Grant Writing for Beginners: Getting to the Heart of Your Proposal with the Need Statement

The need statement is at the heart of your proposal. It’s the place in the proposal where you can tap into emotion to win over the reviewers. The need statement should identify a problem, explain the need for your project or program, and show how your project solves the problem you’ve identified.


This blog is part of our new series, Grant Writing for Beginners. The series addresses all stages of preparing a grant proposal from writing a Letter of Inquiry to submitting a proposal. This post continues the series by outlining how to compose a compelling need statement.


The need statement should follow this basic structure:

  • A depiction of the problem or need your proposal addresses.
  • A description of your target audience, which may include the number of students served, the number of underrepresented students, their grade level, their ethnicities, and more.
  • A brief explanation of the geographical area your project or program will serve. This could just be your classroom, but it could also be your grade level, school, school district, or children in your community.
  • An account of how your project will address the problem you’ve identified and serve your target audience.


Within this structure there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • The need you’re addressing should directly link to the foundation’s mission and guidelines. If the need doesn’t fit with the foundation’s interests, your proposal is unlikely to be funded. While you’re writing, keep in mind how the solution you propose will advance the foundation’s mission.
  • Try to avoid circular reasoning. The problem should not be the absence of your solution. For example, don’t assert that the problem is that there isn’t a playground at your school and the solution is that you will build a playground. Dig deeper into the problems caused by not having a playground such as children developing health problems from not being active, or not building the critical social and creativity skills developed through play with peers.
  • Keep in mind that this is the place in your proposal to interject emotion. You should be answering the questions: Why should the funder care about your project? Why is this a critical or immediate need?
  • Even though there’s the need statement uses emotion, there must also be underlying facts and statistics to back up your claims. Use data to strengthen your argument. Where appropriate, try to use comparative data such. For example, “65% of third graders nationally scored below proficient reading level, while 67% of third graders in our school scored below proficient reading level.” For quick sources of data, check out Fast and Fabulous Data When You’re in a Hurry.
  • In addition to cold hard facts, you can illustrate your need by collecting quotations from your target population or colleagues, or by gathering stories of the students who will be served by the project.


If you found this post helpful, subscribe to the blog to be notified of future Grant Writing for Beginners series posts. Next time we’ll discuss writing a description of your project.


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