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How to Write a Nonprofit Executive Summary

Funders, whether it’s foundations, corporations or individuals, usually want your nonprofit’s information in their format. Yes, that’s stating the obvious, but rather than being frustrated by this, I’m going to share how you can be prepared.

In case you haven’t read my article on case statements, you can find it HERE. The case statement is your foundational, all-inclusive document. An executive summary is the CliffsNotes (or SparkNotes) of your case statement.

An excellent executive summary can get your proposal pass the first round of reviews by a foundation. It can also be a helpful introduction to potential board members, donors and volunteers.

Here are the basic elements of an executive summary:

· Mission statement.

· History of the organization. Why and when the organization was created.

· Proposed program(s), title, purpose and who it will help. Who are the clients or constituents?

· What is the cost of the program and how much are you asking for?

· Why is this program important? What is the impact you plan to achieve? (May be included in a longer version.)

· What will your organization accomplish wit this program? What are the projected, measurable outcomes? (May be included in a longer version.)

Be aware of character or word limitations on the grant proposal application and adjust accordingly. I always like to prepare a short and long version of this summary.

An executive summary is not just a list of bullet points, yet it must be succinct. It must be compelling without being manipulative. It must imply a sense of urgency and, at the same time, project the confidence that your organization has the expertise to impact the problem.

By reading your executive summary the funder must be able to imagine the person being helped, the warehouse full of food to be distributed, the classroom where mothers are learning to read to their children or whatever your agency will provide to the community. Lastly, complete the picture for your reader by including tangible, measurable results such as number of meals served or an increase in reading levels.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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