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How to Write a Need Statement for Your Grant Proposal

Match the Need to the Interests of the Grantor


The need statement of your grant proposal is where you may want to start writing your proposal since it answers the question: What is the need that my organization will address? Winning Grants Step by Step, by Carlson and O'Neal-McElrath, provides a wonderful outline to preparing an effective need statement. (Jossey-Bass, 2008, Third Edition)

According to the authors of Winning Grants, the need statement is fundamentally important since this is where the funder will agree or not agree that the proposed project meets an important societal need. Characterized by both quantitative data and stories (qualitative data) that illustrate the need you propose to address, the need statement is really the key to unlocking the door of your grantor's interest.

What Is in a Need Statement?

  • The need you address must be clearly related to your nonprofit's mission and purpose.
  • It should focus on those people you serve, rather than your organization's needs.
  • It should be well supported with evidence such as statistical facts, expert views, and trends.
  • It must be directly connected to, and substantiate, your organization's ability to respond to that need.
  • It must be easily digestible. Use the KISS principle (keep it sweet and simple). Avoid jargon and make it easy for the reader to get what you are saying.
  • It should avoid circular reasoning, a common error in grant proposals. The Foundation Center defines circular reasoning as the presentation of the absence of your solution as that actual problem. Then your solution is offered as the way to solve the problem. For example, "The problem is that we have no senior center in our community. Building a senior center will solve the problem."

How to Write It

Winning Grants provides these suggestions for writing your needs statement:
  1. Use statistics that are clear and that support your argument.
  2. Use comparative statistics and research. Citing a community that did something similar to your proposal and its beneficial results makes a strong case for your proposed actions.
  3. Quote authorities on your topic. Include names and the sources so the information can be verified.
  4. Document all your data. If you collect data from the Internet, be sure the websites you reference are reputable and the links are current.
  5. Use stories but anchor those stories in the bedrock of hard data. A well-supported need statement that also includes effective stories is a winner.
  6. Provide a sense of urgency. Help the funder understand why the funding is important now.
Page 2 - Sample Needs Statement
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