When is a needs analysis needed?

What is a Needs Analysis? Do you need one? And how do you get the evidence that your project is really needed and will make a difference?

A while ago I was asked if I could do some research about how a project could be delivered, and then write a funding bid.  Nice – the crossover between research, project development and fundraising is our sweet-spot.

So, my question was – do you have any evidence that this project is needed?

‘Well, yes’ said the CEO, who was looking to develop a free advice service. ‘Our beneficiaries couldn’t afford to pay for this service’.  This gets to the nub of why so many funding applications fail.  

Do they need this advice service (paid for, or not)?  And what problems are they experiencing that this project will resolve?

What is a needs analysis?

I recommended that they undertake some research in the form of a Needs Analysis, to answer six key questions:

  1. What problems exist within the client group and how many people are affected?
  2. What help is need to overcome those problems?
  3. What are the strengths within the client group and/or other stakeholders that can be drawn upon?
  4. What are the gaps in current provision?
  5. Why is your organisation well-placed to provide a solution?
  6. Why is help urgently needed?

The answers to these questions become ‘a statement of need’.  Then, the organisation can move on to think about:

  • How the project solves the problems
  • The difference it would make and how this would be measured

This helps to form a ‘theory of change’ and programme evaluation.

However, without this evidence, in an extremely competitive fundraising environment, you could be throwing time and money down the drain – on unsuccessful funding applications and delivering projects that make little difference.

How do you gather this evidence?

For each question you should gather a combination of data, quotes and stories through desk research and stakeholder consultations.

Although the methods can vary depending on the budget and size of project, I find that a combination of desk research, user survey, stakeholder interviews and focus groups works well.

Consequently, when done well a Needs Analysis not only provides the essential evidence to include in a funding application, it can steer your future strategic direction and ensure that your project will achieve its aims.

See our case study as an example of how our Needs Analysis research provided the evidence to help expand Love4Life, a friendship and dating service for adults with a disability.

Get in touch if you’d like a conversation about how we can help you understand the needs of your beneficiaries.

Emma Insley


Emma has first-hand experience of the thrills and terrors of charity leadership. Dedicated to the non-profit sector for 21 years, Emma has both depth and breadth of experience as a CEO, Consultant, Trustee and Chair, Fundraiser and Grants Assessor.


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