Writing and Designing aN Executive Summary

More often than not, prospective donors would request applicants to submit an abridged version of the full-length proposal. While you may already have all the information about your project, it can be a challenging task to condense your 15-20-page document to a one-two-page executive summary. Here are four tips to help you get started in impressing the grant or foundation managers with a concise, focused, and impactful short proposal!


1. Understand your readers

Understanding the needs and priorities of your readers is the most important first step in your proposal preparation. Different donors have different criteria in assessing proposals. 

Different donors have different criteria in assessing proposals.

Some would like to see a clear articulation of the impact of your project to the community. Others prefer to see a detailed plan of your programming. Certain donors are more drawn to certain buzzwords while others may not have a strong grasp of the jargons in the field. Knowing your readers allows you to modify your writing structure and language to suit their evaluation indicators.

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2. Summarize & prioritize the key details about your project

While it may be easy for you to present as much information about your project as possible, the reader probably does not share a similar level of background knowledge of the ins-and-outs of your situation and project and thus, may not be able to follow all information with the same degree of thoroughness and scrutiny. You should always keep in mind that the goal of your proposal is not only to showcase your project but also to impress potential donors. A concise and convincing proposal is more effective to achieve the latter objective. When planning for 1-2-pager, you should decide which project information is crucial to the story of your proposal and which section can be furnished at a later stage of proposal submission.

You should always keep in mind that the goal of your proposal is not only to showcase your project but also to impress potential donors.


3. Pick your focus and stick with it.

One or two pages can only feature about 300 to 600 words maximum. In fact, you may not even be able to feature even all the important details of your project within these limits. Besides the essential information (what the project is about, when and where it would happen), you may have to choose among the following areas as the focus of your proposal:

  • The ‘why‘ (the rationale or significance behind your project)
  • The how (the expected impact of your project)
  • The who (the community or beneficiaries of your project).

You may not be able to feature even all the important details of your project within the 300-600 word limits.

Emphasizing on 1 or 2 of these areas would allow you to create a clear focus in your proposal, thus elevating the flow and story in your writing and designing, rather than cramping all three in the two-pager. Additionally, as mentioned in Tip #1, different donors and different grants have a different preference over certain criteria when looking at proposals — long-term impact, justification of funding, urgency of situations, etc. With a good understanding of the donors and the calls for proposal, you can pick an effective focus for your proposal strategy.

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4. Impress your readers visually

Due to the limited nature of the short proposal, you should include well-designed graphics and layouts to capture the attention of the readers. There are many graphical ways to represent your story, from a timeline or flow design to a pillar or component style. You can pick a suitable choice for your focus and design the proposal layout and theme around that focus. Additionally, it’ll be interesting for readers to visualize the final or aspirational outcome of your project. Good graphics will not only help with the first impressions but also synthesize with your writing to allow the proposal’s flow to emerge organically. A different storytelling method beyond the standard method of numbered sections can go a long way in impressing your prospective donors.


Need additional help?

Are you looking to develop such a convincing and impressive short proposal? Do you need an outside perspective to advise you on the right approach and/or focus for your project proposal? Arrange a short meeting with us to explore possible collaborations for your proposal!



A communicator by training and a consultant by trade, An joined the development sector after four years of experience in communications strategy, publication design and market research.

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