This post addresses the key ingredients to a strong needs statement. When clients first sign up with us, we send them a Client Information Form to complete. This form is pretty comprehensive and covers a lot of details that not all of our clients have considered before. Although we do not pressure our clients to submit this form rapidly, we do request that they take the time to complete it thoroughly. The more thorough their responses, the better the grant application we can generate for them. This post discusses one aspect that seems to be a challenge for some of our clients when they first begin.
The Needs Statement is comprised of three basic factors.
- The need that the funding opportunity is intended to fill – not the organization’s need for funding.
- The organization’s familiarity with addressing the defined need.
- Illustrate the need with a concise but concrete story.
Address The Need
If the grant application is requesting proposals that fulfill a specific need, then the narrative written about your organization has to demonstrate how your organization is able to address that need. Not only can you demonstrate it, but you can provide step-by-step actions that have already been planned and are either in motion or easily implementable upon approval of funding.
Foundations want to see that you can follow through. They don’t like to receive applications that demonstrate how needy you are. They are in the grant business to fulfill their own need to see certain things in this world come to fruition. That does not mean you cater your organization’s efforts just to suit a foundation, but rather you are able to demonstrate how what you do fits in perfect alignment with that foundation’s goals. It’s a partnership. It’s not a donation center and needy recipient. No matter how desperate your financial situation is, you cannot seek grant funding from a position that is focused on you and your current difficult situation. It must be focused on the difficult situation you are solving and how you demonstrate that you are the right organization to attend to this situation in the most effective manner.
As such, the need must be defined from the perspective of the public interest, not the non-profit’s interest. When a client shares what they do, they need to be sure to clarify to us how they are helping their community and why their services are vital to that community. This includes demonstrating what will happen if your organization does not obtain the support to help that community with their unique service model.
This means that the organization must be very familiar with the need in the community. We rarely get inquiries into our services from people who don’t already have a deep passion for their organization’s mission to address a serious situation in their community.
However, not all clients are great with demonstrating this in their client information form. They become quick responses or they repeat things from other questions without actually addressing the question at hand. You really can’t complete this form in haste. Take the time to really reflect upon the differences between each question. The familiarity with the problem may mean a lot more detail than what you previously mentioned in another question we asked. This is an opportunity to expand on the details so that we have a really strong opportunity to advocate for your organization’s efforts with a foundation’s grant proposal request.
Factors to also consider in this step include details that your team members have accomplished. Explain how your have effective partnerships with other local organizations that support your organization’s cause, which can include two organizations working together to address a community need. Provide as much detail as you can about how your partners contribute and what roles they play.
Story is something that can take off like a runaway train, so we are quite careful with this aspect. It does reinforce your application to have a real-world example of how your organization’s services are providing relief and fulfilling a community need. Stories can be brief, but also make a strong impact if they are a clear and direct demonstration of how powerful the benefits of your services are on those who receive them. This can help reinforce a foundation’s motivation to fund your organization because that story may very well be the exact thing they are looking to see happen. When they set out an intention to provide funding for a specific type of need, they often have their own visualization of what that may look like. Help them visualize what you do and how it impacts your community. Let them see through your eyes.
The bottom line is that we request that our clients really do a lot of reflecting and detail gathering before submitting their client information form to us. This is a one time tedious task, but the benefits will far outweigh the effort if done correctly. We encourage any client to consider their responses from the aspects mentioned above to help them to provide the right information that will help them to achieve their grant funding goals.