How to Write an Impressive Needs Statement in Grant Proposal?

The Statement of Need section also referred to as the Purpose of Grant or Problem Statement, is the portion of the grant application where you are asked to describe the project that you seek to fund. In this section, you will explain the reason for the project and its history, key leadership, goals, and implementation strategies. Primarily, in this section, you will describe the problem you seek to address and the unique solution you developed in response to that problem. It is your opportunity to convince the grantor that both the problem exists and that you can solve it with grant funds.

Problem

Whether you are an individual or you represent a nonprofit or business, the basis of your request for financial support lies in a problem that you will address with the awarded funds. Your first task in the Statement of Need section is to describe the issue in a manner that convinces the grantor that your proactive solution is critical. For example, an individual need funds to further their education, a nonprofit requires additional support to expand a program, or a business seeks help to purchase new equipment and aid in business growth.

If you cannot identify a problem, then you do not require funds. A grantor is not likely to fund an application that states. “XYZ’s business thrives, and therefore, XYZ has plenty of resources to accomplish its goals.” You must instead describe your need in a compelling manner, start with a short, impactful summary of the problem, then add the project’s history and use statistics to support your case.

Problem Summary:

It is wise to begin with a short problem summary to set the stage and create an understanding of the problem you face. Imagine someone asks you “What are you trying to accomplish?” how would you respond? A summary of your problem helps grantors to quickly and easily comprehend your issue. Below is a list of problem summary examples depending on your sector.

  • Individual: As a new American whose parents came to the United States in 2000, I am well aware of the struggles to survive in a new land far from home. My parents desired to pursue a brighter future for their kids, and in 2002, they opened a restaurant where they worked tirelessly to provide for our family. Taking after my parents’ example, I work hard to succeed. I am now accepted to attend university as a first-generation college student; however, I cannot participate without the support of scholarships.
  • Nonprofit: “Families living in poverty often suffer the indignities of asking for assistance; clothing, food, and basic need giveaways frequently require families to wait in long lines, fill out numerous forms, and receive a limited selection of items. Panfield Free Food Store provides food, free of cost, through a store-format that allows clients to come in and “shop” for food items that they need and want. Panfield Free Food Store offers families struggling to meet their basic needs, not only nutrition, and provides that nutrition in a manner that honours their dignity. Panfield Free Food Store requires collaborative partners to continue to offer this innovative and respectful program.”
  • Business: “The tri-county region lacks affordable options for individuals to purchase plus-sized clothing; this lack of clothing resources is concerning due to the area’s 78% obesity rate. Allison’s Boutique offers comfortable and affordable clothing options for individuals of all shapes and sizes. Since its inception, Allison’s has experienced rapid business growth as a result of meeting a community need, however, Allison’s now needs to purchase a new storefront and warehouse to keep up with buyer demands.”

Project History:

After describing your problem summary, you should follow-up with more details; grantors want to know the history of your problem and how you determined the problem. Similar to the history of your organization, the project history should highlight critical moments that led to your awareness of the problem. Is this a historic problem for your region or service area or is this a new issue? Describe the problem’s genesis and any important milestones.

Another key aspect of describing the history of your problem is to list how you determined your problem. It is essential to list community partners as well as internal and external stakeholders that you interviewed, as well as other sources that you gathered, to identify the problem.

You may think that the community you live in needs more English as Second Language programs. Still, without interviewing community representatives, you fail to recognize that there are already twenty ESL programs within a five-mile radius. Or, you assume that to alleviate poverty in your community, you must supply families with food, but, when you solicit the opinions of individuals living in poverty, you realize that the real need in your community is a lack of quality education options. If you fail to conduct this research, you risk wasting time and energy on a problem that does not exist.

Statistics:

Statistics

Asking for input from those individuals who will ultimately benefit from your project is one way to indicate that you hold a comprehensive understanding of your stated problem. Another way to convince grantors that you are an authority on your issue is to use statistics to describe your problem. There are many places to find helpful statistics for your proposals.

