How to Write an Effective Needs Statements for Grant Proposals

All nonprofits are created to serve the needs of a target audience.

Funding organizations want to know what these needs are in grant applications. The money a funding source will allocate for projects and services will be determined by how effectively nonprofits can convey these needs in the grant proposal process and how they will use the requested funds to meet the need. 

All grant applications must always include a needs statement. The purpose of a needs statement in a grant proposal is to present both facts and stories to support the needs for a project or program. How well the applicant addresses those needs will determine the success of the proposal.

Prior to writing a needs statement, the grant writer should understand what the problem is and its nature, reasons and causes. The needs statement should define why this problem is both important to the applicant and of interest to the funding source. Compelling needs make for compelling projects worthy of funding. 

According to Libby Hikind, CEO and founder of, "A grant writer works with the organization to determine the needs of the target audience and research the current data to support the need within the application. The need may be supported through newspaper articles, data sources, surveys, maps, literature, published research and or interviews."

An effective needs statement must grab the attention of the funding source and communicate the urgency of the problem in terms of human interest anchored by hard facts. To do so, a needs statement should

  1. clearly relate to the mission and purpose of the applicant;
  2. describe the problem and the people who would be served;
  3. and be supported by evidence including statistics, expert views, and current events.

Libby Hikind explained, "The grant writer should review their draft needs statement with the organization's Board.  While the grant writer may be happy painting the dimmest picture of the target community to increase the chances of being awarded the grant, the Board may not want the application to be as severe.  There is a fine line between stating the urgency and defining a population in the grimmest of terms.  Be careful what you write and how you write it!"

About the Author: Staff Writer for Grant Writing Institute