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4 Tips for a Stronger Statement of Need

All grant writers share a common mission: to persuade those with money to give. Whether a federal review board, a panel of trustees, or a philanthropic family, the goal of persuasion remains. The first step toward achieving this is to establish a strong case for your organization's work through a powerful statement of need. You must show a funder why they should care about your nonprofit and project.

Here are four tips that might help you write a more influential statement of need.

1. Keep it Simple.
It may sound obvious, but you need to develop a simple, cohesive argument that remains consistent throughout your narrative. How can you persuade someone if your argument is all over the map? This can be incredibly challenging when the issues are complex. Avoid cramming all the facts into this section. Choose the most salient points, and take the time to read through to make sure it is easy to read. The more simply stated, the more likely you will be heard.

2. Use data in context, and in combination with other evidence.
Statistics and evaluative data are excellent substantiation of the need behind our projects. But can you be sure that a new trustee will understand the connection between food insecurity and student learning? Will a statistic bring to mind a family that can't afford both rent and medical treatment?

Stories help to contextualize statistics, and often stir others to action more readily than the greater need. Research out of Wharton has shown that charitable giving is more likely to result from identifying with a single person's situation than a statistic representing millions. Put statistics in their place: a valuable tool for demonstrating need, but not always the most impactful representation of reality.

One word of caution when using statistics:  Some trustees or review panels are data-savvy, and may challenge you on a statistic. This happened to me once and caught me completely off-guard.  I recommend saving copies of the papers or a list of links to documents where statistics were found in case there are questions.

3. Balance the logical and the emotional.
While I'm easily swayed by a compelling photo or emotional case study, others on my team lean toward heavy data and scientific evidence. Incorporating both can be a good way to hedge your bets for the review committee. If you know who's on that panel, be sure to consider their interests and mindsets! If not, consider an imaginary panel of a diverse group of personalities, and try to include something for everyone (while staying simple and consistent).

4. Remember to keep the big picture in mind.
You've all worked with at least one Program Manager whose idea of a need statement is “I need salary/supplies/equipment.” It's easy to get wrapped up in how a grant can transform your office's capacity, or lift the program to new heights. But in the end, it's about your impact on the issue at hand. Yes, this grant will help you serve more kids, or deliver more meals, or finish that research project. Make sure you also share that it will also be making a difference to those kids, families, or animals.
And remember to enjoy it! For me, the statement of need is a reminder to keep learning about the issues, and reconnect with why this work is so important. I hope that you find the same opportunities for learning and reflection while you're writing your next statement of need.



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