What Is a Need Statement?

The What is… Blog Series is designed to serve as a gentle entry point for readers who are new to federal grants, or who might just need a refresher on a particular term. Previous installments have focused mainly on defining types of federal funding. Here, and in several forthcoming series posts, we will explore terminology within the federal grant application itself, beginning with something that is sometimes called the “heart” of the federal grant proposal – the statement of need, or need(s) statement.

Grants.gov's What is... Blog Series 

Q: What is a Need Statement?

A need statement outlines a public or community need that the federal grant applicant’s proposed project aims to address.

The need statement may be a few sentences, or a few paragraphs, in length. It is typically one part – a very important part – of the larger project narrative that carries the reader from the defined need into discussion of specifically how the applicant aims to address that need.

“The need statement should … tell a story that conveys the applicant’s knowledge and insight, and demonstrate that the organization understands the issue well enough to address the problem,” reads guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In the context of federal grants, the “problem” can be anything from the need to digitize and preserve historically significant photographs to the need to protect a habitat or an endangered species, or the need to investigate a scientific finding that promises health benefits for people with cancer, or the need to support efforts to re-train workers from fading industries.

The need statement, then, conveys that the applicant is both familiar and equipped to address a problem according to the specifics outlined in the federal agency’s funding opportunity announcement published on Grants.gov.

Want to Go Deeper?

We have devoted a separate blog post focused on how to write a good need statement.

Some federal agencies also publish successful proposals on their website. Dig into these and you will find some great examples of need statements. We recommend starting with the Institute of Museum and Library Services application database.