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Balancing Need with Hopelessness

The need statement is a critical piece of the grant-writing puzzle, because unless you can effectively describe what's wrong, you'll never win funds to be able to fix it!

Often, the first inclination is to write the saddest of sob stories, in an attempt to let potential funders know just how badly you need funding in order to solve a terrible problem. As part of a good, strong need statement, you'll include statistics that accurately paint the picture of desperation, maybe even describing the dire situation in your local area as compared to other areas where the circumstances are not experienced in quite the same unfortunate manner. After all, you want the potential funders to see that you need the money the most, more than anyone else who has the same problem that you do.

While this is true – you do want funders to know that you need the money the most – you don't want them to see your situation as hopeless, as “unfixable”, or as a problem that just can't be solved with any reasonable amount of funding support.

There is a fine balance between describing your need in a way that grabs the heartstrings of all who read it, and making them feel as though no amount of assistance will help the proposed project to succeed. The key is to respond to your statistical claims of a dismal situation with a well-planned solution that promises to be effective in making significant strides toward the betterment of the involved population or community.

For example, perhaps your local area has a large veteran population and statistics show that a significant percentage of them have difficulty getting and maintaining jobs. This is a sad situation, to be sure, as it affects not only the veterans themselves and their families, but it also hurts the local economy and the community at large. In your need statement, provide data to allude to the cause of the problem – maybe lack of transportation? – so that you have a way to swoop in and offer a grand solution!

Make it clear to potential funders that all is not hopeless! Given the funding you request, you will be able to provide a transportation service for veterans who need rides to and from job interviews, orientations and daily shifts. You can then describe, in other sections of the application, the foolproof plan you have in place to ensure that this project will be successful, leading veterans to happier, more effective and productive post-military lives.

The key is to pique the interest of potential funders in your need statement. Help them to understand the terrible condition with which your community is faced, but also demonstrate to them that efforts to combat the problem do not have to be futile. Given the proper support and funding, your idea will help the community to flourish and to offer hope where there previously was none.


By: Leanna
On: 04/12/2016 17:59:29
I totally agree that it is important to show the problem (a.k.a. state the need) and how the principal investigator plans to mitigate it either fully or partially (having a large impact on a short time scale can be just as important to people as a solution on a long time scale). Often, it is helpful if you can point to a major organization (not funder) who also thinks this is a priority need. For medical researchers, an example of this would be the Institute of Medicine. A systematic review is also useful especially if it falls into one of two extreme categories. It is either published by a trusted group such as Cochrane or done particularly bad showing a huge gap in solid evidence. For medical grant writing, it would also be worth considering adding text describing:
1) the plan is feasible (a.k.a. not only can the principal investigator do this but s/he is the perfect person to do this);
2) the plan will provide pilot data or power additional and equally or more important studies fundable by X, Y, and Z because those future studies meet their mission statements or a recently announced focus; and
3) if the principal investigator is transitioning into a new field, that is always a great foundation for the need statement.
By: Andy Rawdon
On: 04/13/2016 10:35:33
This is great! Excellent advice! Thank you.

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