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Application Components: Need Statement

A need statement establishes the problem that the proposed program or project will tackle.

This is the tenth article in a series on grant writing. Read the introduction to the entire series.

This section of the application will describe, quantify, and analyze the problem or problems that will be addressed through the proposed project. A problem to be addressed by a grant proposal may be something relatively simple, such as a lack of access to after-school arts programs, or it may be more complex, such as a high crime rate in a certain neighborhood. In all cases, remember that the need section is about the need of your community not the need of your organization. For example, your organization may need a van to address the need, but you should not detail why your organization needs a van. Instead, talk about the fact that there is no after-school program at the partner school and the nearest one is at a community center that is several miles away. It is always good to remember that the funder is not interested in serving your organization, they are interested in serving your community.

This section will often be one of the first components that a grant reviewer reads and should contextualize the proposed program and organization. While you know your neighborhood very well, the reviewer will likely have limited knowledge of what your community looks like. That means you must take a step back and view your neighborhood from an outside perspective and ensure you adequately describe the need(s) it faces.

When describing the problem, demonstrate that it is:

  • Important – it is serious in nature, it is a real problem with real implications for the populations involved.
  • Significant – it is large in scope in terms of those affected, or large in terms of resulting negative outcomes, or large in actual consequences and costs to the greater community.
  • Urgent – it needs action now before it gets worse, before more are affected, because of recent events, etc.

This section may also require research. It is usually necessary to use data and statistics to back up your assertions as proof of the need. Otherwise, the need will come off as an opinion rather than one based on fact, especially to those who have never been to your neighborhood. Use recent data/statistics, use reputable sources, and cite the information presented. Also, make sure the statistics used are relevant to the request. For example, if you are serving students at an elementary school in your community, try to find data that relates to that population in your neighborhood, or at least in Albuquerque, rather than nationally. Although it may be a good idea to compare your community’s data to national data to show that the problem is more urgent and significant where you live compared to elsewhere.

If there is room, it is helpful to talk about what will continue to happen if the problem is not addressed. Will the problem get worse? Will it lead to broader issues in the community? What will happen to the population you are serving?

The need statement may also be called a Problem Statement, Problem to be Addressed, Need to be Addressed, Situation Description, or another term. However, know that they all mean the funder is asking you to describe the need that your program or project will address.