Problem Statement

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Chapter topics:
Definitions The purpose of the needs statement A guide to writing the needs statement

The needs statement or problem statement provides the rationale for the request for funding and uses data and other objective resources that substantiate the need for finding a solution to the concern. This chapter will guide you through the process for crafting a need/problem statement.


The term needs statement is generally used in seeking funding for programs or services, while problem statement usually applies to social or community concerns or research-oriented proposals. Oftentimes, the terms are used interchangeably; for our purposes, we will use both terms in this chapter. Our primary focus is on proposals written to improve conditions or address a problem existing within your community. As outlined in Chapter 4, you begin the proposal development process with an understanding of the need or problem as the basis for conceptualizing your proposed program or intervention. Likewise, when you begin writing the proposal, the needs/problem statement is typically the first section completed. It provides a convincing case regarding the extent and 39



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magnitude of the need or problem in your community, and it is written within the context of those who experience the problem directly or indirectly.


The purpose of the needs/problem statement is to identify the compelling conditions, problems, or issues that are leading you to propose a plan of action. This section of your proposal does not describe your approach to address the need or problem; rather it provides a strong rationale for why support should be provided. The needs/problem statement is rooted in factual information. The conceptualization of your proposal is guided by an understanding of the needs or problems, not only at the level at which you provide services but also within the larger context of the community, state, or nation. An effective needs/problem statement does four things: 1. Uses supportive evidence to describe clearly the nature and extent of the need/problem facing those you plan to serve. 2. Illuminates the factors contributing to the problem or the circumstances creating the need. 3. Identifies current gaps in services or programs. 4. Where applicable, provides a rationale for the transferability of “promising approaches” or “best practices” to the population you seek to serve.

The needs/problem statement makes clear what requires prompt attention before conditions worsen, provides an explanation as to why the problem or need exists, and identifies some of the strategies used in other settings that could potentially address the problem or need in your area. You must thoroughly understand the significance of the needs/problem section, as it provides the very underpinnings of the remainder of the proposal. As stated before, the needs section is not the place to propose your particular solution or project. Rather, it lays the foundation for your particular solution to emerge as one that is responsive to the need. The needs/problem statement provides an understanding of the impact of the problem not only on those directly affected but also on others, including the community as a whole. A compelling case should be made as to what effect continued nonintervention may have on individuals, families, and the community at large. One way to make this case is to contrast the costs of prevention or timely intervention to the ongoing costs of not



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Writing the Needs or Problem Statement


addressing the problem. In addition, there are emotional and psychological costs to consider related to quality of life issues for the program participants...
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