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A need is a specific situation or condition that an applicant wants to change. Establishing need is essential. In the aggregate, needs often drive the design of an entire project or initiative – objectives, activities, strategies, evaluation, personnel, resources, and budget.

Shortfalls in local funding seldom prove need. Even in seeking funds from private grant makers for capital campaigns or endowments, an applicant has to explain how more funding would enable it to address specific unmet (and non-financial) needs.

A Need Assessment (or Problem Statement) often moves from the general to the specific, from theoretical research to actual practices, and from a national or state context to its local instances. Each individual element of need presents evidence of a larger problem (or an undesirable condition or situation).

Assessments of need furnish recent or current data to document a problem. The data selected as evidence of need usually imply that a specific population (or target audience) will benefit from a specific grant. The data used to describe the needs in a proposal often will form a baseline for later comparisons after funding.

In ordinary practice, an organization’s general decision that certain activities and objectives are desired to address a familiar problem may precede any effort to document specific needs.

Describing Needs:

In considering a proposal’s Assessment of Need, several questions prove useful:

Objectives: What does your evidence of existing needs imply for your proposal’s goals and objectives? In what areas should you focus your efforts and resources?

Activities: What activities will reduce or eliminate your identified needs? In what logical sequence must such activities occur?

Benefits: What effect will a project or initiative have on existing conditions? What kinds of benefits do you foresee after it ends? Who will experience such benefits and by what time?

Evaluation: How will you measure whether needs have changed? What indicators or benchmarks will you use to measure progress in reducing or eliminating needs?

Personnel: Who should help in reducing or eliminating identified needs? What new or existing positions or organizations could offer such help? Who needs to be on board and by when?

Budget: What will it cost to reduce or eliminate identified needs in the time available? What sources of funding are available for these purposes?

Capacity: Is your organization able to address the identified needs on its own? Does it have experience in doing similar projects or initiatives or in managing comparable grant awards?

This post is one in a series about questions useful in planning competitive grant proposals.

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