How to Write a Business Needs Statement – Part 2

Ivan Walsh provides this week’s guest article.

One of the common mistakes that writers make is that they start their Needs Statement with what they propose to do instead of focusing on why there is a need in the first place.

They focus on the solution rather than the root cause of the issues at hand. While the solution is important, you need to emphasize that you understand the underlying causes first, and then address this with your offering.

Identify the need; then describe the solution.

Click here to Download your Needs Statement Template – MS Word

How to Get the Funder’s Respect

The funder is usually overwhelmed with people submitting proposals and other such requests for funding. To get your proposal read, even partly, is often an achievement in itself.

To gain the funder’s respect:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge, expertise, track-record in relation to the need.

  • Refer to articles, case studies, and statistics to demonstrate why the funder should help resolve the problem now..

  • Outline the costs as clearly as possible.

Avoid hidden costs. Do not hide or fudge figures. Avoid hiding items in the terms and conditions or other clauses at the back of the document.

How the Funder makes their decision

The funder has to make a decision with each proposal they receive: do I fund this or not?

Click here to Download your Needs Statement Template – MS Word

So, if you want to receive this funding, you must:

Create a sense of urgency as otherwise your proposal is added to the in tray.

  • Encourage the funder to close the gap between the current situation (i.e. problem) and future situation (i.e. your solution)

  • Discuss how your proposal will close this gap

  • Demonstrate how you have done this on other projects

  • Encourage the funder to contact you so you can personally bring them to the work site, office, community etc where you solution/services are now in place.

  • Arrange for people to provide endorsements and other positive noises at these locations

  • Identify gaps in knowledge, resources or facilities that would otherwise help address the problem

  • Motivate the funder to fund your project by highlighting the value of closing the gap

To do this, you need to outline the current situation and the desired state.

Funder ‘buy’ the change you describe.

So, it better be convincing!

What is the current situation?

When documenting the current situation, include:

  • Market research, studies, research material, and presentations to backup your findings

  • Studies that discuss the field/problem in its current state

  • Discuss how the current issues reinforces the need for your proposed solution

What is the desired state?

The next section is to discuss where you want to take this scenario.

To do this:

  • Prove statistics. Include links to websites from where they can download these reports

  • Refer to statements and quotes from experts and authorities in the field. After all, these are impartial views which ought to be more credible than your own ‘personal’ opinion

  • Avoid using vague or ambiguous terminology. For example, avoid words such as: many, most, may, likelihood, might. Be more direct with your language. Instead of saying ‘many’, state exactly how many.

Vague terms dilute your message and give the impression that you’re trying to hide something.

How to create a Sense of Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency depends on several factors. To ensure that the Funder embraces your vision and wants to work with you:

  • Document a need that will be perceived as important.

  • Demonstrate how you can support your arguments by measuring improvements in monetary terms.

  • Show that for each day the need is not addressed, the problem becomes worse.

Where possible, you can use the funding source’s own studies, surveys, or statistics.

This illustrates to the funder that you have made the effort to read their material (in depth) and can position your company as the logical choice to close the gap and reduce the problem.

How to demonstrate your capabilities

At some point you need to blow your trumpet and talk about your capabilities.

What makes you so special?

  • Write a simple but effective mission statement that shows your organization cares about this problem.

  • Itemize your key strengths. Provide references and case studies.

  • Identify key personnel. Provide pen portraits.

Help the funder to see that the results of your project could work across many divisions, departments, communities and other regions depending on the scope.

Emphasize the inclusiveness of your proposal.

How to fine-tune the Needs Statement

You can fine-tune your Needs Statement by considering the following:

Leverage

Look at how to extend the benefits of the proposal beyond the immediate problem. If you can find ways to resolve multiple issues with the same solution, then there is a greater chance than you will get funding.

Soft Benefits

Look for ways to weave soft benefits into the document, for example, how to improve the organization’s public image, increase staff morale, and other such benefits.

Review

Don’t write in isolation. Don’t give it to your friends to proof-read and agree with your opinion. They’ll be too polite to give you real critical feedback. Get it reviewed by trusted sources and others whose opinion you value.

Looking for templates?

You can download a Grant template here; download a Needs Statement template here; and download a Proposal template here.

Business Case Template

Case Study Template

Cost Benefit Analysis Template

Grant Template

Needs Problem Statement Template

Proposal Template

These are a few guidelines for writing your Needs Statement.

You can drill down into more detail later or cross-reference other supporting documents. However, there may be better ways to do this.

What have I missed?

For example, are there barriers to service based on other factors, such as logistics, transport, cultural issues?

Is the structure of a Needs Statement different in the business world than, for example, in local government or in the academic world?

About Ivan

Ivan Walsh is a business consultant based in Beijing, China. You can connect with Ivan on:

Ivan: http://www.ivanwalsh.com
Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/ivanwalsh
Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/ivanwalsh
Businessweek:http://bx.businessweek.com


PS: Use this Needs Statement template to:

  • Help Project Stakeholders understands why investment is required to address this business need.
  • Identify an idea that may require an investment
  • Provide information to justify whether or not your organization should move forward with the development of a Business Case.

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