Executive Summaries – Say it Without Saying Too Much

by | Mar 13, 2019 | Development/Fundraising, Grant Writing

Are you staring at the computer screen pondering exactly WHY you need to draft Executive Summaries when you have already taken the time to outline a detailed description of your organization or program?

As a rule, Executive Summaries are designed to offer your reader a BRIEF overview of your organization’s capacity and proposed initiatives. The BEST Executive Summaries allow you to “hook” a prospective community partner, stakeholder, or donor so that they say, “Tell me more!”

When crafting your executive summaries, it is important that you balance concise details with an engaging narrative so that your reader is inspired to keep reading!

Instead of simply stating, “Our organization was founded in 1999” consider sharing the story of the founder. What community need or situation served as a catalyst for the launch of your organization?

The most impactful summaries are concise, engaging, specific, and realistic.

It is important not to oversell your program or initiative.  If you preface your proposal with shocking statistics and a story of how those statistics hit home, you create a strong foundation for your proposal. Once the foundation is laid, you can focus your limited page space on sharing the specifics of your proposal.

An executive summary should avoid passive and vague statements such as:

The New Horizons after-school program will be launched to serve students in our community.

It is important to take ownership of the proposal, and the best way to do this is to utilize the active voice and make sure that every word on the page packs a punch! Let the reader get to know your team by using strategic modifiers: bilingual, dedicated, volunteer, etc.

For example:  El Centro Hispano proposes to launch “New Horizons,” an after-school program designed to serve a minimum of 100 of Ashe County’s elementary-age students per year. Our bilingual program coordinator and team of 10+ dedicated volunteer tutors will offer 12 hours of English/Spanish tutoring and enrichment programming weekly. Our evidence-based program model is designed to ensure that program participants achieve key academic and social goals including…

At the end of the day, quality Executive Summaries should reflect strong writing skills and address the following points:
  1. Who are you? (Tell the story and key details about your organization’s inception and current capacity.)
  2. What is the community need you intend to address? (Statistics and a story if possible!)
  3. What do you propose to do? (Expand an existing program, launch a new one, collaborate?)
  4. Who will your program/project serve and impact?
  5. How will you evaluate the success of the project/program
  6. What is the timeline?
  7. Who will be key collaborators?
  8. What are you requesting from the prospective grant/donor?
  9. How does your organization intend to sustain the initiative in the future?


Remember, space is limited!  You only need to write 1-3 sentences to effectively address each component of the Executive Summary. If you are struggling to craft a stellar executive summary, it is often helpful to complete and review your full proposal and project description before crafting a one-page introduction.

Before you submit it, be sure to get a neutral person to review your Executive Summary. If they understand your proposal and are inspired to ask for more details…Chances are you have checked the most important boxes in the process!

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