The summary section of a grant proposal can feel incredibly overwhelming because many grant writers think they have to summarize every part of their entire proposal in 250 words or less. It doesn’t have to be that difficult! With an easy-to-implement outline and a handful of helpful ideas, your next summary section can be the most compelling you’ve ever written.
What Is The Purpose Of A Summary?
Before we get too far into how to write a summary for your grant proposal, it’s first important to understand why we write it in the first place. The summary is often the first impression a grant writer gets to make on a funder. The job of the summary then, is to sell. Your summary should be persuasive, should sell your solution, should “knock their socks off” and should help the funder decide quickly they want to partner and invest in your organization.
The summary brings proposal to life and to encourage the funder to read more about your project or program. It’s not about trying to outline your entire grant proposal for them…that’s just too much too soon, but the other parts of your application should begin to fill in any of the blanks.
What Components Make Up An Irresistible Summary?
We’ve put together the five core components we believe you need to consider each time you write your summary.
Component #1 – The Opening
How many times have you started a book or a movie and a few pages or minutes in you have an overwhelming feeling that this is going to be bad…or that it’s not your style? It happens, and it’s amazing how quickly we’re prepared to move on to something we’ll like better. If the opening few words or sentences to your summary is boring, bad, or not helpful, a funder may be inclined to skip past you to the next proposal.
Your opening needs to be strong, it needs to grab their attention, and it needs to be compelling. To accomplish this, we would suggest avoiding anything about your organization, and make your introduction all about the “hero” of the story. The reviewers of grant proposals are humans, with human emotions, so find a way to strike a chord with them and make them take notice. Make them “fall in love” with your hero right from the start.
In an earlier GrantsEdge blog post we wrote about how to most effectively tell a story when writing your grant application. In it we described the “hero”, who represents the clients or community you serve. They represent the main character of your story, and are the ones your funder is most interested in understanding. Write your opening in such a way that funders know the hero needs some kind of support or a solution to a problem. Read more in this blog to find out about the “hero” of your story, how story telling and grant writing connect.
Component #2 – The Issue
The “Issue” is the part of the summary where you clearly demonstrate your understanding of the need that exists with your clients or in your community. In a clear and concise way you should define what problem exists and that it needs an urgent response. In writing the summary you might include some of your most important research and highlight the evidence it uncovers.
Make sure that your focus continues to be centred around the hero of the story and the need that they have, and not on your organization.
Component #3 – The Solution
This is the place where your organization can begin to shine. Once you have highlighted the main issue, it’s time to provide a glimpse into the innovative solution that your organization has developed and why it’s the right fit for this problem at this time. If you are anything like most grant writers, you will be inclined to want to lay out the entire solution at this point, to make sure the funder sees it and understands it all. The summary is not the place for all the details, but the place where you will just pull back the curtain slightly to let them see enough that they are intrigued, but that it also clear what the organization intends to do if awarded funding dollars.
Be sure to write about your solution at a very high level, avoid acronyms so that you don’t alienate your reader, and make sure that anyone, no matter how much they understand your “industry”, can easily recognize how your solution works and how it deals with the issue written about earlier in the summary.
This section of the summary would also be an appropriate place to highlight the cost of the solution and the financial ask that you will be making of the funder. As in other places in the summary, you will not have the opportunity to walk them through the entire budget for your project or program, but will only provide the main parts of what your solution will cost and the role the funder will play in that solution. If you have other funders, partners, or investors involved, this would be an ideal time to make that known.
Component #4 – The Credibility
What authority or credibility does your organization have to effectively deliver the solution? When formulating your summary you will want to demonstrate to the funder that your team is qualified and capable of managing the program or project, while also showing how your experience and leadership sets you apart from other organizations who may serve a similar target group.
This would be the time in your summary to highlight a few very specific reasons why the organization will be successful in delivering this project and ensuring positive impact for the participants.
Component #5 – The Funder
The final component of the summary provides the opportunity for the grant writer to establish the link between the goals of the project with how they align with the purpose or mission of the funder. As with everything else in the summary, be clear and concise in pointing out how the work of your organization fits nicely with what the funder is also looking to accomplish. You will want to be sure to have read through the funder’s guidelines, objectives, and overall purpose for their fund in order to show how working together makes sense. By doing this, your summary can further solidify for a funder that together a real difference can be made.
When Should I Write My Summary?
There is no right or wrong answer to when one should write their summary. There are successful grant writers on both sides of this question. Some find it easier and more effective to write the summary before any other part of the grant proposal, as it then becomes the outline for the rest of the application.
There are others who feel more comfortable waiting to write the summary at the end so they can be sure to clearly articulate the main highlights of the proposal. A proposal can often go through a number of iterations and changes, so for us, waiting until the other sections of the proposal are written is the path that we would most often choose.
As you gain experience in writing grant proposals you will likely find your groove. If you are early in your grant writing career, I would encourage you to try it both ways to see if one fits better with your style.
Make A Great First Impression
Your summary is your first chance to wow your funder and excite them about the opportunity your organization is proposing. By including the components we have described in this blog, you will have the chance to grab their attention quickly, demonstrate to them that you understand the issue, show them that you have a great solution and the capacity to implement that solution, and finally, highlight for them how your program or project aligns with their goals and objectives. Those are the ingredients needed to make a persuasive and lasting impression with your funder, one that will encourage them to dig into your full proposal, and one that will hopefully pave the way to the funding you need to impact your community.