Get real: Use data to demonstrate need in grant proposals
In the age of accountability, more funders want to see grant applications infused with factual data that supports the organization's proposed need.
"Using data in a grant proposal is important because it shows that what you are trying to do is real; it's factual, not opinion," said Tracy Marshall, grants director for Fort Worth (Texas) Independent School District. "Funders don't want to give you money if they don't think that your ned is real."
You have to state your problem and verify it. Just saying that there is an achievement gap in your school or that you have a high dropout rate isn't going to cut it. "You can't assume that because you are a large urban district that people know that you are needy," she said.
Below is advice on finding and using data.
"In Texas, we have the Academic Excellence Indicator System," Marshall said. The AEIS is a Texas Education Agency - run database that houses reports for every public school, district, and region in the state. This resource is free and open, and it is great for finding information on a school district, she said. Most state education departments have a comparable system, Marshall added.
The type of data you will use for each grant proposal will vary significantly, depending on what you are trying to accomplish, Marshall said. For example, proposals involving REMS funding may require you to use juvenile justice data, weather data, or even transportation data.
Census data, clearing houses, education boards/ list serves, and community, municipal, and government agencies may be able to provide needed information.
Even a national report may be used to support your need, Marshall said. For example, if you are seeking funds for a dropout prevention program, you may consider using a national report on dropout prevention to compare what is happening at the national to what is happening at the local level. This can be especially helpful in showing need if you dropout rates are higher than the national average, she added.
Clearing houses, such as the Funding Information Center, are places where data can be gathered. Keep in mind that these organizations do charge a fee, Marshall said.
- Decide how to package data. "We are really visual in how we present data," said Marshall. "We use a lot of charts and graphs with a little narrative around them." How you package your data will depend on who the funder is.
- Don't manipulate the data. Marshall said that she's seen people change the size of the scale on a chart to make their percentages look bigger. Instead of the intended effect, it made the chart look skewed, she said.
- Start with the big picture and then focus. Most grantwriters have an overarching paragraph that describes their school district. The description doesn't change, said Marshall. Using data allows you to get more specific as you move through the needs assessment.
- Keep it normal. Follow the normal layout for charts and graphs: top to bottom, or left to right.
- Weigh data needs. Put the most important data in the needs section, and if attachments are allowed, put the rest of the data there.
- Use color.
- Scan/print and copy for legibility. Print your application, then make a copy of it to ensure readability. Sometimes copies can hid or obscure data.
- Enlist multiple readers. Solicit feedback on data and charts from a variety of readers to make sure that the information is clearly presented.
Education Grants Alert
February 19, 2011, Vol. 7, No. 28
LRP Publications, Inc.