Don’t speculate, aggregate: Data tips and resources for grant applications

Make a bigger impact on the grant reviewers by including more data, not less or just the basics


The word “data” sometimes scares grant writers and nonprofits, and they make the concept more difficult than it needs to be. However, comments such as “When I write grants about homeless shelters, the funder only wants the number of beds used and the number of meals served” do not cover the whole picture of what data is needed for a successful grant proposal. What are you doing as a district to help these students escape generational poverty and homelessness? What are you doing in the community to educate all involved about the true picture of homelessness in the community?

Another comment I have heard is “We don’t have those types of dirty homeless kids in this community!” This comment was from an education district leader and demonstrates the ignorance that still abounds around the issue of homelessness. Where is the evidence for that statement? That is an opinion, is discriminatory and should never be said out loud, placed in writing or added to a grant application. Back up your data with evidence and citations appropriately. Use this era of social justice and racial equity to make your proposal stronger.

Remember that only 10% of submitted grant applications are awarded. In this highly competitive grant landscape, remember to go above and beyond in the description of a program that needs funding. Don’t leave any unanswered questions in the heads of reviewers, and make your proposal stand out. Here are some tips and resources concerning data in grant applications.

Make that data unforgettable and make that proposal flow like a beautiful river.
Make that data unforgettable and make that proposal flow like a beautiful river. (Getty Images)

Are you writing a grant to help students who are experiencing homelessness in your district? The data should not only include quantitative elements such as number of students identified through McKinney-Vento, but also qualitative evidence such as the living situation of students in your district, stories about these students and what the district is doing to help them. Make a bigger impact on the grant reviewers by including more data, not less or just the basics.

As Barbara Floersch says, “Use data to define the problem your program will address, the population it will serve, and the efficacy of the approach you propose.” There are many other grant tips in her article about data. Use that data to perfection in grant proposals. Make the reviewer feel why this funding is needed so badly and compel them to recommend funding. The need statement in a grant application is one of my favorite parts to work on because you are telling a story and are setting up the rest of the proposal as competitively as possible. Relate that data to the rest of the proposal and the budget. Make that data unforgettable and make that proposal flow like a beautiful river.

Look for data from colleges and universities based in the location you are researching. For example, use local data sources such as the University of Arizona’s Making Action Possible (MAP) award-winning project to find economy, education, health/social well-being, infrastructure, quality of place and workforce/demographics statistics. Resources include data such as information about poverty in communities, the economic outlook and income for college graduates in Arizona. 

Don’t forget about the U.S. Census Bureau for collecting data about a community and the nation. They even provide data webinars. Use the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts and other data resources to make your proposal more competitive. Compare community data to the country’s data to make a bigger impact on the reader.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientists collect enormous amounts of data that are appropriate for use in grant proposals. Did you know they are currently trying to eradicate Ebola in the world and that they collect opioid statistics? In addition, they provide public data concerning disability and health, injury and violence, pregnancy, child vaccinations, teen vaccinations, smoking and tobacco use, COVID-19, motor vehicles, environmental health and toxicology, and traumatic brain injury. The list of datasets that the CDC provides is too long to list them all here.

Looking for some books about how to use data? Consider the following:

I hope you find these tips and resources helpful. Good luck on your journey to provide relevant, impactful data in grant proposals and in winning that funding.

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