7 Sources to Find Data for your Grant Application
Including specific data in your grant application can strengthen your arguments, making your application more compelling by demonstrating the extent of the need you propose to alleviate and the value of your program.
I often receive questions about the best places to find data to support the arguments you want to make in a grant application.
This list includes my 7 favorite grant data sources.
1. Census Bureau (www.census.gov): I practically live on this site. It has great data for nearly any demographic on which you want to report. I particularly like the QuickFacts section that allows you to quickly and easily look at data at the state, county, and city level. Need to know how many children in your county live in poverty? The Census Bureau can give you that data. How many seniors don’t have health insurance in your state? Yup. The Census Bureau has that too. You might need to use some algebra to extrapolate their general data for your specific need, but it has most of the data you need. With a lot of work, you can also drill down to the block level using Census data. But, when I need something that specific, I look at #2.
2. School districts/State Boards of Education: No Child Left Behind and its subsequent iterations require schools and school districts to report on a variety of demographic, financial, and outcome data that gives grant writers a gold mine! I use it not only when I need to report on school-specific outcomes, but when I need the demographics of a particular neighborhood. I see the schools as a microcosm of the neighborhood as a whole with its demographic characteristics mirroring the neighborhood. Each state reports their data differently as does each school so you may need to invest some time to learn how and where your schools and states report these data.
3. Community Health Assessments: Every health department and health system must conduct a study every 3-5 years on the health of their community and develop plans to improve health indicators of concern. Look on the website of your local health department and/or health system(s) to find these data. Contact them if you cannot find it. Again, if I need to talk about the number of obesity children or adult smokers in our community, these data support my arguments.
4. Welfareinfo.com: A client drew my attention to this site recently; I’ve not used it as much as many of these others listed here, but it has current (2017) poverty and benefit rates at the county level with the ability to see these data by other demographic characteristics (e.g., age, gender, race). When you need more current or exact data than the Census Bureau reports, you might want to check out this site.
5. Local economic development office: Make friends with your local economic development office staff; they collect the types of data that make a grant writer drool (or at least this data-obsessed grant writer!). They also can pull data at the block or census track level if that becomes an important detail for you. A word of caution: Some offices may charge for these data and give them lots of time to pull it for you. Your priorities and timeline may not match theirs. (Again, a good reason to develop a strong relationship with them!)
6. Your files and experts: Your organization likely has data about the need it addresses as well as testimonials from clients that you serve. Don’t look beyond the data that lives right under your nose. If you don’t have the data you need, who in your community might? I once wrote a grant about how people with disabilities suffer abuse more frequently than their able-bodied peers. When I couldn’t find the data to substantiate that claim, I called our local Child Abuse Council and asked my friend who worked there. She knew the data and saved me a lot of time digging for it.
7. Google: When in doubt, google it! I once wrote a grant that included the number of cancer survivors in the community. While the Community Health Assessment had cancer incidence data, it didn’t answer my question sufficiently. So, I googled “Cancer survival rates in the US” which lead me to National Cancer Institute statistics. After a little algebra (note a theme?), I could extrapolate to report the number of cancer survivors in the community of interest.
Lots of other data sources exist, many specialized to a particular type of grant application. What favorite sources do you use that I missed?
Next week’s Nonprofit Tips & Tidbits will discuss how to best use these data to make a persuasive argument in your grant application.