The needs statement is a critical component of any grant proposal. Grantmakers are interested in funding programs that serve a well-defined need in the community, and therefore the ability to use data and statistics to demonstrate the specific need for a project is a vital skill for any grant writer.
Whether you're using Census data or other sources to make the case for your programs, there are a number of tips to keep in mind. Here are a few key considerations:
1) For the most relevant data, get local
Unless your program is national in scope, there's no point in using country-level data in your needs statement. Whatever your program focus, there is likely to be a source of local data in your field. Census data is available down to the tract level, and other sources might provide data for even narrower geographic areas, such as school districts. If using Census data, find the tract that most closely approximates your program service area. It doesn't have to be a perfect fit, but should present a fair match in terms of demographics.
2) Focus on data that is relevant to your issue
Throw too many numbers at someone all at once, and you'll probably see their eyes glaze over. Limit your use of statistics to the data that presents the best representation of your issue in the community. If you are trying to fund a youth recreation program to combat child obesity, focus on health and wellness data rather than broader economic indicators or tangential data on educational achievement.
3) Use data to draw comparisons
Telling a funder that the current high school graduation rate in your area stands at 67% might hint at current needs, but showing how rates have changed over the past ten years would provide the reviewer with a much more robust picture of trends in the field and the acuteness of the problem. Comparisons don't always have to be chronological, either. Contrasting data from your region with that of similar geographic areas or national or regional figures can help demonstrate the uniqueness of a local issue.
For more helpful tips on using data in your proposals explore these additional resources:
- Using Census Data in Grant Writing
- Using Census Data to Get Grants | Nonprofit Webinars
- Using Data to Support Grant Applications and Other Funding Opportunities. Publication: Grand Rapids, MI: Community Research Institute, 2004.
- Making the Case with Maps!
Stephen Sherman, Senior Librarian, Foundation Center-Atlanta
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For more on making a stronger case to funders, join us for our upcoming programs:
Telling Your Story: An Introduction to Program Logic Model Development
Wednesday, May 6 at 9:00am-12:00pm | Atlanta
Presented by CommunityBuild Ventures
A program logic model provides a systematic and visual representation to show the relationship among the issue your program addresses, how your program functions, and the expected outcomes as a result of the program. Through the art of storytelling, this workshop will help you develop a program logic model for your program.
Storytelling for Change Makers
Thursdays in May | Webinar
Stories humanize our work and create emotional connections to the donors and supporters we need to reach. When told well, they can be our most powerful communications and fundraising tools. In this three-part webinar series, we will explore the unique power of stories in print, video, and social media to move and inspire your audiences to take action. You will learn to craft nonprofit stories for maximum impact.