You would think, with this being the age of "all information available" via the Internet, that it would be so much easier to develop a compelling statement of need when you are writing a grant proposal. But in truth, it has become much harder.
With so much information available, how do you know which reports, statistics, or quotes to use to build a compelling case for support? Where do you look for the best data you can find? Where do you even begin to build a strong statement of need?
All need statements answer these four very basic questions:
- What is the problem that requires a solution?
- What will happen if this problem is not addressed?
- What is the gap between what exists now and what ought to be?
- Why do we need funding now to address this problem?
It will focus your research if you keep all four of these questions in mind as you dive into the task of writing a strong statement of need.
Tip! I actually write these four questions out and keep them on the wall of my office when I am writing a proposal. This keeps me on track.
Unearthing the True Need
Evidence and data are essential tools if you want to develop a strong case for support. The data you present must be relatively objective, however. While most people would say the evidence they present to support their need is objective, it's very easy to skew data—even if it is not intentional.
Consider this scenario:
Your nonprofit runs an afterschool program that is a bit stagnant. The program is maintaining its funding, but the outcomes, the results, are just so-so. The board of directors is beginning to question whether or not the program is having any appreciable impact, and you are sure it won't be long until the funders start to question this as well.
The program needs a makeover, and the director of the afterschool program proposes changes based on her experience.
A funding opportunity comes along, and there is a scramble to collect the data to support a proposed program makeover. Finding the data to support your statement of need isn't all that hard, because the solution to the problem (weak outcomes) has already been determined. You decide to develop a survey of your stakeholders to gather the information you need to generate the statement of need. In fact, the questions you develop are, at this point, actually biased to support your new plan of action.
So, what is wrong with this approach?
The problem with this approach is that, despite the best intentions, your statement of need will now be based almost entirely on the observations and experiences of a few people. It is in-built, a natural progression from an existing program, not truly data-driven!
The potential pitfalls in using a planning process like the one described above is that many individuals who review proposals on a regular basis look for this kind of documentation.
They know it is an easy pitfall for many an organization, not to mention the grantwriter, so you want to stay far away from this kind of reasoning. Instead, go after the documentation that will build a powerful, objective case for support that results in a plan of action that truly attacks the basic premise of your problem or need.
When you develop a need statement, you have to be aware that you are not only documenting the problem or need that is facing society but you are also demonstrating that the approach you propose is built on a solid understanding of that problem.
The need you are presenting, the need you are documenting and sharing with the grantmaker, is what I call a "true" need.
Remember, your overall goal is to convince the grantmaker that the information you are presenting in your statement of need is both accurate and credible, and that the resulting program or project you are asking them to fund is the best way to address this need.
If this topic interests you, I am offering a 90-minute webinar called The Golden Key to Grantwriting as a free gift if you join GrantStation over the holidays! You can learn more about this offer by going to GrantStation.
The preceding is a guest post by Cynthia Adams, CEO of GrantStation, a premiere online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world. Providing access to a comprehensive online database of grantmakers, GrantStation helps nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies make smarter, better-informed grantseeking decisions. GrantStation is dedicated to creating a civil society by assisting the nonprofit sector in its quest to build healthy and effective communities.