How to Begin Developing a Statement of Need

by | May 3, 2023 | Development/Fundraising, Grant Writing

Nearly all grant applications require a statement of need. This is for good reason!

A statement of need communicates key information to donors about your organization and its work. After reading your statement of need, donors should come away feeling certain that their contributions will be supporting critical yet unmet public or community needs. Reading between the lines, donors should also be confident that your organization fully understands these needs and is prepared to meet them.

It’s a lot to accomplish in a few paragraphs within a larger grant proposal!

So let’s walk through the basics of writing a statement of need that will leave donors feeling confident that your organization is the perfect group to receive their precious dollars.


What is a Statement of Need?

 A statement of need for a grant describes the specific public or community needs an organization or project will address. An effective needs statement conveys urgency, demonstrates how critical needs are currently unmet or underserved, and reveals the real-world impact of unmet needs. It also points to how these needs can realistically be met with targeted investment. Finally, the quality and nuance of a statement of need demonstrate that the applicant organization is best positioned to do the work proposed.

In many cases, a statement of need may not be that long, especially for foundation grants. You may only have 2-4 paragraphs to convey all the above.

Your statement of need also sets up the rest of your grant proposal, which is why it’s so important to get right.


The Building Blocks of a Strong Statement of Need

 The good news is that, if you’ve undertaken a comprehensive program planning process or organizational strategic planning process, you already have the main elements for your statement of need. 

There are five core building blocks in a statement of need:

  1. What is the need or problem?
  2. Who has the need or problem?
  3. Why is this a need or problem?
  4. What will happen if the need or problem is not addressed?
  5. How do you know this information?

 If other organizations are addressing the same problem, your needs statement should also identify gaps in what they’re doing. Explain how your program or project will fill those gaps. However, be cautious not to be critical. As you investigate the need for specific programs within your community, it is imperative to avoid duplication of services. Where services may overlap, consider strategic collaborations.


How to Write a Statement of Need for a Grant

 The first step in writing a statement of need is to gather all the information above. You’ll need answers to the five building-block questions, along with information about other organizations addressing the same need (if there are any).


The importance of data

At Funding for Good, we like to start with a rough draft that gathers all our information in one place. Don’t think about wordsmithing or editing yet. Instead, focus on content. A statement of need should be grounded in data. Do you have data to back up the need for the work you’re proposing?

Data can come in many forms. For example:

    • Census or other government data
    • Community meetings
    • Stakeholder interviews
    • Surveys
    • Original analyses of existing datasets
    • Reports your organization or others have published
    • Polling
    • Case studies
    • Policy details and analysis
    • Requests for services your organization receives

In writing a first draft of your needs statement, you may realize you don’t have enough data to make a compelling case. If so, then you will need to stop and gather more. If you simply cannot find any way to document the need you’re proposing to address, then it’s time to take a step back and reassess your organization’s programming and plans.

Finding solid data can sound like a high bar. But if there is a need, there will be a way to document it. For example, if you’re totally stuck, then go out and talk to the people or communities your program is designed to benefit.

At Funding for Good, our team has written thousands of statements of need. Not once have we been unable to craft a strong statement of need. Why? Because we dug deeper and kept asking questions.

But until you have the right information, your needs statement won’t make a clear and compelling case for your grant proposal.


Writing your statement of need

Once you’ve documented the need your organization is proposing to address, then it’s time to paint a picture for your donor. You want donors to read your proposal and walk away thinking:

“Wow, this is such important and valuable work that addresses such a clear need. We must fund it!”

To achieve this, you’ll need to use your data to tell a compelling story. When crafting your statement, be sure to:

    • Start by describing the broad need and then narrow down with data to reveal the causes and consequences of that need—and how it can be addressed.  
    • Demonstrate that you fully understand the problem at all levels.
    • Use adjectives that paint a picture, such as inadequate, outdated, tiny, underserved, etc.
    • Include an example of what the impact of the unaddressed need looks like. A case study or client story can make statistics even more compelling.
    • Strike a balance between “need” and “hopelessness.” You want to demonstrate that the need is urgent and pressing, but also that there is hope for change (with the right investments).
    • Consider including charts or graphs. This can make dense data much easier to understand.
    • Be honest about entrenched and difficult-to-address needs. It doesn’t mean your organization shouldn’t try. But since your need statement sets up your grant proposal, you want to be sure donors walk away with realistic expectations about what can be accomplished during the proposed grant period.


Remember, Your Organization is the Expert

Writing a statement of need can feel daunting, but when approached methodically it doesn’t have to be. Before writing a single word, start by gathering your data. It’s not only the core of your needs statement, but it can help you get past that daunting blank page.

Once you have your data, then it’s all about telling a story that will move donors. Remember, your organization is the expert here. You know your community needs and how to address them. Be sure to let that experience, compassion, and expertise shine through.

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