The Best Statements of Need Get to the Root Cause

4 May 2015

I recently met with someone who leads a large organization through major changes.
When her team justifies a change, they try to ask the question “Why?” at least five
times. My mind wondered back to days with two young, inquiring minds. They
constantly asked, “Why, Mom?” Perhaps they were on to something.
Funders don’t just want to alleviate symptoms. They want to wipe out negative
root causes. Let’s look hypothetically at a problem… Heart attacks are on the rise in
people over 65 in the City of ABC. Why? They have cardiovascular disease. Why?
They have poor health and wellness habits. Why? They have no access to existing,
affordable programs that combat the daily risks. Why? They have no means of
Finally, we may have hit on the root cause. We don’t give the answer. We just
state the root cause of the need. “People over the age of 65 in the City of ABC are
suffering from hearts attacks because they have no transportation to affordable health
and wellness programs.” Boom. Now we can move forward explaining the benefits of
our program and thus how access to this program will mitigate the problem through
The Statement of Need makes or breaks the grant. Don’t dwell on it. Just get to the
root of it and make sure it is important to your potential funder.