All you need to know About Needs Assessment for your NGO's Proposal

Proposal Writing
5 years ago

Needs assessment is considered the first and most important step in project proposal writing and in preparing the donor to understand the problem. So this part must be written carefully and clearly.
In order to assess needs, we have to take into consideration that need is a problem that the community suffers from, specifically, targeted groups that are children ( boys and girls), young men and women, men and women or it may be a specific group of the population like people with special needs or the poorest groups only. To make it clear, we have to analyze problems in the targeted community.

⦁ Selecting the target area:

Usually, we underestimate the importance of this step, while it is the most difficult step of the proposal writing, because selecting the targeted area helps to speed up the next steps from identifying the main problem, problem analysis, needs assessment to the designing of the project activities and its budget.

However, selecting the targeted area is subject to several points related to the donor first, next to the implementing agency then the severity of needs in the different areas in the targeted country. To speed up the selection of the targeted area, we need to bear in mind the following points:

1- In case the donor identified specific districts or governorates for interventions in the call for proposals, then the organization should decide as soon as possible the district or the area in which it will implement interventions. Next, the organization informs the donor of any other party related to funding like clusters that work on coordinating the interventions and reserving the districts for each organization that informed them first. 
2- It is preferable to select districts that the organization is already in with former projects or ongoing projects. This is a powerful point for the applicant organization that gives it an edge in accessing the funding, because the donor wants to make sure the organization is able to implement the project in this area. Also, the organization’s presence in the area helps to facilitate the coordination with the authorities and collect information concerning needs assessment. Moreover, it accelerates designing the project and making sure of all the information needed during writing the proposal.
3- In case there was a difficulty in coordination or the timespan was short to write a proposal, it is preferable for the organization to choose a partner organization, which is already active in the targeted areas to facilitate needs assessment and collect needed information to develop the project proposals. 
4- Huge organizations usually select strategic places to work in for many years and focus their interventions, plans and expenditures in these areas. This enables the organization to more quickly submit a  proposal to the donor, because they collect information and assess needs in these areas periodically.

⦁ Identifying the main problem:
It is difficult for many people and organizations to identify the main problem or the need they are going to analyze and find solutions for, due to lack of experience and clarity in some calls for proposals from some donors. The lack of clarity of the main problem leads to loss of confidence in all the steps that follow, starting from analyzing and assessing the problem to finding solutions from the activities, outputs and impact; this leads to the proposal not being connected to what the donor wants to support. Therefore, there is a likelihood that the proposal will be rejected and it will be difficult to convince the donor to fund the project. 


the relationship between the people affected by the problem and groups responsible of the problem.

Example :

The difficulty to enroll 39 thousand boys and girls at school, aged (7-18 years), who are displaced with their families from Hudiedah to Sana’a, for the year 2016-2017

To identify the main problem correctly with confidence, we need to do the following:

⦁ Identify the group affected by the problem, age group, geographical area, type and field of damage.

⦁ Identify the three main groups responsible of the problem who affect it positively or negatively resulting in damage to all or a group of people in the area.
⦁ Read carefully the call for proposals of the donors particularly objectives/ sectors/topics/ priorities indicated in the call for proposals and their relation to the affected people from the problem.
⦁ Make sure the main problem and the ones affected by it are related to all or some of the objectives/ sectors/ topics/ priorities indicated in the call for proposals, and this relation should be clear in all the intended solutions (activities) and the beneficiaries.
⦁ Search and consult those who have experience in these objectives, sectors, topics and priorities to ensure there are agreed standards on the interventions planned for implementation. We have to find references that contain these standards and look for similar activities that were implemented by other organizations in the same country or other countries undergoing the same economic and social situation, especially if these activities were funded by the same donor.

⦁ It is important to look for the theoretical background background and motives that made the donor focus on these objectives, sectors and topics mentioned in the doner’s call for proposals; this ensures that the project problem and the interventions planned in the proposal are related to these sources.
⦁ Laws, regulations, strategies and government plans.
⦁ Declarations and international conventions that member states are obliged to carry out. Examples: UN Security Council Resolution 1325: Women as Active Agents in Peace and Security, UN Security Council Resolution 2250: Youth, Security and Peace, Resolution 2419 of 2018 on the call to increase the involvement of youth in negotiations and the implementation of peace agreements, UN Universal declaration of a culture of peace, the CEDAW Convention, Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Convention on Human Rights…etc.


