How to Write a Need Statement For Grants

Do you have kids?

Have you ever heard a kid tell his mom or dad in the grocery store, “I NEED this” referring to some worthless toy or candy bar?

Did you laugh to yourself thinking, they don’t actually need that. We all need things such as food, shelter, and a place to sleep, but we don’t need a candy bar.

In grant writing we also talk about a need. We talk about how and why we need funds. I’m referring to the need statement. The need statement is your attempt to identify and describe precisely what situation needs attention and why. The need statement is an analysis of the problem or situation. It also provides a sense of urgency that the need must be attended to immediately.

The Need Drives The Application

The need statement is the central idea for the grant application and it drives the entire application from start to finish..

What do I mean by “drives the application”?

The need statement is at the core of your proposal because if there is no need, then there is no grant, no program, no organization, and no project. Furthermore, the way you paint a picture of the need directly corresponds to your solution for the need (i.e. the project that you are proposing).

For instance, let’s say that you are an organization wanting to build an interactive art museum for kids in your community. The need is this:

Kids who have creative opportunities when they are young are more successful in the future—they get better grades, show more problem solving skills, go to college, and get better jobs as adults. Recently art has been cut in elementary schools and we have no other places in the community that offer interactive, creative opportunities for kids. Therefore, we are going to build an interactive art museum for children to come foster creativity. We will provide a vast array of art supplies as well as an art instructor who will help the children come up with art projects. Furthermore, we have partnered with the local schools to encourage the kids to come visit the art museum. They will receive extra recess time each month if they can make it to the art museum at least 2 times during the month.

So, in the example above, the core NEED is a place for kids to develop creativity.

Then, we discuss other important aspects of the need such as what effect the need has on children, why it is important, and what the solution is:

  • We mention that the usual place to learn and create (school), is no longer offering art classes.
  • We also discuss the longterm problems if there are no places for these kids to develop creativity (they will not be as successful in the future compared to their creative counterparts).
  • And, finally, we discuss our solution: build an interactive art museum and encourage kids to go.

Now that we have gone through a basic need statement, let’s dive into the bulk of the article.

In this article we are going to learn how to write a strong need statement.

You will…

  • Learn how to assess the need
  • Practice writing a need statement
  • Learn tips on how to improve your need statement

Also, be sure to download the workbook! That way you can follow along as we go!

Assessing the Need

Before you begin writing a grant, it is important to assess the need. This is researching the problem or situation.

The goal is to find enough information about the problem or situation that you can tell the funder what the issue is, the size of the issue and the timelines of the issue.

Here are 4 ways you can assess the need:

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is an extension of Google, but when you search on Google Scholar, only peer reviewed, academic papers will come up in the results.

Why is it important to have peer reviewed, academic papers as the basis of your research?

The fact that an article was peer reviewed means that a board of scholarly reviewers from a publication have reviewed the article and found quality research.

So.

Let’s say that we are researching adoption in third world countries. If we just hopped onto google and searched “adoption in third world countries” we might come up with thousands of peoples’ personal views about the topic. One person might say that there are tons of kids that need to be adopted and another might say that we should only adopt kids from our own country. Neither of these are very helpful in assessing the size and scope of the issue because they aren’t hard facts. (Personal opinions do matter in grant writing, but you don’t want an opinion to be the base of your need statement)

Now let’s say we do the same search on Google Scholar.

We come up with articles that have actual data about adoption in third world countries. They have statistics about how many adoptions take place, how many children are in the adoption system, etc. You can use these statistics to tell the grantor exactly how large the issue is (e.g. there are X amount of children in developing countries who are in orphanages and X% of them will never be adopted).

University Library

Not everyone has access to a university library, but if you do, you have a whole treasure trove full of useful data and information. Every university has a slightly different way for you to research and find peer-reviewed articles that would be helpful in assessing the need, so you’ll have to ask how their research system works.

That being said, searching a University library similar to searching on Google Scholar. The goal is to find peer reviewed, academic research about your topic of interest.

News Articles

Once you have a foundation of peer-reviewed articles to back up and explain the scope and size of the need, you can start looking at useful news articles. News articles can show that this issue needs attention right now. In other words, news articles and show the timeliness of your grant application.

For example, let’s say you are working on a project to help mitigate violence among inner city kids in Illinois. You read in the news that more and more kids are joining gangs and that gang problems are at an all-time high. This would be a great news article to help show the funder that they should fund your program right now, as violence and gang issues are at an all-time high, rather than next year… or never.

Personal Experience

Never underestimate your personal experiences (and the personal experiences of those you help) in grant applications. Personal experiences can add a whole new level of urgency in a grant application because here is this individual, this is their story, and if the grantor doesn’t fund your project they won’t get the medicine that they need, etc.

For example, I worked with an orphanage a few years ago and there was this little boy who was severely neglected and abused by his biological parents. He was in desperate need of a good, caring home. One day a good family came to adopt this child, but they ended up not having enough money to finish the adoption process. In response, the orphanage decided they would like to start a program to help families like that. Good families who wanted to adopt, but didn’t have the money to do so. Sharing this one child’s story in the grant application could really touch a funder and convince them to fund the project.

