Conducting a small or more formal needs assessment among potential users and partners can provide valuable information for framing, focusing, and justifying a grant proposal, particularly if the team lacks prior experience working on the project topic or has not worked on the topic in such a large geographic scope. A Needs Assessment Guide, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Digital Coast, offers a straightforward, stepwise process (complete with resources and real examples) to help plan and conduct a needs assessment, leading to better understanding of the intended users.
Some teams have found it helpful to use logic models to collaboratively map out and show the connections between the specific activities, outputs, and desired outcomes for a project. Creating a logic model can help clarify a project's vision, and the model can serve as an effective communication tool. In addition, a logic model or Theory of Change (see below) can help teams evaluate their impact. This compilation of logic model resources from University of Wisconsin Extension is a good place to learn more.
Project example: Communicating project goals with logic models
You can read a project case study to see how one team developed a logic model to help explain their project to intended users.
Theory of Change
This is another approach to help you visualize and explain how your project could impact people, decisions, and natural resources. Like logic models, Theory of Change can take some time to learn and apply, so see if anyone on your team has some experience with the method. The Center for Theory of Change has a good initial resource.
Some collaborative science teams have started using tools from business to help them develop a concise, compelling pitch. Lean Canvas requires an account but offers a free template. The Lean Canvas tool can help entrepreneurs and other types of teams develop a one-page plan for their venture.