Why is the Needs Section of a grant proposal so critical? Because this is where you snag the reviewers’ attention and prove why your organization is a worthy recipient of their funds. A good Needs Section is truly the difference between getting funded or having your proposal tossed in the slush pile. The elements of a successful Needs Section include: (1) Definition of the Problem; (2) Facts and Stats; (3) Cause, Symptoms and Effect; (4) Urgency and Proposed Solution.
1. Definition of the Problem
Your organization should have a clear, strong mission and purpose that are reflected in the opening paragraphs of your Needs Section. They should focus on the demographic you serve, as opposed to the needs of your organization. Tie them into the current situation. Be direct and specific in your identification of the problem(s) as they currently exist in your geographic area and clarify whether the issue(s) are local, regional, statewide or on a national level. The most important thing here – what reviewers want to know – is how the issues affect your local population. State and federal stats are relatively easy to come by, but you have intimate knowledge of your community that reviewers are not likely privy to. Get personal. Details and local anecdotes illicit “the goose bump factor” in reviewers, which means you have struck both a nerve, and their attention.
2. Facts and Stats
In order to solve a problem, you have to identify it first. Don’t assume the reader(s) of your proposal know anything about your community or the issues. Be specific and brief as possible, and realistically portray the issues. Some applicants don’t want to focus on the difficult aspects because they feel it may reflect negatively upon them, their organization, or community. It’s important to put your ego and fears aside and lay out the problem as it exists. If things look too rosy, reviewers will wonder why you’re applying! However, at the same time, don’t dwell on the negative and portray the need as too overwhelming to solve.
Gather all relevant information to begin the writing process, which may include studies, statistics, program evaluations, copies of prior grant applications, reviewers’ notes, annual reports and meeting minutes. Stats should be current, relevant and local, while also being tied into the bigger picture). This information will include (but is not limited to): number of people who will participate / benefit from the program; ethnicity, gender and education level; stats on factors leading to the problem (ie: poverty, drugs, gang activity, etc.). Good sources for this info include the U.S. Census Bureau and Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Bottom Line: Reviewers can smell “sloppy copy” a mile away. Ensure all statements are well-researched and based on fact, with citations where necessary.
3. Cause, Symptoms and Effect
To make your Needs Section strong, describe another community that faced issues similar to yours, with a successful outcome. Outline the origins of the problem (cause), what it looked / felt like (symptoms), and the state of affairs at the time of the grant application (effect). Describe that community’s proposed solution and the subsequent outcomes. Doing this will provide credibility and validation to the project you’re proposing. Reviewers will likely have more confidence in your application if there has been success in similar projects. Also, be sure to quote experts and compelling studies, when relevant, which will add even more credibility.
4. Urgency and Solution
Another great tactic is to immediately weave your community supporters and coalitions into the Needs narrative. Reference them by name, include them when you speak of community meetings, assessments, planning and participation. They should come from a varied community demographic – from agencies / organizations helping to execute the program, to individuals and groups that will benefit. A vested, community team effort shows urgency, strength, purpose and momentum.
Final Thoughts: Questions to ask yourself before you declare your Needs Section complete:
- Does the need coincide with my organization’s purpose and goals?
- Do I have documented evidence to include?
- Does my proposal have solid “goose bumps” potential?
- Is my Needs Section a stand-alone document?
- Have I done at least three edits on my Needs Section?
- Have I followed the RFP’s format requirements?
- Have I included headers and sub-headers, where appropriate, to make it an easier read?
- Have I given it to someone else to read and critique?
For additional information on how to create a compelling Needs Section, please join us for…
- Webinar entitled: Advanced Grant Proposal Writing: The Proposal Needs Section: Exemplary Tips, Techniques and Examples.