How to Write a Need Statement

Now that we have researched the need, we are ready to try writing the need statement.

The need statement can seem a little tricky because there isn’t a section on grant applications that says, “Need Statement.”

Instead, it is your duty as the grant writer, to weave the need statement throughout the entire grant application.

You want the funder to see the need immediately (at the very beginning of the application), and have it carry them all the way to the end.

Right now we are going to write a need statement in one piece, but remember, in the final draft of your grant application it will be weaved throughout the whole thing.

I think of the need statement as a persuasive story. You are trying to tell the funder the story of your organization and your cause in a way that persuades them to fund your project.

Questions to Answer in the Need Statement

  • What problem are you addressing in your organization or program?
  • The need statement explains the importance or severity of the issue, problem, or opportunity that your organization is addressing.
  • When writing a grant application, it is important to explain to the funder what the problem is, and why they should pay attention to it.
  • Why is the issue you are addressing important to you and to the larger community and society?
  • Why should this funder pay attention to this problem?
  • How would solving this issue help those affected?
  • How would solving this issue help the larger community and society?
  • Why is the issue that you are addressing important RIGHT NOW? Why should the funder fund your proposal this time, rather than at a later date?
  • Why should the issue you are addressing be addressed NOW?
  • What information do you have to back up the issue, or need?
  • Do you have research to back up the need?
  • Do you have stories from the field that show the need?

Example Steps of Writing a Need Statement

Since there is no “Need Statement” section on a grant application, your need statements will probably be different in every grant that you write.

That being said, here is an example of the progression of a need statement:

Step 1: State the big picture of the need

Step 2: Describe the portion of the need that your organization can address

Step 3: Describe what would happen if the need is not addressed

Step 4: Tell the funder your proposed solution to the problem (your project) and why it will help

Step 5: Tell the funder why the need is timely (why it needs immediate attention)

As an example, lets go back to the art museum from the first part of this article:

Kids who have creative opportunities when they are young are more successful in the future—they get better grades, show more problem solving skills, go to college, and get better jobs as adults. Recently art has been cut in elementary schools and we have no other places in the community that offer interactive, creative opportunities for kids. Therefore, we are going to build an interactive art museum for children to come foster creativity. We will provide a vast array of art supplies as well as an art instructor who will help the children come up with art projects. Furthermore, we have partnered with the local schools to encourage the kids to come visit the art museum. They will receive extra recess time each month if they can make it to the art museum at least 2 times during the month.

This initial need statement has some of the steps I just mentioned, but not all of them. So, let’s revise.

Step 1: State the Big Picture

More and more schools are taking out opportunities for children to develop and practice creativity, a crucial skill for children to learn.

Step 2: Describe the Portion of the Need That Your Organization Can Address

In our community 9 of the 12 elementary schools have completely cut the budget for art and music.

Step 3: What Would Happen if the Need is not Addressed

Music and art are imperative for the development of creativity in children. But, why is creativity important? Creativity is linked to earning better grades in school, showing more problem solving skills, having less aggression, and getting better jobs as adults. Thus, we are looking at more delinquency, lower academic achievement, and fewer college graduates if we do not immediately create opportunities for these children in our community to develop and practice creativity.

Step 4: Proposed Solution

We are proposing to build an interactive art museum for the children in the community. We will provide a vast array of art supplies as well as an art instructor who will help the children come up with art projects. Furthermore, we have partnered with the local schools to encourage the kids to come visit the art museum. They will receive extra recess time each month if they can make it to the art museum at least 2 times during the month.

Step 5: Why Your Solution is Timely

If we don’t begin on this project immediately we will miss out on helping a whole cohort of children. We depend on these children to grow up and become meaningful members of our community, but if they do not receive the creative opportunities that they need to develop, then they are less likely to be successful citizens in the future.

There you have it!

We just went through the 5 steps of writing a need statement. You can now take time to write one for your own organization.

But, before we go, I want to share with you a couple of tips about how to improve your need statement.

Tips—How to Improve the Need Statement

First of all, get to know the funder.

The more you know the funder, the more you can write persuasively. Essentially, you know what buttons to push.

Are they more likely to respond to numbers? There are 1.3 million people that need to be helped, and you can help 25,000 of them?

Are they more likely to respond to a story? Little Natasha has been homeless for 3 years and is yearning to go to primary school so that she can eventually get a job to help raise her 5 younger siblings.

Or, are they driven by something else?

Secondly, study storytelling and persuasive writing.

I can’t emphasize the importance of these two things enough. Grant writing, in my opinion is NOT technical writing. It is purely persuasive storytelling. You won’t get your grant funded unless you are persuasive, and you won’t get your grant funded unless you tell a story about the problem or situation that needs to be addressed.

It

JUST.

WON’T.

WORK.

 

 

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