Preparing a successful need statement for grant proposal

Published 6:11 pm Friday, September 23, 2011

In the last article we shared steps for developing the executive summary. In this article we will continue to talk about the steps for writing a successful grant, but focusing on the first step of the proposal – the need statement.

Since the need statement is the first part of the proposal it sets the theme and tone for the entire grant proposal letting the funder know exactly why it is important to fund your program.

Let’s start by talking about what is in a need statement. First and foremost you want to ensure the need statement is directly related to your organization’s mission. In other words why does your organization exist?

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Second, the need statement should always focus on the people or constituents you serve instead of your organization’s needs. The need statement also should be well supported through statistics, expert studies and/or expert opinions.

Make sure when quoting expert views, opinions and statistics you always use citations and give the proper credit. Ensure that the need statement is directly related to your organization’s ability to respond to the need.

Another item to remember when writing the need statement is to make sure it is easily digestible for the funder. I recommend using the KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) principle.

The main point to avoid in writing the need statement is circular reasoning.  Most funders would agree that this is the most common mistake with all the grant proposals. An example of circular reasoning would be “The problem is we have no domestic violence shelter, therefore building one would solve the issue/problem.”

I think you see what I mean.

Additional tips to help you write the need statement are as follows. Make sure you include statistics that support your request.

Another common mistake in most grant proposals is that the statistics do not support the request of the nonprofit; they contradict the proposal. When using the statistics make sure and use an example of a nonprofit that accomplished what you are requesting from the funder. Keep in mind that nine times out of 10 your grant proposal is not a new idea and it probably has been already accomplished.

Remember when we first started this series; I quoted the new nonprofit statistics – with 1.6 million nonprofits in America and that for every cause there are over 1,000 nonprofits, it has probably already been successfully accomplished somewhere in the United States.

We now know that the use of stories are becoming very popular in the nonprofit sector, so do make sure you use stories in the need statement but make sure that you anchor them in hard facts and statistics to support the need statement.

Last but not least, provide a sense of urgency for your request and make sure you convey to the funder why it is so important now for the funding.

The next article will continue the steps for writing the grant, focusing on the second step of the proposal – goals and objectives

“Nonprofit Leadership,“ written by Melissa Le Roy, a nonprofit consultant, is aimed at providing guidance from Melissa’s perspective as a leader in both the nonprofit and for profit businessworld.
For questions or comments related to this series, please feel free to contact me at