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How To Justify A Need To Make Your Grants More Effective

Updated on August 23, 2012

Needs and Wants

Any seasoned grant writer will tell you that the cardinal rule of writing any grant, regardless of size, is to know how to differentiate a need from a want. Grant agencies do not fund wants, and thus grant writers need not waste time writing grants for such things. If only it were that easy. The grant agencies focus on needs. They want to know how their funding is "needed" as opposed to "wanted". This puts a good deal of pressure on a grant writer because it is our job to justify the need of the organization we are writing for. We sometimes have to find some legitimate way to make a want appear as a need. We often call this justifying a need. Your fire department may want a new pumper to handle the overwhelming forest fires in recent years. To the untrained eye this would be classified as a need. To the persons giving the grant funding for the truck it is simply a want. You have to justify the truck as a need. What will happen if you do not receive funding for a new pumper? How will this new pumper affect not only the organization, but the people it serves? These are all important and vital questions for any grant writer to consider. Some people assume that copy and past narratives online will suffice. This is just a silly way to go about it.

Always remember that the desire for something is not a need. It is a want. The lack of having something is also simply a want. Let's look at a quick example.

You need three computers for an adult literacy class you are wanting to do for a local underprivileged community. If you simply use that as your needs statement your grant will get filed in the garbage as quick as they open the cover sheet. You have to justify this as a grant. We have a key word in the opening statement in this paragraph that could prove very effective in describing your need. Underprivileged. Granters want to know that the funds they willingly give make a difference so this would be a great approach. You may want to say in your own way that without these computers and classes people in this underprivileged community will continue to sink into poverty because they are denied access to valuable jobs because of a lack of proper education.

Always give not only reasons why your project would suffer without their funding, but also reasons it will prevail with it. Grant agencies like to see various outcomes unfold in your proposal. It gives them some idea that you have not only done your research but that you also are aware of where the goals and outcomes lay.

Effects in the Future

 People who give grants also want to see that their funding is used over time. They want to know that it made more than just a quick impact. Grant funding needs to be able to make a difference over and over again. If your project has a need that can sustain a certain good deed for a course of time it is more likely to get funded.

My Recent Endeavor as an Example

I was approached a some time back by my city commission to seek out funding for a new dump truck. The one that was currently in use was on it's last legs so to speak and really did not present much continued use. To an untrained person the idea of replacing an old, and unfit truck with a new one would obviously be a need, right? Wrong. This is a want. They wanted a new truck to replace one that is not up to par. It would be my job to turn this want into a need. Think of it like this, you have a grape sucker and you really want an orange one. This is simply a need unless you can justify how that orange one will make things easier for you and provide a better future outcome. Sometimes this task is simple and others it proves to be a very difficult task to employ upon.

For this grant I knew it would be looked at as something that would include the community. For any grant of that nature you have to be able to show how funding will aid the community and make it better in the long run. Remember the money has to make a difference somehow. I needed to explore all of the possible ways this new dump truck could actively help the community and in the long run increase the way of life for my city.

My first real breakthrough would come after a very interesting city meeting in which a new committee was appointed to condemn and begin demolition on abandoned structures that were past repair. I saw great potential in this. Debris from each structure would have to be transported away from the city so they would "need" a dump truck that could handle the extremely cumbersome task without risk of complete collapse. Simple right? Once again, nope.

I first had to meet with a few members of this new group and get the general idea of how many structures would be coming down and how large they were on an average scale. Once I had this information I than needed to contact a trucking company that handles such jobs to get a quote on how much it would cost to haul the debris away from the city. If the cost was less than the cost of a new truck I knew my grant was dead on arrival. After some long hours of crunching numbers and going through long distant phone cards like a cop through donuts, I had my information. The cost of hauling the building debris would only be slightly higher than the cost of a new truck. This presented a serious delay in my work.

I now had to find another alternative means of justifying this truck as a want.

Formulating a new plan

 A lot of times we will find ourselves as grant writers returning to the proverbial drawing board to look at plan B. I now found myself back to the drawing board exploring a new way to make this dump truck a needed accessory to the city. How would I present this truck as a vital need for the betterment of the city and it's residents. I found my answer in neglect.

A good deal of the city lives in poverty and thus they do not have the funds to really keep up the appearances of their yards and parking areas. (at least that is my argument here) Some areas are very piled up with various degrees of rummage and useless items. I figured a good clean up would really lighten up the city. How could I tailor a clean up to fit into my puzzle to acquire this new dump truck? I needed to make the clean up a recurring thing so I called it bi-annual. That would give some staying power but how would this be a need? The city used to be a coal town with amazing features that would really look good as a tourist attraction so now I needed to work that in. Sometimes as grant writers we have to really dig for a way to make our need stand out and look like something we have to have.

I came up with a twice a year clean up that would remove any debris left buy the roadside in hopes of keeping the city clean and presentable. Now I placed this puzzle piece with the one that stated the dump truck could be used to remove the debris from several buildings that had to come down. I found that when I placed the two pieces together a small gap presented itself. How could I make a sturdy and convincible connection?


Filling in the Gaps

 My city is in dire need of new businesses. This would bring in commerce and increase jobs. Now I had to work that into a proposal for a dump truck. I know it sounds crazy but ask any grant writer and they will tell you crazy is the way it generally goes.

I figured if the area was clean and very well taken care of, due in large part to this new dump truck than businesses would consider setting up shop here in the city. This would in turn bring more jobs and people would not have to travel so far to handle their affairs. I now had my niche. This would not only increase the city has a place to visit it would make the life's of it;s people easier and in turn better. I had the piece of the puzzle I needed to complete the over all picture now.

In Closing

 I now had my way to effectively present this dump truck as a need for my city. Several questions now lingered that had to be answered.

How will the need serve the community?

It would allow the community to get rid of any debris and rummage that was laying around causing the area to look less than attractive and give them a means of bringing in new jobs and better places to spend money within city limits, thus increasing the economy.

What would happen if the need is not met?

The old truck would falter and money would have to be spent to remove the debris and rummage and the continuing removal would keep costing the city money that over time would accumulate to a huge loss.

My grant went into the writing mode. I find research is the most vital key in justifying your need. I will say sadly after being reviewed and moved up the tier the grant I was working on became a higher population grant and I was no longer eligible, but the work as been done so I can move on and look for other sources of funding using the work I have already done. I wish you the best in your grant writing work.


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