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Funded: Grants Office Monthly NewspaperI have always enjoyed writing the “Needs” sections of proposals, since it sets the stage for the rest of the proposal and actually grabs the reader’s attention. Researching and substantiating compelling needs is one of the most important elements in a successful proposal.

A recent story by Vince Siragusa, “It’s Not Always What You Say, It’s How you Say It,” in the March 2011 Grants Office newsletter prompted me to revisit the importance of the needs section in proposals.

Siragusa writes: “Expressing demographic, economic and other pertinent figures is advised and will likely be required for a number of grant proposals. Inevitably, you’ll use facts and statistics to backup your argument on why financial assistance is necessary. Rather than presenting these figures matter-of-factly or without emotion, however, you should offer some perspective that helps make the information more relevant … Make your arguments clear and concise but, at the same time, feel comfortable to know that there’s nothing wrong with a little personality and organizational culture coming through to provide some context for your application … Painting a more colorful picture for your grant project by tapping into the human element may prove the best way to leave a lasting impression upon your grant reviewers after the theater goes dark.”

Jayme Sokolow: TheProposalGuru blog screenshot.Jayme Sokolow, The Proposal Guru, in a January 9th, 2011 blog entitled, ”How Can You develop Compelling Win Themes for Grant Proposals?,” writes, “…a strong win theme has four components:

  • It links customer benefits to your solution features.
  • It supports the solution.
  • It contains specific information.
  • It provides reasons and proof that evaluators need to select you.”

Beverly Santicola, in her HealthTechConnect blog from November 2010, “Developing a Compelling Needs Statement,” provides an interesting analogy with Aristotle’s writings on rhetoric:

HeatlthTechConnect+“He (Aristotle) described three main forms of rhetoric: ethos, logos, and pathos.

  • Pathos is appeal based on emotion. Advertisements tend to be pathos-driven. Broad statements of need, headlines, and human interest should appeal to the emotions.
  • Logos is appeal based on logic or reason. Documents distributed by companies or corporations are logos-driven. Scholarly documents are also often logos-driven. Compelling need statements must include verification that the problem exists to provide logic and reason for the reviewer to understand the extent of the problem and how it compares to other societal problems and/or the same problem in other parts of the world, nation, region or state.
  • Ethos is appeal based on the character of the speaker. An ethos-driven document relies on the reputation of the author. Compelling need statements need to include testimony of people in authority—people who are scholars on the subject, people who have experienced the problem first hand, or people who are actively working to address the problem that have evidence based research.”

I would like to offer you several sources of data that can be used in developing your compelling needs:

Now the trick is to take these statistics and like Northern California’s chef and California Community Colleges alumnus, Guy Fieri of the Food Channel Network, "Add some spice to them!"<>