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The Power of a Great Executive Summary: How to Make Your Proposal Stand Out

(Note: this article is advice for unsolicited proposals, concept notes, and some foundation proposals. For institutional proposals or responses to RFPs, we will publish an article next week to help professionals with these kinds of proposals.)

Are you struggling to write a compelling executive summary for your proposal? Look no further! The executive summary is a crucial part of any proposal, as it is often the first thing a potential funder will read. A strong executive summary can pique the reader's interest and convince them to take a closer look at your proposal. On the other hand, a poorly written summary could lead them to reject your proposal without reading any further. So how can you make sure your executive summary stands out? Here are some essential tips for writing an executive summary that stands out:

1. Start with a strong hook. The opening of your executive summary is your chance to grab the reader's attention. Consider using a statistic, a powerful quote, or an intriguing question to draw them in. Here are some examples of how this is done:

Example 1: "Did you know that 1 in 5 children in America lives in poverty? Our organization is working to change that."

Example 2: "Albert Einstein once said, 'The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.' Our organization is taking action to make a difference."

Example 3: "Do you ever wonder how we can end homelessness in our city? Our organization has the plan to address this pressing issue."

2. Clearly state the purpose of your proposal. The reader should understand the main goal of your proposal after reading the first paragraph of your summary. Be concise and to the point.

An example is: "The purpose of our proposal is to secure funding to launch a new program that will provide job training and employment services to disadvantaged youth in our community."

4. Describe the problem you are addressing. Your proposal should address a specific problem or need. Clearly state what this problem is and why it is essential to address. For example: "The problem we are addressing is the lack of access to affordable and healthy food in low-income communities. This leads to poor health outcomes and a cycle of poverty that is difficult to break."

5. Outline your proposed solution. After describing the problem, you should explain how your organization plans to solve it. Be specific and provide details about your approach. An example of this would be: "Our proposed solution is to launch a mobile food market that will bring fresh fruits and vegetables to underserved communities. This program will also provide education and resources on healthy eating and food preparation."

6. Highlight your unique selling points. What makes your organization and your proposal stand out from the competition? Make sure to emphasize your strengths and any unique qualifications you have. Here is an example: "Our organization is uniquely qualified to launch this program because of our experience in running successful food recovery and distribution programs, as well as our strong partnerships with local farmers and community organizations."

7. Focus on the benefits and outcomes. Your proposal should not only address a problem but also provide a solution that brings about positive change. Make sure to highlight the benefits and outcomes that your project will bring about. For example: "The benefits of our program include improved access to healthy food, reduced rates of diet-related diseases, and increased economic opportunities for disadvantaged youth."

8. Keep it concise. An executive summary should be brief and to the point. Aim for no more than one page or around 500 words. Example: "In summary, our proposal aims to address the pressing issue of food insecurity in low-income communities by launching a mobile food market. Our unique qualifications and partnerships, combined with the positive outcomes of improved health and increased economic opportunities, make our organization the perfect candidate for funding."

By following these tips, you can write a powerful executive summary that will convince your reader to take a closer look at your proposal. So, don't underestimate the importance of a well-written executive summary – it could be the key to securing funding for your organization.

Remember, a well-written executive summary is the key to securing funding for your organization, so take the time to craft a strong summary that highlights the importance of your proposal and its potential impact.


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