Just as a business must understand its target customers and market accordingly, so too must a grant applicant clearly demonstrate to a potential funder its understanding of the target population and its needs.
You might be thinking, "I'm the grant writer. I know my target audience well." Fine, but reliable stats can propel your cause and provide objective support to a heartfelt narrative. Effective presentation of statistics can breathe life into the needs statement of your federal grant application and build credibility in your funding request.
Sources for Your Grant Proposal
So, where does one turn to find reliable, up-to-date statistics? The U.S. Census. A good place to start is American FactFinder, which has Census 2010 statistics on communities, economies, and populations, including information on household and personal income, labor, and housing; and QuickFacts, with at-a-glance facts about the people, business, and geography of the United States. This blog article will explore the acquisition of stats using FactFinder, which provides information at the state, county, municipality, zip code, census tract, and block group level.
This is just a starting point of course, but from FactFinder you’ll find myriad ways to mix and match statistical information for your needs statement. A simple table comparing the local target population’s information to the state and national statistics can powerfully present the need for your project to grant reviewers. (For more information on "the kinds of data funders find helpful and the kinds of data they find not helpful," please check out DataHaven's helpful discussion.)
An example is in order. Suppose I have a project to increase the post-secondary degree attainment for civilian veterans in Clark County, Illinois. Using FactFinder, I type “veteran education” in the topic search box and then add “Clark County,” “Illinois,” and “United States” as narrowed-down search criteria, as seen in the "Your Selections" screenshot. I then click on the dataset for “Veteran status by educational attainment for the civilian population 25 years or over," resulting in the table below.
Percentages can be derived from the table's information and presented in a simpler table in your needs statement. Because my hypothetical project is geared toward increasing post-secondary degree attainment for civilian veterans at the county level, it would be useful to compare veteran information at the national, state, and county level.
Some simple division results in the following: 26% of all veterans (25 years or older) have a bachelor’s degree or higher; 23% at the state level; and 15% in at the county level. The county's attainment percentage is 11% below the national average. Does the project fill a need? Looks like it.
Now a fair warning: Keep in mind sociologist Joel Best’s relatively famous quote: “A bad statistic is harder to kill than a vampire.” Now, we can trust census stats, but the proper use of statistics is just as important. Their misuse can mean a fanged siphoning of credibility. Be honest, and be on target.
Are there any other federal sources or tips that you recommend?
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About Your Grant Proposal
As you work on your grant application, be sure to check out our free article on editing and collaboration tips: