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This post is one of a series about what goes into proposals that win grants. Its topic is proposal abstracts. Its context is the United States of America.


An abstract is a summary of key elements of a grant proposal. Nearly every funder’s proposal solicitation requires an abstract or an executive summary. Funders’ instructions to applicants often specify the topics that it must cover. Many funders also indicate the abstract’s required length and format.




Elements required in the content of an abstract often include:

  1. Population served and its location
  2. Objectives and strategies
  3. Partner organizations (if any)
  4. Anticipated outcomes or expected results
  5. Amount of funding requested
  6. Applicant’s contribution of funding


Instructions for the format of an abstract often include:

  1. Number of pages – usually one page
  2. Type and size of font – often 12-point Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman
  3. Length – often limited to 200 to 250 words
  4. Line spacing – frequently single-spaced throughout (unlike the narrative)
  5. Width of margins – typically one inch on all sides
  6. Proposal identifiers – usually only the project title and program name
  7. Contact information – often for the applicant organization and its primary contact person


An abstract can create a strong first impression for proposal reviewers and funding decision makers. Applicants need to set aside enough time to make it compelling and make it count.


Write the abstract as one of the last steps in writing the proposal. Write it after finishing the narrative even though abstracts typically precede the narrative in a table of contents.



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