First let's look all of the 2009 listings on Prosper (the blue line below.) We can see that a bit over 25% of listings had the word "need" in the title or description for most Prosper Scores. (AAs and As were a bit lower, but still over 20%.)
Of those listings that went on to be funded (the red line), we can see they were close to the same percentage as that of the listings for AA-C scores, with D and E loans having a much higher percentage of loans with the word "need" than was in the listings and then a tumbling off to almost nothing for the HRs.
We now look at the data for Prosper's 2010 listings:
To me they look neck-and-neck here. It looks to me like, in general, lenders are not paying attention to whether or not a listing has "need" in the title or description when they are choosing to fund the loan.
This may be unfortunate for lenders because it looks to me like use of the word "need" is correlated with loans which are not paid back.
All Articles in the Needs Series
Comparing to Lending Club
What We Fund