  • Census.gov: The U.S. Census Bureau “is dedicated to providing current facts and figures about America’s people, places, and economy.” Cesus.gov is the online repository of data collected from the American Community Survey, Census of Governments, Decennial of Population and Housing, Economic Census, and other similar surveys. If you require demographic information, then Census.gov is an excellent place to start.
  • Foundations & Associations: Census data is a useful tool but not a foolproof method of data collection. Many subgroups such as immigrants, people living in poverty, and disabled individuals do not fill out the Census, and therefore their information isn’t reported. Keep this in mind if the statistics you require relate to a vulnerable subgroup. Often Foundations and State Associations will conduct smaller surveys that you might find helpful in this case. For instance, in 2018, the State of Michigan gathered data on Deaf, Deaf Blind, and Hard of Hearing residents in a campaign called Not Without Us. The Not Without Us campaign captured data on a group of individuals who often remain under-represented in Census data.
  • SimplyAnalytics.com: Simply Analytics “is a web-based mapping, analytics, and data visualization application that makes it easy for anyone to create interactive maps, charts, and reports using 100,000+ data variables.” Simply Analytics is an example of a web-based statistical table intended to help individuals and organizations receive the data they require in an easy-to-understand way.
  • Libraries: Whether you make a trip to your local library or use an academic library online search tool, libraries are one of the best places to find scholarly and peer-reviewed articles. Library databases contain hundreds of thousands of articles that allow you to discover research on almost any topic.
  • Scholar.Google.com: A general Google search for your topic may not produce accurate data. However, you can find scholarly articles on Google as you would at a local library by searching at Scholar.Google.com. Be aware, however, that this search method may guide you to sites that require you to pay for full articles. You can likely find the same information for free with a trip to your local library.

Statistics validate your claims, and using them is wise, although make sure to weave your statistics through your proposal with intention. Using too many statistics causes your proposal to become repetitive and confusing for the reader. The two following statements illustrate the importance of using statistics effectively.

Ladders, Inc. moves families towards more sustainable futures in the state of Mississippi. According to the United States Census Bureau, there are 1,323,754 households in the state of Mississippi, as opposed to 137,407,308 in the United States. The poverty rate in Mississippi is 26.9% compared to the United States average of 18.4%. Mississippi residents boast a 68.5% homeownership rate, which is slightly higher than the national average of 63.9%; however, the average household income in Mississippi is significantly lower than the national average at $43,529 in Mississippi and $60,336 in the country as a whole.

VS.

Ladders, Inc. moves families towards more sustainable futures in Mississippi, the state that holds the highest poverty rate in the country. According to the United States Census Bureau, 26.9% of children under eighteen years of age in Mississippi live in poverty; more than one child out of every four.

Choose the most impressive statistics to state your case and leave less essential statistics out. Sometimes it is hard to find statistics to support your work, but more often, it is difficult to narrow down the number of statistics in your proposal. Grant writers are both very passionate about the work that they do and falsely assume that the more statistics a proposal contains, the more convincing it becomes. Finding a balance between using impactful statistics and leaving out unnecessary ones is the goal.

 

Solution

Solution

After you finish describing the problem that your project will solve, it is time to explain your project. In this part of the grant proposal, you will add details such as your theory of change, strategies, and project budget information. Give as many details as possible to further convince the grantor that their money will be put to good use. It is not impressive to only state, “XYZ will use the funds to address absenteeism with high school students.” Neglecting to add more details leaves a grantor wondering how you will accomplish this goal.

Theory of Change:

A theory of change is a short statement that describes your approach to problem-solving and the actions that result in successful impacts. Theory of Change statements, like other tools, indicate intentionality and proactive planning within your project. Instead of haphazardly addressing a problem without a methodology and hoping for the best, a Theory of Change requires careful preparation. Below are examples of Theories of Change by sector.

  • Individual: My goal is to create a brighter future for myself and my future family. Therefore, my Theory of Change is that earning a Bachelor’s degree will increase my social capital through strategic connections and allow me to make roughly 75% higher salaries than I would with only a High School Diploma. Through these circumstances, opportunities will open up, which will allow me to thrive and will significantly impact my family for generations.
  • Nonprofit: The Panfield Free Food Store’s Theory of Change is that when social service agencies remove barriers to basic human needs and offer services that honor the clients’ dignity, then those clients feel more self-empowerment. Furthermore, when individuals feel confident and cared about, then they can engage as active members of society and improve their circumstances.
  • Business: The Theory of Change employed by Allison’s Boutique is that individuals who have well-fitting clothes feel more comfortable and are therefore more successful at work and in the community.

