The excerpt below gives some excellent suggestions on how to make
your research proposals compelling and difficult not to fund. It is
from THE "HOW TO" GRANTS MANUAL: Successful Grant-seeking Techniques
for Obtaining Public and Private Grants, By David G. Bauer, Forth
? 1999 by The American Council on Education and The Oryx Press 4041
North Central at Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ 85012-3397.
http://www.oryxpress.com/ All rights reserved. Reprinted with
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PLANNING THE SUCCESSFUL FEDERAL PROPOSAL
DOCUMENTATION OF NEED
Most grant-seekers begin their proposal with what they propose or
want to do. It is much better to begin by focusing on why there is a
need to do anything at all, including your proposed intervention. To
gain the reviewer's respect, you must show that you are knowledgeable
about the need in a particular area. Your goal in this section of the
proposal is to use articles, studies, and statistics to demonstrate a
compelling reason or motivation to deal with the problem now.
The grantor invariably must choose which proposals to fund this year
and which to reject or put on hold; therefore you must demonstrate
the urgency to close the gap between what exists now and what ought
to be in your special field (see figure 11.1). Your proposed project
will seek to close or reduce this gap.
What exists now. What is real What could be. The goal.
What the present situation is. ___________________ The desired state of
affairs, level of
In a research proposal, need documentation involves a search of
relevant literature in the field. The point of the literature search
is to document that there is a gap in knowledge in a particular area.
Currently in the scientific community it is necessary to enhance the
motivation of the reviewer to fund your research project by
suggesting the value of closing the gap, in monetary terms or in
terms of increased knowledge.
In proposals for model projects and demonstration grants, this
section is referred to as the needs statement or need documentation.
To be successful in grant-seeking, you must produce a clear,
compelling picture of the current situation and the desired state.
Grantors are "buying" a changed or better state of affairs.
Creating a sense of urgency depends on how well you document the
need. Since not all proposals can be funded, you must make the
funding source believe that movement toward the desired state cannot
wait any longer. Those proposals that do not get funded did not do as
good a job of
* documenting a real need (perceived as important)
* demonstrating what ought to be (for clients)
* creating the urgent need to close the gap by demonstrating that each
day the need is not addressed the problem grows worse or
that there is
unnecessary suffering, confusion, and/or wasted efforts.
DOCUMENTING WHAT IS
Use the following steps to document a need in a model or demonstration grant:
1. Review the section on performing a needs survey (chapter 2) to assess
whether any of the methods described could help document the need.
2. Use statistics from articles and research (e.g.,
"Approximately __ woman
in the United states were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends last
3. Use quotes from leaders or experts in the field (e.g., "Dr.
Flockmeister said children who are raised in a family with spouse abuse
have a __ percent chance of being abused or of abusing their
4. Use case statements (e.g., "John Quek, a typical client of the family
Outreach Center, was abused as a child and witnessed his
mother and aunt
5. Describe a national need and reduce it to a local number that is more
understandable (e.g., "It is estimated that __ percent of teenagers are
abused by their boyfriend or girlfriend by the time they reach age 17;
this means that at the West Side High School __ seniors in the
graduating class may have already experienced abuse.").
6. State the need in terms of one person (e.g., "The abused spouse
7. Use statements from community people such as police, politicians, and
When documenting what exists in a research grant, include:
1. The latest studies, research articles, and presentations to
demonstrate your currency in the field.
2. Studies that demonstrate the scope and sequence of work in the
field as its current state, and the necessity to answer your proposed
research question before the field can move ahead.
3. A thorough literature search that does not focus only on the
researcher or data that reinforces your research position. Show how
the diversity or conflict in the field reinforces the need to search
an answer to your question.
4. A logical flow of reference to the literature. The flow may
consist of a chronological and conceptual documentation that builds
to the decision to fund your work. Remember, the literature search
should not be a comprehensive treatise in the field that includes
references to every contributor, but rather a convincing
documentation of significant works.
DEMONSTRATING WHAT OUGHT TO BE
To establish what ought to be, proven statistics may be difficult or
impossible to find. Using experts' statements and quotes to document
what ought to be is much more credible than using your opinion. Do
not put your opinion in the needs statement. In this section you are
demonstrating your knowledge of the filed and showing that you have
surveyed the literature.
Stay away from terms that point to a poorly documented needs
statement. They include the words many and most, and expressions
like, a great number, and, everyone knows the need for. Make sure
your needs statement does not include any of these types of words or
It is relatively easy to say what ought to be in areas such as family
violence or drug abuse, but more difficult when dealing with bench
research. However, it is still important to demonstrate the possible
uses your research could be related to even if you are working in the
hard sciences. Documenting the other side of the gap is a necessity
if you want to close the gap of ignorance in your field.
CREATING A SENSE OF URGENCY
The needs section should motivate the prospective funding source. One
way to do this is to use the funding source's own studies, surveys,
or statistics. The same basic proposal can be tailored to two
different funding sources by quoting different studies that appeal to
each source's own view of the need. By appealing to the views of
individual sources, you will appear to be the logical choice to close
the gap and move toward reducing the problem.
If the proposal format required by the funding source does not have a
section that deals with your capabilities, the end of the needs
statement is the best place to put your credentials. To make a smooth
transition from the need to your capabilities:
* state that it is the mission of your organization to deal with this problem.
* summarize the unique qualities of your organization that make it
best suited for the job. For example, your organization has the staff
or facilities to make the project work.
* capitalize on the similarities you share with other organizations.
For instance, "Our project will serve as a model to the other
agencies that face this dilemma each day." Such statements will help
the prospective grantor realize that the results of your project
could affect many.
* emphasize that the needs are urgent and that each day they go unmet
the problem grows. For example, "Each year that teacher education
colleges put off comprehensive computer education, a new group of
teachers with limited computer skills enter our schools and the