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Simple Steps to Write an Executive Summary

There are 8 basic elements of most proposals. Each grant application will not use the same terminology, but most will ask for this type of information. Some grants won’t have all of these, some will have more, but a good template can be created for your programs and projects based on these:

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

Today, we are going to focus on the Executive Summary. A well-written executive summary can be used interchangeably as a Letter of Inquiry. 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 invite/compel the reader to read on.


Instinctively, grantseekers approach this one of two ways:

  • vague
  • squish in as many facts as possible

Neither is ideal.

An executive summary 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
  • How your organization/program/project is uniquely positioned


Let’s look at an example. This is an executive summary that we wrote for a grant years ago, that was As you can see, I already highlighted for you where the description, unique position, key descriptors, the extraordinary statements are in this example.

Sample Executive Summary


Now let’s learn how to deconstruct this for YOUR 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, if 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. If you have letters of support, etc. that you can pull quotes from, which can be helpful too. Follow-up the last paragraph by encouraging them to consider ‘assisting’, ‘partnering’, ‘collaborating’ with you to accomplish your goal, or fill your need (whichever is most appropriate).

It is amazing to me how much quicker this is to teach in-person than it is to type it out! I also have some videos that might be useful as you continue to find ways to make your grant requests more successful. They can be found here:

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

Happy Writing!

This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.

About the Author

A grant writing expert, executive and development coach, fundraising consultant, and national fundraising trainer, Mandy Pearce, launched Funding for Good, Inc. in 2009 to equip organizations with the skills and tools needed to become successful and sustainable. Mandy has taken her passion and expertise for fundraising to the development field and shared it with individuals and organizations for over 23 years through executive coaching, strategic and development planning, capital campaign planning, seminars, and specialized consulting programs. Mandy’s dynamic teaching style brings thousands of people annually to her presentations at conventions, trainings, and workshops, in person and online. Her business model is centered on her key values: honesty, efficiency, direct communication, and bringing dollars to local communities.

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