What is an Executive Summary? An executive summary is a concise summary of a longer report or proposal that highlights the important points, problems, solutions, findings and conclusions. It is generally written for an outside audience or executive in a way that allows the reader to grasp the essentials without having to read all of the materials.

The reason it is called an "executive" summary is that the executive doesn't have the time to read the entire report (which may be tens to hundreds of pages), but does need to understand the results well enough to ask and answer intelligent questions and make decisions about the report or proposal.

An executive summary is used in business plans, investment proposals, grant proposals, project proposals, and also for internal reports. Some types of grants and project proposals have specific formats. Lower on this page, we have listed some resources that can help with writing specific types of proposals.

Our template was designed mainly as a general executive summary example for a business plan or investment proposal.

Executive Summary

for Word & Google Docs
Preview of an Executive Summary Template for Word


⤓ Word (.docx)
For Word 2007 or later
⤓ Google Docs

License: Private Use (not for distribution or resale)

Authors: Jon Wittwer and Jim Wittwer


This Executive Summary Template is formatted for Word and Google Docs. It breaks down the important information you should include in your summary into sections, each with important questions or tips to help guide you as you write. This template is easy to customize, so don't hesitate to change titles and move things around as needed.

The exact content of the summary will depend on your audience and the information you are trying to summarize. However, there are some general guidelines to follow when writing the summary.

How to Write an Executive Summary

An executive summary is much more than a summary of your plan or proposal. It is an opportunity to engage your readers and sell them on the idea without requiring they read the full plan or proposal. This is especially important if you're seeking funding.

When writing an executive summary, keep these suggestions and tips in mind:

  • The best time to write the summary is AFTER you've completed the full plan
  • Summarize the most important elements of the full plan or proposal concisely
  • Keep things brief and to the point (your readers may have limited time)
  • Tailor your content to the people that will be reading the summary

How long should an executive summary be?

Try to keep the length of the executive summary to one or two pages. It's best to keep the executive summary as brief and concise as possible, focusing on the most important highlights and information from the full plan or report.

What is the format of an executive summary?

The format of an executive summary depends greatly on the type of report or proposal. For examples and information about different types of executive summaries, see the references mentioned in the Executive Summary Examples section lower on this page.

Where do you put an executive summary?

An executive summary goes at the beginning or just after the title page if it the entire report is a single document. It can also be included as a separate document or attached with the cover page if the full set of materials consist of many different files or reports.

What to include in an executive summary

The type, purpose and audience of an executive summary can vary greatly. Below are suggested sections and content to include in an executive summary for a business plan or investment proposal.

TIP To make writing your executive summary easier, we've included the following sections and questions within the Executive Summary Template. Feel free to rename and rearrange elements as needed.

Overview - The Quick Pitch

This is a brief section that describes what your business or project is all about. How can you describe your business or project in one compelling sentence?

The Problem

Here is where you describe the problem that you are solving.

  • What is the problem and how big is it?
  • Who is the target audience, who is this problem affecting?
  • Are there currently any solutions to this problem, who is the competition?

The Solution

Here you describe how your business solves the problem for your target audience.

  • How does your business solve the problem?
  • Is it a simple or complex solution?
  • If it is complex, how can you make it simple, or describe it more simply?


Here you can show the most important market analysis and data that captures the potential your solution can have in the marketplace. We recommend pulling the most compelling highlights directly from your plan or proposal. You can also talk about the strengths and advantages of your staff and any partnerships you may have.

Keys to Success

Discuss the main steps necessary for your business to be successful.

  • What is your marketing strategy?
  • What resources will you need? (partnerships, funding, materials)
  • What does your timeline look like?

Financial Highlights

If part of the purpose of your business plan is to seek funding, you may want to dedicate a full section to discuss the funding you currently have and what funding you'll need.

  • What is your 3-year earnings projection?
  • When will you break even?
  • How will investors be repaid?

Executive Summary Examples, Tips and References

The following websites provide examples and information about writing executive summaries for specific purposes. They were also useful references as we prepared the write up for this page.

Executive Summary for Request for Proposals (RFP)

The executive summary for an RFP is the first impression your readers will have of your proposal. It should be concise and highlight the most compelling aspects of your proposal.

Crafting a Powerful Executive Summary at hbs.edu - Focuses on executive summaries written for RFPs, and gives great advice for how to take your executive summary to the next level.

Executive Summary for Business Plans

An executive summary is the first part of a business plan. Its purpose is to summarize your plan and serve as a quick pitch to sell the idea to your investors.

How to Write an Executive Summary at Bplans.com - A great article and video that explains what should go in an executive summary for a business plan, with additional tips when seeking investment and funding.

Executive Summary for Grant Proposals

The first part of a grant proposal is the executive summary, also referred to as a grant "abstract." Its purpose is to summarize your proposal and intrigue the grant reviewer. The end goal being to stand out from other grant proposals to receive funding.

Example Executive Summary for a Grant Proposal at thebalancesmb.com - Great tips and advice along with a sample grant proposal executive summary.

Executive Summary for Project Proposals

It's vitally important that you make the executive summary the highlight of your project proposal. The initial readers of your proposal may not even read the full proposal before deciding whether or not to pass it along for further consideration.

How to Write an Executive Summary for Your Proposal at proposify.com - An excellent guide for writing along with a sample project proposal executive summary.