Developing A Needs Statement

Posted by John O'Malley on March 22, 2013

Here are some tips:

• Don’t assume the funder knows much about your subject area. Most grantmaking staffs are generalists. They will probably know something about topics like Shakespeare, water pollution and HIV/AIDS, but you should not assume that they are familiar with "Troilus and Cressida," taconite disposal methods or Kaposi’s sarcoma. If your topic is complex, you might add an informative article or suggest some background reading.

• Why is this situation important? To whom did your organization talk, or what research did you do, to learn about the issue and decide how to tackle it?

• Describe the situation in both factual and human interest terms, if possible. Providing good data demonstrates that your organization is an expert in the field. If there are no good data on your issue, consider doing your own research study, even if it is simple.

• Describe your issue in as local a context as possible. If you want to educate people in your county about HIV/AIDS, tell the funder about the epidemic in your county -- not in the United States as a whole.

• Describe a problem that is about the same size as your solution. Don’t draw a dark picture of nuclear war, teen suicide and lethal air pollution ifyou are planning a modest neighborhood arts program for children.

• Don’t describe the absence of your project as the problem. "We don’t have enough beds in our battered women’s shelter" is not the problem. The problem is increased levels of domestic violence. More shelter beds is a solution.



                 – State the Problem

                 – State the cause of the problem

                – State the long-term consequences if no intervention/solution occurs


Developing the Needs Statement

1.   Choose facts and statistics that best support the project.

2.  Give the reader hope.


3.  Determine whether it is reasonable to portray the need as acute.

Is the funder paying more attention to your proposal because either the problem you address is worse than others or the solution you propose makes more sense than others?


4. Decide whether you can demonstrate that your program addresses the need differently or better than other projects that preceded it.

If possible, you should make it clear that you are cognizant of, and on good terms with, others doing work in your field. Keep in mind that today's funders are very interested in collaboration. They may even ask why you are not collaborating with those you view as key competitors.


5.  Avoid circular reasoning.

In circular reasoning, you present the absence of your solution as the actual problem. Then your solution is offered as the way to solve the problem. For example, the circular reasoning for building a community swimming pool might go like this: "The problem is that we have no pool in our community. Building a pool will solve the problem." A more persuasive case would cite what a pool has meant to a neighboring community, permitting it to offer recreation, exercise, and physical therapy programs. The statement might refer to a survey that underscores the target audience's planned usage of the facility and conclude with the connection between the proposed usage and potential benefits to enhance life in the community.


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