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Deconstructing Executive Summaries in Your Grant Proposals

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executive summaries

There are 7 basic elements to most grant proposals. But, as we say, if you have seen one grant application, you have seen one grant application. They are all different and often ask the same question in a myriad of ways. Don’t get used to cutting and pasting all your answers. If you have some well-crafted replies to the most common questions, you will be far ahead of the pack when it comes to completing proposals and staying on top of your submission deadlines. 

A well-developed template can be created for your programs and projects based on these sections:

  • Executive Summary
  • Organizational Information
  • Statement of Need
  • Project Description
  • Budget
  • Evaluation Methods
  • Sustainability Plan

Let’s focus on Executive Summaries. Well-written executive summaries can be used interchangeably as a Letter of Inquiry (depending on the specific content asked for in an LOI. I have seen some LOIs that might as well be a full-blown application themselves). Some argue that this is the most important element of the proposal. In a few hundred words, summarize the grant application. What’s more, you must compel the reader to read more.

Grant seekers tend to approach this one of two ways: Too vague or throw in everything and the kitchen sink. 

Neither approach is ideal.

Executive summaries should be clear, concise, and persuasive and include the following:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • A description of your problem
  • A few key descriptors of your program/project
  • What makes your program/project extraordinary (this is usually measurable/quantifiable)
  • How your organization/program/project is uniquely positioned (you’re the only one doing it, or you’re the only one doing it a certain way or in a certain service area or within a certain distance, etc.)

Let’s look at an example from a funded application.

executive summaries

As you can see, I already highlighted for you where the description, unique position, key descriptors, and extraordinary statements are in this example.

Now how can you deconstruct this for YOUR specific needs?

In the first paragraph, the first sentence is the mission statement of the organization.

If you have a well-written mission statement, it should say who you are, what you do, and how you do it. If it doesn’t, you might consider revising it with your board. Otherwise, it can be your first sentence.

The second sentence says what is being requested and a dollar amount.

The third sentence is the statement of how the program or project is unique.

BOOM! First paragraph done!

In the second paragraph, you can deconstruct the paragraph this way and fill in your details:

[Program/Project Name] was designed in [Month/Year] [to do what?]. Since its inception, the program/project has [grown, expanded, served, etc. who/what?]. Due to [what reason] we have a need for [what is your need for], but lack funding to provide [it, them, etc.]. [Program/Project Name] strives to [do what] of [for whom] through [list services you provide].

TA-DA! Second paragraph done!

The third and final paragraph should indicate how your program/project is extraordinary (this needs to be quantitative/measurable) and include data and statistics to support the claim.

Follow-up the last paragraph by encouraging the foundation to consider ‘assisting,’ ‘partnering,’ ‘collaborating’ with you to accomplish your goal, or fill your need. 

I hope you find this helpful as you compose your grant templates and work to secure the dollars needed to build your capacity.

For free templates and tools to make your grant writing process even easier, check out our Free Stuff page. It’s chock full of templates for budgets, grant management spreadsheets, sample letters, and so much more. Everything is in a Word document, so none of that annoying converting from PDF to Word. ☺ We hope this helps as you continue to grow for good.

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