Creating a Theory of Change can vary in formality. Some organizations choose to outline their methodology and key performance indicators in great detail. Theories of Change are most effective when created, much like a strategic plan, with many perspectives and inputs included. A formal and in-depth Theory of Change may or may not be suitable for your proposal, often a short description will be enough to convey a thoughtfulness to your processes and plans.

Strategies:

When describing how your project will address the stated problem, you must include the proposed strategies. Strategies explain the Who, What, Where, and When of your problem.

  • Key Leadership & Collaborative Partners (Who): List the individuals who will be responsible for carrying out the project details so that grantors know that they are qualified to handle the job. Listing staff may look like brief descriptions of their roles, or it may involve attaching team resumes. It is also essential to list any collaborative partners. Are you working with another business or city government? Maybe you plan to implement your project with the help of an educational institution or with our grantors. If so, list those entities so that the grantor has a full understanding of the current support of the project.
  • Activities (What): Identify the activities you will engage in to achieve your goals. For example: “XYZ will conduct three art workshops; different artists will lead each workshop and will focus on different forms of art.”
  • Location (Where): Detail where the activities will take place so that grantors can visualize the project. “XYZ will hold the three art workshops at the community college to provide adequate space for larger art expressions.”
  • Timeline (When): Additionally, outline the activities within the context of a timeline. If you propose a project that will last six months, make sure to describe the actions you will take in each month.
JanuaryRecruit, screen, and on-board three artists who will lead the workshops.
FebruaryRequest supply lists from artists and purchase necessary materials and market workshops within the community.
MarchLead first workshop, conduct evaluation by means of a participant survey, purchase materials for the second workshop.
AprilLead second workshop, conduct evaluation by means of a participant survey, purchase materials for the third workshop.
MayLead third workshop, conduct evaluation by means of a participant survey and feedback from the community college.
JuneCompile feedback and participant surveys and conduct a S.W.O.T analysis to determine efficacy.

Project Budget:

Project Budget

Usually, the last information you will outline in the Statement of Need section is the project budget. If you represent a nonprofit or business, this budget is separate from your organizational budget. This section is the area where you will describe how you will use the awarded funds. Make sure to allocate each dollar that you request from the grantor. If you require $25,000 and then only list a project budget of $10,000, the grantor will wonder how you will spend the remaining $15,000 or worse they will assume you do not need the additional money.

Grantors very rarely cover administrative expenses; they often prefer to fund only project costs. Listing administrative costs like salaries and overhead fees will usually result in a reduction of overall funds awarded or a denial of your proposal. Still, there are ways to include some of those funds. For instance, you should not list “Office Space Rent and Utilities-$6,000,” but if 25% of your project coordination will occur at your office, you can include that $1,500 as program costs. The same rule applies for salaries; you should not indicate that an entire person’s salary will be a cost of the program, but you can list the percentage of the salary based on the time the staff member spends on the program. Use the following template or a similar format to describe your project budget.

Revenue

SourceSecuredAnticipatedTotal Revenue
Government$$$
Foundations$$$
Corporations$$$
Individuals$$$
In-Kind$$$
Earned Income$$$
Other$$$
Total$$$

Expenses

Line ItemRequested from the GrantorFunded by Other SourcesTotal Expenses
Salaries & Benefits$$$
Consultant & Professional Fees$$$
Insurance$$$
Travel$$$
Equipment$$$
Program Supplies$$$
Printing and Copying$$$
Utilities$$$
Postage$$$
Evaluation$$$
Other$$$
Total$$$

 

Example

The following example of a Statement of Need continues the proposal by Disability Connection, Inc. In this section, DC outlines its specific request for $75,000 to implement a new program. The example will highlight how to achieve the suggestions above, but remember that this Statement of Need is short since it is an illustration.