The paragraph of the analysis situation should not exceed half an A4 page for all the projects with a period of implementation of one year or less. For the large projects implemented over several years, one may need to write a longer paragraph of the analysis situation from one page to several pages. Furthermore, we must follow the donor's instructions if this paragraph is specified by a certain number of words or characters

How To Write The Needs Assessment Section

Usually, the donor requires a specific number of pages for the whole proposal or specifies certain words or letters. The needs assessment is written in a narrative way and often does not exceed half an A4 page to a page. Focusing on the following points, which we take from the problem tree and link with assessment results conducted in the targeted areas by the organization itself or other organizations for the same or nearby areas to the targeted area:

1- Describe the problem, its size and geographical scope.
We should be concerned only about the problem in the targeted area, so we mention the problem, the district, the governorate in which the problem exists and the number of people affected by the problem.

2- Who are the groups responsible for the problem?
It means the groups fueling the problem and that have a significant impact on the existence of the problem. If these groups were not targeted by the project activities, the project would not achieve its objectives. These groups can be service providers like educational staff, health staff, local authorities, community leaders, local organizations, relevant institutions or entities, parents and community.

3- What are the main direct reasons behind the problem?

4- What are the effects of the problem?
Effects describe the status of the groups responsible for the problem.

5- What are the damages suffered by the beneficiaries?
Women, men, girls, boys, disabled personnel, people with special needs, IDPs, refugees, marginalized...etc

6- What are the effects of the problem on the community as a whole? When writing this, the following should be taken into account:
⦁ Writing the name of the reference or the assessment from which the information of the needs and problems were obtained, with the date of issuing and the institution that carried out this assessment or study.
⦁ The needs and problems of every affected group should be written. For example, we mention the needs of boys separately from girls’ and women’s needs separately from men’s. In case other details are mentioned regarding people with disabilities, the marginalized, IDPs or refugees, these details should be written in separate sentences, as it will not be enough to mention them in total.
⦁ Problems must be solvable. I.e. the problem or the need should not be bigger than our ability to respond using the activities and the budget planned. In other words, we expand or limit problems or needs of a geographical area and the number of beneficiaries to be in line with the expected funding ceiling, in case the proposal wins.
⦁ It is important not to elaborate on the indirect causes of the problem, instead, we should concentrate on the direct causes that will be addressed and provide solutions for when implementing project activities. This means reviewing the needs assessment paragraph after  writing the activities to make sure there is a logical relationship between the direct causes mentioned in this paragraph and the activities and interventions we put in the action plan and the logical frame.
⦁ Direct causes, as well as results and impact of the problem, should be listed to make the picture fully clear and make the donor ready to anticipate the activities and interventions that will contribute to solve this problem in the targeted area.

Project justifications :

Many donors ask for the justifications for this proposal. These justifications can be formulated by answering the appropriate questions of your proposal and the relationship of your organization with the targeted areas.
⦁ Is this project an extension of a previous project so the intervention must continue?
⦁ Are there previous interventions, suggesting this project must be implemented to complete necessary parts?
⦁ Is there an emergency that must be responded to by this project?
⦁ Is there a need to inform the donor why this project was designed in this way with these kinds of activities?

⦁ What are the targeted areas?
They are the areas in which the project will be implemented. If the donor is international, we need to mention the country, governorate and district. Some donors may ask more detailed description of the areas. For example, in water projects, the organization cannot implement a project that covers all the villages in the district. So it is preferable to identify the targeted sub-districts and villages in which water projects will be implemented.
⦁ Clarify the situation, security and safety in the targeted areas.
⦁ The organization’s ability to implement in these areas.
⦁ Mention if the organization is currently implementing interventions or projects in these areas.
⦁ Mention if the organization considers this project as a continuation or adds another value to a previous project.

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