How to Write a Compelling Need Statement for Your Grant Proposal

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Before giving you funding for a grant proposal, a benefactor has to be convinced that your project fulfills a pressing need. They need to be assured of its importance both practically and passionately.

That balance can be difficult to master. But it can be done by writing a document that serves as the rational and philosophical center of your proposal: the statement of need.

What Is a Statement of Need in a Grant Proposal?

The need statement serves as a direct definition of the situation, problem, or issue that your project addresses or solves. It spells out the situation to the foundation or agency staff who are ultimately responsible for issuing the grant.

The needs statement is the primary driver of your grant proposal. It explains the problem at hand, its effect on the community, the benefits of solving it, and the ramifications of not solving it.

Oftentimes, the needs statement is the starting point for the grant proposal. Before the grant writer sets out what they want to do, it’s helpful to understand the depth of the problem they want to address. The needs statement establishes the context for the whole proposal.

Why is a need statement for a grant proposal important? Quite simply, it tells potential funders why they should care about the issue. A good needs statement inspires benefactors to be agents of change. It makes them want to take some responsibility for improving the lives of others.

But first, funders have to be convinced that the issue is important to solve — and that the grant will help to solve it. 

What Makes a Compelling Needs Statement for a Grant Proposal?

The needs statement is a combination of data and insight that appeals to both intellect and emotion — in other words, it addresses both the mind and the heart. An effective needs statement navigates that balance to create a riveting narrative.

A successful needs statement has a few necessary components:

Facts

What is the current situation that your proposed grant addresses? Explain it in detail. For example, your community may have a problem with teenage crime, and you believe building a youth recreation center will help ease the problem. Describe the known facts and current status of the issue at hand.

Stories

Tell the stories of the person or group most affected by the situation. What have they experienced as a result of this problem? How has it affected them and their families on a personal and measurable basis? A few real-life accounts go a long way in spelling out the impact of the problem.

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Data

Funders want to see evidence. They need to have real, comparative, and current data that shows how the problem is affecting the community. They also need comparative data that shows how your solution will work, or how similar solutions have worked in other communities. 

This data should be quantitative and quantitative — both hard numbers and reasoned interpretations.

A well-written needs statement organizes all these elements in a clear, concise, and logical way. It can’t be too aspirational or unprovable — it must be comprehensible and realistic, while being interesting and engaging for the general readership. 

What Should a Need Statement for a Grant Proposal Include?

Here’s how to write a statement of need and every element it must cover.

Project Name

Your project should have a captivating name or title that creates interest on a wide scale. This doesn’t have to be the first thing you do, but it should be the first thing listed on your needs statement.

Start Date

When will the project launch? Try to be precise -- to the exact date, if possible.

Problem Description

Explain the underlying problem you’re concerned about — what is the situation you want to fix? It could be anything from a sidewalk in disrepair to a rise in violent crime or a local housing shortage.

Who’s Affected by the Problem or Need?

Funders will want to know the people who are suffering the most from this issue — who are they? How are they connected to the problem, and what effect has it had on their lives? Describe the people who hold the highest stakes in solving the issue.

Problem Implications

Tell about what will happen if the problem is not resolved. What or who will suffer the most and exactly how will it impact the community? This point will likely need real-world, comparative data to back up your assertion.

Potential Roadblocks or Challenges

It’s important to be upfront with prospective funders about what could go wrong with your project — everything from schedule conflicts and equipment shortages to public resistance and difficult approval processes. The grantor may even have ideas on how to overcome these challenges.

Sense of Urgency

Why does this solution need to happen now? Why can’t it wait another minute? A good needs statement will convey why the project should be a top priority but won’t be melodramatic or exaggerated.

Potential Outcome

What will be the result if your proposal is accepted, and work is completed? What tangible benefits will occur, and how will lives improve? This may be the most important factor in lining up financing — it’s the result your benefactor wants to see come from their gift.

Real-World Examples

The problem you’re trying to solve may seem unique to your locality — but chances are other communities have faced very similar problems and found ways to solve them. Find anecdotal examples that show how your solution has worked in real life.

Statistics and Data

Where possible, every element in this section should be backed up by hard data. It should be extensively documented, clearly explained, and easily verifiable. 

Foundations and charitable organizations have missions uppermost in their minds — but they’re also businesses. All businesses thrive and survive on data and research. With this in mind, you’ll want to have as much data as they can digest to support your case. 

Tips for Writing a Need Statement for a Grant Proposal

Here are a few guidelines for writing an effective statement of need.

Write for a General Audience

You should keep the reviewer in mind as your target audience. But aim to make your statement understandable to anyone who may be interested in the issue. To that end, avoid using jargon or “insider” language in your statement — spell out unfamiliar terms or acronyms.

Assume the Reviewer Isn’t Familiar With Your Situation

No matter how much experience the reviewer may have with issues like yours, assume they don’t. Explain your story in detail, outlining the causes and conditions that have led to the problem you want to solve.

Appeal to the Heart — But Rely on the Facts

A needs statement needs to reflect a tricky balance between emotions and intellect. While you should make a case that resounds on a personal level, let rationality drive your efforts. Avoid over-editorializing or sentimentalizing the issue — just explain how your solution will work. 

Conclusion

The statement of need is the inspirational core of your entire grant proposal and the project it serves. Search for examples of need statements that have worked for other organizations and use them to create your own compelling mission statement and plan.

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About Fundid 

Fundid is on a mission to get women-owned businesses the capital they need to grow so that we can all close the business wealth gap. While 42% of businesses in the US are owned by women, they only account for 4% of revenue generated by private businesses.  We spend our time at Fundid thinking about what the world would look like if women also generated 42% of revenue and how to get them the capital they need to make that happen. Fundid is creating new ways to get small businesses the capital they need to grow and is built from the feedback of women entrepreneurs.