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Yes, but Is It a Community Need? Frame Your Grant Proposals to Clearly Benefit the Community


by Steve Yoder, Community Development Regional Educator, Purdue Extension 


Whenever I facilitate Purdue Extension’s Guide to Grant Writing workshop, there is usually a participant seeking funding to buy equipment for an organization. Sometimes, it’s new uniforms for the volunteer fire department. At other times, it’s a van for a youth organization. 

When these participants draft their proposals’ need statements, they sometimes look like this: 

“The volunteer fire department needs new uniforms because our current ones are 10 years old.” 

That may be the case. In addition, donors regularly allow grant seekers to include equipment costs in the budget. A slam dunk, right? Not necessarily. A need statement written like the one above is not the most compelling way to frame an issue.  

That’s because funders are often looking for proposals that clearly address a community need.  In the above example, that’s not clear. In fact, that statement reads more like it is addressing a need of the fire department—not a need of the community. It reads like the proposal will improve the working conditions of the 10 or so members of the department—not the safety of the 1,000+ members of the community that it ultimately serves. 

A more effective need statement could look like this: 

“Our community needs effective and efficient fire prevention and emergency response to keep our loved ones and property safe.” 

If it’s true that the new uniforms would provide added protection for firefighters or allow faster response time, then you can make a case for how necessary that is for the community. Often, in the grant-writing game, it’s how you frame things that can make the difference between a proposal that is meh and one that stands out among the competition. 

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