How to Construct Your Grant Application's Statement of Need

5 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Constructing Your Grant Application

When you’re writing your statement of need for grant funding, remember this: Grant writing has progressed from rote and boring to individual/personality-packed/engrossing/exciting. Like all great stories, your presentation of what’s wrong with this picture must be compelling, magnetizing, tear-jerking, and believable. But it must also be supported with facts.

Research like a pro

Every good statement of need is like a well-written story. And every well-written story is filled with compelling details that bring the narrative to life in the reader’s mind. To write your story, you need to gather all the available data from your organization’s previous grant evaluations, which may show gaps that still existed when the grant funds were expended.

Start off by looking for current demographics (numbers to support your statement of need) on your services, programs, and target population (the folks or animals that your grant, when funded, will impact). Get permission to look at case management files; these files can provide rich details and even quotations regarding clients’ needs and service barriers when they came to you for help.

Also, look at minutes from board of directors meetings and annual reports (usually gathered by the program staff and presented to the board in the first quarter of your organization’s fiscal year).

After you review your organization’s materials, conduct an Internet search in hopes of finding the following problem-related information:

  • Local and state-level data on the scope of the problem. The websites of city-, county-, and state-level human service; public health; police and corrections departments; area universities; research and policy think tanks; and advocacy coalitions are excellent sources for this type of information. Look for congressional testimonies, research findings by experts and graduate students, and newly issued press releases from government agencies or government watchdogs.

  • Similar problem area trends in other communities with characteristics like yours (rural or urban, increases or declines in population).

  • Solutions to the issue (even though you don’t present solutions in the statement of need section of your proposal).

To find up-to-date and relevant information, run a general search on a major search engine. A general search results in hundreds of local, regional, and national government website links. This approach is much easier than trying to find the Internet address for a specific information site.

The more information you have on your topic, the more easily you can write a winning statement of need.

Pepper your story with compelling tidbits

The grant reviewer reads your statement of need with the following questions in mind:

  • How and when did you identify the problem?

  • Do you have a thorough understanding of the problem at the local, regional, and national levels?

  • Do you cite statistics and research conducted by your organization and others that support the statement of need? Is this information current?

In a foundation or corporate funding request, your statement of need should be one typed, single-spaced page unless the funder requests a specific page count/limit for each section of the grant proposal narrative. In a government grant or cooperative request, the statement of need can be anywhere from two to ten typed single-spaced or double-spaced pages.

Write each paragraph in your statement of need so that it builds on the paragraph before it. Making your ideas connect and flow is important because each new paragraph is a step forward. Each new paragraph adds excitement and urgency, just like a good fiction or nonfiction storyline.

Don’t hide key words or phrases in ordinary text. Elevate your grant writing by using bold type and italics (minimally but effectively) to make a word or phrase stand out.

Include a comprehensive case study

If you’re lucky enough to have access to actual client files or case management staff, you can survey them for information about a specific client or member of the target population that sought services from your organization. Being able to incorporate a compelling story about a real client who was in need and came to your agency or organization can really put the icing on the storytelling cake.

Opening your statement of need with an engaging story is guaranteed to keep the grant reader on the edge of her seat and interested in reading more.

Your case study should include information that addresses the following topics:

  • Details of the applicant and the problem’s background

  • Information about the people being served and how those services are rendered

  • The environment in which the organization operates, the number of people served, and who they are

  • How dire the problem is

If you have a summary of a needs survey or letters from organizations documenting that the demands for your services are greater than your resources, attach these documents to your application. Always reference such attachments in the narrative so grant readers can get their full effect while reading the statement of need. These supporting documents allow a grant reader to verify the actual need for grant funding.

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