How to Use Data to Tell Your Story

Grant Writing Tips and Best Practices
How to Use Data to Tell Your Story

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How to Use Data to Tell Your Story

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Writing an Effective Demographic Statement for a Grant: How to Use Data to Tell Your Story


When I served as a reviewer on a federal grant panel, the vast majority of the applications I read were from communities I knew nothing about. The demographic statement was the opportunity for me to get to know the unique challenges and assets that the applicant community had and why receiving funding would enable them to address a community challenge. Think of the demographic statement as a postcard that provides reviewers with an overview of your community and lays the foundation for why the grant you are applying for would be of use to the organization/community. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when crafting your demographic statement:


  1. Keep your statement clear and concise. Just like a good postcard, it’s a snapshot of the community. Pay attention to your use of adjectives and making sure that whatever language you use that you have data to back up your statement.
  2. Use data from your field. Be sure to use data from colleague organizations/national advocacy group and cite current research in your issue area. If your organization has conducted surveys or commissioned studies, cite this data where appropriate and if space allows, include it as an attachment.
  3. Demonstrate historical progress/changes. Provide a context for how the issue you address has changed over the past 10 years. Explain any increase or decrease in service number and explain why. Compare, using data, yourself to other organization to show your need as well as your proven track record to address your issue area.
  4. Keep it current. Try to find data, surveys, or reports that are less than five years old. It’s okay to cite data that shows a longitudinal change in an issue but try and keep all citation dates within a five-year range of your grant application.
  5. If space allows, demonstrate your organization’s commitment to evaluation by outlining how you collect, track, analyze collected information and how you use this information to inform organizational planning.


Here are four helpful sites to help find pertinent data on your community:


Data can help tell your community’s/organization’s story. It provides the historical context, the compelling challenges and the opportunity for change. Using this information to frame your grant provides a solid foundation on which the rest of the grant sits and demonstrates that your organization stays current on changes within your field.

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About The Author
Amy has worked with and for nonprofits for over 20 years as a practitioner, researcher and consultant. She oversees the creative direction at Finch Network as well as business development. Amy has worked with local, regional and national organizations including the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the Corporation for National and Community Service and United Way of Tompkins County. She specializes in program planning, fund development and qualitative research. Notable projects include a fellowship she completed for the Corporation for National Service where she conducted an evaluation of program sustainability of AmeriCorps*VISTA projects, coordinating an allocation process that invested $1.3 million dollars annually to health and human service nonprofits in Tompkins County and leading the qualitative research portion for two evaluations conducted for City Harvest. Amy has a strong commitment to her own community and volunteers with her local Foster Care program, Plattsburgh Community Garden and in Plattsburgh City Schools. Amy holds a B.A. in American Studies and a teaching certificate from the University of Rochester and a graduate degree in Community and Rural Development from Cornell University.

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