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Funding - Identifying and evidencing NEED


All funding organisations ask applicants to explain why a project is needed. Funders expect applicants to explain and evidence the problem or situation that requires changing, and how their project will do this. Inadequate evidence of the need for a project is one of the most common reasons funding applications are rejected.

This factsheet explains ‘need’, the methods and information that can help you identify and evidence the need for your project, and why it is essential to do so.


Why is it important?

Identifying the need for your project should be one of your first actions in planning your project, to:


  • provide the business case for your project and demonstrate why it is required
  • make sure activities and services are appropriate to tackle the issue or problem you want to overcome
  • identify the people, organisations or areas that are most likely to experience the issue or problem

encourage funders your project is worth investing and will help meet their own objectives.


Hints & Tips

It is not enough to simply say there is a need for your project; funders expect you to back up your claims with reliable evidence.

No matter how obvious the need might appear to you, a funder may not have any knowledge of the type of work you will carry out or the area your project will take place in. Don’t assume the funder will know about an issue or an area.

Evidence should be:

  • Relevant – there’s no point citing evidence of an issue or situation in one area but planning to deliver your project in another. This is particularly important when you are considering delivering an existing project in a new area. Just because it has worked or is used in one area doesn’t mean the needs will be the same in another area you intend to deliver in. Some areas might have similarities, but you must show how the evidence is relevant to the area in which your project will take place.
  • Recent – Evidence must be up-to-date and reflect the current situation or views. For example, relying on a survey of the needs of 16 year olds that took place 5 years ago wouldn’t be useful; those 16 year olds are now 21 and the needs of young people change quickly! Generally, evidence should be no more than 2 years old.

Always reference your sources of information to show they are relevant and recent and explain the methods you have used to collect your evidence. For example, if you carry out consultation, explain how and when you did it and how many people you spoke to. If you use statistics, state the source and date published.

As a minimum, all funding applications should show they have talked to the people who will use the project and designed it around their needs and desires but the level of evidence required will depend on the amount of funding you are applying for; smaller projects will need less evidence, and larger funding requests should go into more depth.

Sources of evidence:

There are many sources of evidence of need and the strongest funding applications will use a range of sources to evidence the need. Some of the most common sources of evidence are:

  • Plans and Priorities – Local plans often set out key issues in an area. They are often developed by statutory bodies, such as local Councils and Health Services, and what they believe is required to change. Highlighting these local plans, and how your project fits with their intentions, is a good way to evidence need. You might also be able to link your project to national plans or priorities from Government or organisations that work in the field. For example, if your project is to help reduce homelessness, plans and priorities from national groups such as Shelter might back up your project approach.


  • Statistics and datasets – There are various sources of national and local data that show the statistical picture of an issue or an area. Statistics can be a good source for illustrating the makeup of the local population, highlighting if there are a significant group of people your project wishes to work with, for example, or a high rate of specific issue or problem you wish to tackle. Common data sources are updated frequently, and the most recent should be used. National statistics on unemployment, for example, are released every quarter. Other sources are updated less frequently but can still give the best indication of the current picture. The National Census, for example, gives the statistical picture of the population every 10 years. However, statistics alone will not provide adequate evidence of need; they should be used alongside other sources.


  • Community and beneficiary consultation – One of the most important ways to evidence the need for your project is by asking the people who you expect to use your service or activities what they want. Consultation can be carried out in a number of ways, from paper surveys, to online questionnaires, to talking to and recording people’s comments. Avoid a common error – don’t just survey those already using a service if you intend to attract new people to a new service!


  • Mapping services and providers – Knowing and explaining what services are already operating in your area is a good way to evidence need by identifying gaps in what’s currently available. Strong funding applications will know the marketplace and how the new project will fill a gap.


  • Stakeholder and focus groups – As well as identifying other services that are being delivered in your project’s area, it’s a good idea to talk to people who are providing services or activities in the area and with the target group your project will work. Holding focus groups with a range of organisations or professionals working in the area is usually the most efficient way to do this. Make sure you know what you are going to ask them and record their responses accurately. You should seek to find out what they feel would support their work and what’s missing in the area. Funders don’t like duplication so if they’ve already funded, or are aware of a similar project in the areas your application will be unsuccessful.


  • Research and evaluations – Local and national organisations publish research and evaluations of current activities and services. These can provide insights into what’s working, what isn’t, and what would be useful to deliver to tackle an issue or change a situation.


  • Pilot projects and past delivery – if you’re already delivering a similar project, the information you’ve collected from this can be useful in evidencing the need for scaling-up, expanding or altering. Observations from those that have used the project and staff or volunteers delivering the project can help show what’s needed. Similarly, information such as waiting lists, which show the demand for the project, or case studies demonstrating the success of an existing project, will help make the case.



Example 1:

 “There is a high population of young people living in the busy town of Trumpton. There are no play areas and accidents occur due to children playing near busy roads. We believe there is a need to provide a safe and suitable children’s play area and reduce accidents.”

This is a poorly evidenced need and would unlikely to be funded. The situation is not explained in enough detail and no sources of evidence are cited. It is not clear whether the people who will use the project have been consulted on their needs and it looks as though the need for the project is based only on what the applicant believes.

Example 2:

 “The 2011 Census shows 23% of Trumpton’s population are under 16. There are no designated play areas and the Council’s Children’s Services plan notes increasing play provision as a key priority. Police data illustrates 35% of road traffic accidents in the last 12 months occur due to children playing near busy roads. Consultation with local residents has shown that 80% would like to see more safe areas for children to play. Consultation with over 600 children (paper questionnaire this year) at three primary schools identified the Pugh, McGrew and Dibble estates were most desirable areas for new play provision.  These findings have been backed by Youth Workers and Neighbourhood Police Teams though focus groups meetings held recently. In addition, Play England, the national charity for children’s play, notes the importance of safe and suitable play areas within walking distance of a child’s home, to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing.”

This is a well evidenced need. The issue is explained in some detail and evidence is provided through statistics and research, links to plans and priorities and consultation. It is clear the project is based on a need that has been evidenced by a range of people and organisations and that those who will use the project have been consulted and helped shaped the ideas.

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