whoever reads it.

An executive summary for funding a proposal also represents the “spirit” of the project. If it’s for a business, it summarizes the need for a product or service in the current marketplace. If it’s for a non-profit, it outlines the issue or problem the proposal addresses. It then supplies concise, direct answers for how to get it done. 

business grants

What Should an Executive Summary for a Grant Proposal Include?

A quality executive summary should include all of the following components.

Description of Your Product or Service

This is the core of your entire proposal, so it should be mentioned upfront. What product are you selling or what service will your organization provide?

Business or Project Objective

Your product or service is designed to fill a certain need in the marketplace or community. Define that need and explain how you’ll fill it.

Summary of Marketplace or Community

If you’re starting a business, you should have some idea of the market you’re entering into — who’s looking for your product and who will you be competing against? 

If you’re a non-profit, you’ll want to describe the needs of the people you’ll serve and why their needs can’t be met without your help.

Qualifications

Briefly explain why you and your business or organization are uniquely equipped to provide the service you propose. If you’re a business, you should explain what gives you the advantage over potential competitors.

Expected Growth

Grantors want to believe they’re backing a venture bound for success, whether through return on investment or sustainable community improvement. Outline your vision for growth in the future.

Funding Needs

Give a very general explanation of how much money you need and how it will be spent — administrative expenses, production costs, marketing, equipment, and so forth. 

Questions an Executive Summary for a Grant Proposal Should Answer

Some of the most important questions you should answer include: 

  • What is your mission?
  • Why is your mission important?
  • What need does it fill, or what problem does it solve?
  • What is the final goal or accomplishment you will achieve?
  • Why are you best suited to provide this service?
  • How much will it cost? 

If you’re applying for a grant from a specialty organization, make sure that you also tailor your summary accordingly.

How Long Should an Executive Summary for a Grant Proposal Be?

Since it serves as an introduction for the rest of your proposal, the executive summary should be as concise as possible. You’re just covering the main points of your business idea in a way that entices the reader to keep reading.

Ideally, you want your executive summary to fit on one page. Some projects may justify a two-page executive summary, but that’s the absolute maximum. Aim for one page, or four to six paragraphs, as much as you can. 

Tips for Writing an Executive Summary for a Grant Proposal

Finish your grant proposal first, then write the executive summary. You’ll already have the structure in place and know what general points should go on the front page. 

Additional tips and tricks include:

Grab Attention

Remember that your proposal is just one of dozens, maybe hundreds, that the grant reviewer will have on their desk. Make a strong effort to command your readers’ concentration right at the beginning and motivate them to want to find out more.

Pretend the Summary’s Audience Is Wider than It Actually Is

In the best-case scenario, your executive summary should state your proposal’s case sufficiently enough without an attached proposal. That doesn’t mean it needs to go into specifics, but it should convey a complete sense of the project by itself.

One way to do this is to imagine that you’re writing the summary for a wider audience, not just the reviewer(s) responsible for deciding on your grant. 

Picture your summary being read by someone just looking for general information about your service or issue. What could you say in one shot that will make anyone understand your proposal?

Follow the Funder’s Guidance

Many grant-makers and foundations issue specific instructions for grant-writing, including the executive summary. They may have a hard word count or line limit or insist that your documentation follow a certain defined structure.

If that’s the case, follow every direction to the smallest detail. Heeding their requirements proves that you’re aware of their concerns and administrative needs, which will make them more likely to approve your proposal over someone who’s ignored them.

Be Positive

Even if your proposal is addressing a problem or need, it’s important to make your executive summary as positive and hopeful as you can. Focus on the solution and the ideal outcome you propose. You’re looking to inspire, and inspiration is far easier to cultivate with positivity than negativity.

Stick the Landing

Pay special attention to your conclusion. It’s the “parting shot” that will leave the biggest impression on your audience. Use it to explain how your solution will work and the greater effect it will have on the marketplace and community. Give it enough impact to inspire others to read on. 

The Bottom Line

The executive summary for a grant proposal is a mission statement, sales pitch, and inspirational message all in one. It sets the tone for the work you want to do and explains why it’s vital. It’s the most effective way to build enthusiasm and support — or, alternately, the reason your proposal isn’t considered.

Use some effort and foresight to craft an executive summary that’s true to your mission’s spirit and end goals. After all, your potential grantors will want to enjoy your success or feel positive about their contributions. The executive summary is the first opportunity they’ll have to understand your project — so make it count. 

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About Fundid 

Fundid is on a mission to get women-owned businesses the capital they need to grow so that we can all close the business wealth gap. While 42% of businesses in the US are owned by women, they only account for 4% of revenue generated by private businesses.  We spend our time at Fundid thinking about what the world would look like if women also generated 42% of revenue and how to get them the capital they need to make that happen. Fundid is creating new ways to get small businesses the capital they need to grow and is built from the feedback of women entrepreneurs.