I remember thinking, ‘why don’t they care?’ as I was working towards my social work degree. My classmates would come back from their internships and share about people living in poverty, in houses with gaping holes in the roof, ceiling and floor. Learning tips from those who had been in the field a long time. Things like: make sure you go early in the day before the trouble makers wake up. Avoid sitting on anything with cushions (to avoid lice and bugs). If you must sit on a cushion, sit as far forward as possible.
And all around me there were people who seemed to just not care. Have you ever gotten frustrated because others just don’t seem to care about the work you are doing?
Let me help you with a little tip: it’s not that they don’t care. It’s more typical that they just don’t know. And here’s a bonus tip: you can educate them – in fact, it’s your job to educate them.
Not in a way that’s abrasive or condescending. Not by accusing or yelling or thinking less of them. But, by simply sharing your story in a way that helps them catch up.
That's the role the needs section of your case statement: to educate, inform, and share your story in a way that helps people understand fully the issues that your clients face.
Your needs statement should include some information about the community needs that are being addressed as a result of your work. This will include some background information about how the issue started becoming a concern, what impact it is having in your community and statistics to back up what you’ve said. This helps build you and your organization as the expert and it provides back-up information to help educate people who do not have personal experience with the issue you address. In addition, this provides information for your advocates to share and should help simplify your messaging.
Here are some tips from the Help for Small Nonprofits coaches about the biggest mistake we've seen when organizations try to write their needs statement:
- From Kirsten Bullock: The most common mistake I've seen is in talking about the needs of the organization - rather than the needs of the community. It's not about needing more staff members, it's about what those staff members will be able to impact and improve in the community.
- Sheri Chaney Jones adds: I will echo what Kirsten said. Funders care about how your organization is going to solve their problem or improve the problems they care about. A mistake I see is when organizations fail to create a logical link between their program activities and the community need. A great proposal will use research and data to define the need the funders are interested in solving and then demonstrate with past outcomes or expected outcomes how their programs and activities improve this need.
- Sandy Rees reiterates that thought: In other words, no one wants to give to pay your salary or keep the lights on. People give to change the lives of the folks you're serving.
What about you? Do you have some mistakes to add? Feel free to add them below. And a special thanks to Sheri and Sandy for weighing in on this week's topic!