Recently I presented at the Virginia Volunteerism and Service Conference in Richmond, VA. When I originally submitted my application to present at the conference the title was “NOT MY PROBLEM”, and other reasons your grant is not funded.” Conference leaders changed the title to: Tricks to Writing a Solid Grants Proposal. I wish I could say I have all the “tricks” to a perfect grant proposal, alas, I do not. But what I do see, quite frequently, is grant applications that miss the mark when presenting the need or “problem statement” section of the grant narrative. Thus, the “problem” with your problem statement. Let me explain.
In any grant application there are multiple sections that must be addressed: Need or Problem Statement, Method or Activities, Outcomes or Impacts, Evaluation and Sustainability. All of these sections must be throughly answered in order to submit a competitive grant application. What can make the difference between a successful application and an unsuccessful application can often be the “significance” of your “problem” or the Reason You Need the Money! Have you written your grant application in such as way to convince the funder that the problem you are trying to solve (or why you need the money) is important, significant, less than ideal and it aligns with the interest of the funder?
Your “needs section” or “problem statement” is NOT about your organization or what you are currently lacking. For example “Our program currently lacks enough tutors to run our after school program. If we had more tutors we could serve more students.” While this may be true, your problem statement should always focus on your constituents or beneficiaries and not on what your organization is lacking. For example, “75% of students in the XYZ School District are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunches, the poverty rate is above the state average of 15% and many students drop out of school, well before their senior year.” The needs section of your grant application should be written to define the “specific difficulties or challenges faced by your beneficiaries.” What are the elements of the problem with your clients, or participants, or students? Why is the problem (i.e., hunger, homelessness, the environment, etc.) significant? Why should anyone care about this problem? What happens if we do nothing? What caused this problem in the first place (i.e., poverty, education levels, rural vs urban, etc.)? Why is the problem is “bad” and how is your organization going to make it better?
Don’t let the ‘needs or problems’ of your organization overwhelm the funder. Let the ‘needs’ of your beneficiaries (clients, students, participants) encourage the funder to assist your organization.