Grant Geek

5 Elements of a Winning Needs Statement


The needs statement for a grant proposal is the portion of your grant application where you outline the community need that you are proposing to solve. This section is not about HOW you’re going to solve a problem but WHAT the problem is. To make sure your needs statement is clear, comprehensive and compelling, include these five elements.

Link your program to the funder’s agenda

Funders have very clear objectives for how their money is spent. Before you start writing your needs statement, it’s important to educate yourself about the purpose of the grant program and what the funder wants to do with the money. As you write your needs statement, make sure the needs you’re addressing are closely aligned to the funder’s goals.

What is the main problem?

There are undoubtedly a lot of needs within your community that are tied to the problem your program is trying to address. In your needs statement, focus on the one main problem, not all the smaller issues that contribute. For example, there are hundreds of reasons people are homeless. If you’re seeking funds for a job training program, your needs statement should focus on the fact that two large manufacturing facilities have closed in the past five years, the number of construction projects have declined, and a warehouse facility recently relocated to another state. There may be other problems contributing to rising homelessness in your community but things like lack of mental health services, housing shortages, high costs of health care, etc. are secondary to the problem you’re trying to solve.

Use data and trends

A strong needs statement will make use of the most recent data from census numbers and federal and state statistics to give reviewers a snapshot of your community and the need you’re trying to address. For example, the fact that the number of immigrant children has risen by 25% in your state could demonstrate a need for more ESL teachers and training. Show that the situation is happening right now and build a sense of urgency around the issue.

Using multiple years of data you can show a trend of declining test scores or an increase in juvenile offenders. Another powerful source of data is surveys or community data gathering that your agency has done. Multiple years of personal reviews and surveys will reveal a very real and accurate picture of what is trending in your area. Trend data can be used to highlight the likely continuance of the problem if your program is not funded.

Paint a picture

Do not get so caught up in your data that the heart and soul of your story and the people with the need you’re trying to address, gets lost. You want to paint a vibrant picture of your community, the people your agency serves, and the challenges those people face. You want the reader to feel compelled to read the entire application and learn how you are going to make a sustainable impact.

Solve the problem

After clearly identifying the problem, the need and the gaps in your community, you’ll want to end your needs statement with a strong statement about how your agency plans to address the problems at hand. This provides a smooth transition to the next section of your proposal and should leave the reviewer engaged enough to wonder “How are they going to pull this off?”

After a reviewer reads your needs statement, they should understand the issues and problems well enough, to easily explain them to someone else. While the needs statement is just a small portion of your grant application, it’s critical to setting the stage and convincing funders that your agency has a strong and urgent need for support, so that you can solve the problems at hand.

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If you’re unsure if your needs statement is compelling enough, the grant experts at Resource Associates are happy to provide a technical review. We can also write your entire grant proposal using our proven methodology. Consultations are always free so get in touch today!

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