The Needs Assessment is a crucial part of your grant proposal tip because that’s where you make the case that there’s a legitimate reason that you’re asking for grant money. As I often point out, grant money exists to bridge the gap between a need and a solution (or at least to lessen the need that exists). The job of the person writing the grant proposal is to explain that a need really does exist and provide evidence of it.
Although that seems pretty cut-and-dried, there’s actually a bit of finesse required here. The trick is to show that there is a problem and grant money is needed to fix the unmet need, but at the same time convey the message that it is manageable and solvable. The way you present it can make the difference in how it’s perceived, so you should try to show that, yes, a need exists, grant money is needed to fix it, and the grant money will be sufficient to fill the need or make it less of a problem.
How do you do this? Of course, you must be truthful in your grant proposals, so you can’t just fudge the numbers to suit your purpose. But what you can do is choose to present the data that best makes your case. You can present data sets from the time period that best makes your case and present the numbers in a way that illustrates most starkly the point you wish to convey.
For instance, if you wanted to show that grant money is needed for an after-school reading program, you would do this by presenting literacy statistics. But if illiteracy is higher in a particular area of your city, then those would be the numbers you’d use, rather than taking into account the whole city. That’s the area you’d likely target anyway, so the statistics that show a high illiteracy rate in an area are better for showing that a need exists. Or if there’s a big difference in that neighborhood’s literacy rates, versus elsewhere in the same city, you’d want to highlight that contrast. If you see that there’s a big gap in literacy rates among some demographic groups, that contrast would be an effective tool for showing that one group needs help.
Again, you are ethically bound to be rigorously honest with what you write, but the choice is yours as to how you frame it. A grant proposal is intended to be a persuasive document, so you can choose which facts to include and how to best present them so that a grant reviewer recognizes that a need does in fact exist.
On the other hand, if you find that the need you want to address seems pretty overwhelming, you could tighten your focus to show that grant money can help in a meaningful way without necessarily claiming that you’ll fix everything. For example, in some places like Detroit, Michigan in the United States, a need exists for neighborhood revitalization because there are many abandoned houses. Rescuing the entire city all at once is too big a problem to solve, and a grant proposal that suggested that would probably be rejected as unrealistic. Instead, you would want, for instance, to find examples of projects that revitalized a block or two, then show how that had a ripple effect on the immediate area continuing to improve because of the initial urban renewal. You’d show that positive change could feasibly happen with a reasonable amount of grant money and how it could make a lasting difference in a limited area.
To recap, your chances of getting grant money improve if your needs assessment shows that a real need exists, that it’s not too overwhelming to tackle, and if you show facts and figures that support your claims. This is an integral part of your grant proposal, so it’s important to get it right.