Statement of Need

Disability Connection seeks $75,000 to implement a seed grant program for educational institutions that wish to apply new accommodations.

Throughout DC’s fourteen years of operations, the most significant barrier for educational institutions that prevents them from implementing recommended accommodation adjustments or additions is funding. Twenty-eight percentage of DC’s partnering Institutions report that they lack the necessary resources to implement the changes despite desires to increase support for disabled students. DC will develop a seed grant program that will offer partnering institutions the necessary funds to begin changes. A collaboration between the Turney Foundation and Disability Connection, Inc. will address our shared priorities of supporting both children with disabilities and educational institutions.

Project History:

During DC’s 2005-2009, 2010-2014, and 2015-2019 strategic planning processes, the Disability Connection, Inc. identified a consistent trend that negatively impacts the ability for schools to implement significant changes to the accommodations they provided for children with disabilities. The pattern was that more than a quarter of the partnering institutions finished the program evaluation and design consultations with DC with positive intentions to increase accommodations but ultimately lacked the financial resources to realize their plans.

In 2018 DC conducted a study group with 100 partnering institutions, which represented a broad cross-section regarding their respective abilities to implement the improvement plans. The study group members met once a quarter for a year to discuss potential avenues for support, during which time they interviewed external stakeholders like school district representatives and state and local government partners.

As a result of these conversations, the study-group presented a report that outlined the problem and recommended a solution. According to the report, in almost all cases, when institutions lacked the necessary resources to implement their improvement plans, they all approached school districts and local governments to receive additional funding. Likewise, nearly all outside stakeholders were reluctant to award additional funds due to a lack of trust in the potential impacts.

The study group determined that if DC awarded partnering institutions seed grants to begin the improvement plans, then additional support would likely materialize after the institutions could prove the efficacy of the adjustments.

Project Details:

The Disability Connection’s Theory of Change aligns with the study-group’s report. If partnering institutions can prove the initial impacts of their improved accommodations, then they will be able to develop new funding sources to continue to make necessary changes and impact more children with disabilities.

The Disability Connection’s Seed Grant program will accomplish the following goals:

  1. Administer grants to 20 participating institutions within 6 months.
  2. Increase the number of partnering institutions able to implement improvement plans by 20 institutions within 6 months.
  3. Provide educational accommodations for 1,250 students with disabilities within 12 months.
  4. Increase external support for 20 partnering institutions within 12 months.
  5. Increase quality of life for 1,250 within 12 months.
  • Key Leadership: The Disability Connection, Inc. will recruit and hire a skilled program officer to spearhead the new seed grant program. DC received the funds for this position from a group of five major donors committed to the new initiative. DC will intentionally invite disabled professionals to apply for the position and will develop a detailed job description for the role. The Seed Grant Program Officer will report to the DC Senior Program Director, Amy Lee, whose resume is attached.

The Disability Connection. Inc. received previous notification of support from the Kace Foundation, who awarded $75,000 to DC as a matching grant for Seed Grant program support.

  • Activities: The Disability Connection, Inc. will hire a program officer whose responsibilities will include promoting the new initiative and managing applications. With the support of a volunteer grant committee, the program officer will recommend potential institutions for funding. DC plans to award twenty partnering institutions with $7,500 each to implement aspects of their improvement plans. Applicants must have completed the DC program evaluation and design process aided by DCEDA 2.0. The initial funding for the seed grant program will last twelve months, during which time DC will evaluate the program’s success and raise additional funds to support the continuation of the project.
  • Location: The program officer will work remotely to increase the pool of potential applicants for the position. Still, they will meet with the Senior Program Officer and partnering institutions regularly by phone and video conferencing. Awarded institutions will implement their improvement plans across the country at their various locations with the help of the seed grant funds.

 

Conclusion

The purpose of the Statement of Need section is to detail for the grantor how your project will solve a problem. Make sure to include comprehensive information that paints of picture of what the program will look like when funded. Also, make sure to use statistics to support your case but use them in a way that validates a claim without belaboring the point. Use the following format as a guide:

  • Problem Summary
  • Project History
  • Theory of Change
  • Strategies
    • Key Leadership
    • Activities
    • Location
    • Timeline
  • Project Budget