The purpose of a proposal is to demonstrate a need (a problem) and outline how you intend to address the need (solution). A needs-based statement describes the problem you are trying to solve and is critical to conveying the value of your organization and programs to a potential funder.
Here are 4 ways to write an awesome, impactful, and powerful needs-based statement:
1. “OMG, this is an emergency….”
When a funder is done reading your needs based statement, they should walk away with a feeling of, “OMG, this IS an emergency.” They should feel the urgency and be compelled to act.
Assuming your project already aligns with the funders' funding interest, your solution should tie into a broad-based problem, something that any reasonable person would agree is a problem. To demonstrate the point, let's talk about water. Water is vital to living. Every cell in the human body relies on water to live. You literally die if you go without water for more than 7 days. If you are approaching a funder who supports environment preservation, discussing how important clean water is and tying it back to basic human existence creates a strong case for support.
I listened to NPR this morning. The guest explained that a world organization did a study and found that children are more obese and undernourished now more than ever before. In their opinion, the key to reversing this trend is widespread nutrition education. If you are a nonprofit organization that teaches children how to eat healthy fruits and vegetables and educate them on the essential nutrients of different foods, then you are in luck. This data is the start of your needs based statement to create an argument of why your organization needs to exist.
The funder needs to feel that without them, this problem will persist, and a great nonprofit like yours will not be in a position to help without their support.
2. “Spell it out. Set yourself apart."
Funders are smart, bright people, but even smart, bright people need help connecting the dots. They read LOTS of applications, and the details start to merge together. Never assume the funder will naturally connect the dots of what you are explaining. Be very thoughtful about connecting each idea and coming to a conclusion. Another byproduct of reading so many applications is that over time, they all start to sound alike. Stand out with relevant details and data to catch their attention and appeal to their needs. At the end of the day, you are presenting an issue that appeals to their needs. They are probably already well versed on the issue, and if what you present aligns with the issues they are trying to solve, you have a winning needs-based statement.
3. “Use Appropriate Data”
Data is powerful. Funder love facts and figures and data is a great way to tell your community impact story. When data is used inappropriately or when too much is used, it can backfire and derail your proposal.
Your data should be appropriate and in line with the argument you are making. If you are proposing how your project will impact the local community within your county, use county-specific data and perhaps compare it to other local counties or similar counties across the country. If you only have national data, present the national data, but always try to extrapolate what you can to demonstrate a local impact.
Use as much data needed to prove your point and don't overdo it for fear of overwhelming the funder, which brings me to my next point….
4. “Know When to Move on to Your Solution”
Many grant applications have stipulations on word count, etc.; however, as you stay within the guidelines, know when it's time to wrap up the presentation of the problem and move on to the solution. You want the problem to catch the readers' attention within the needs-based statement, with the bulk of the proposal explaining exactly how you intend to solve the problem. This is more of a gut feeling. Did I explain it well? Did I get them excited to support us? Once you reach this magical pinnacle moment, it is time to move on.
Shavonn Richardson, MBA is Founder of Think and Ink Grant Consulting™ www.thinkandinkgrants.com. She is a grant writer, nonprofit consultant, speaker and an active member of the Grant Professionals Association.