Using Relevant and Current Data in a Needs Statement


Developing a strong statement of need that conveys to your reader just how critical your services are to the community is my favorite part of grant writing. It combines using data with personal stories, and if done correctly, spells out exactly the reasons why your services are integral to your community. As someone who enjoys pouring through local data and census tables, I particularly relish compiling data to show trends, needs, and opportunities for growth.

There are many ways to approach data. Ideally, you will have historical data from your current constituents that have been through a stringent quality assurance process and collected using high standards of evaluation. In the absence of such ideal circumstances, you may need to look elsewhere.
Using Relevant Data
Local data is always the preferred method of conveying community need, as localized as you can get it while still having reliable information. For example, while census tract data is fantastic, it has a higher margin of error than using zip code data or city/county data. This information is not always available – your community may not track gun deaths by law enforcement. Alternatively, only have literacy rates of kindergarten-age refugees in the state, not by county.
If you can only show the information you need for your region, not your city, you can just say that the information is only collected in the aggregate form for your area. It is critical you confirm that this is indeed the case before submitting it in the grant. It is likely a funder knows what data is available. 
For instance, I was trying to show that death by drowning for children age 5 and under was higher in one area of Omaha. I could not find accurate data and called the county health department to see what they tracked. They confirmed I was correct: the data was not attached to zip codes when collected and therefore only available for the entire county. I could, however, find data about parents worried about death by drowning for their children from a recent city-wide health assessment, split out geographically by northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest areas of Omaha. It was not exactly the information I wanted, but it made a good case for support for swimming lessons for children in Northeast Omaha.
Comparing Data
Always show comparative data that makes clear that the need is high because the clients in your program have a higher-than-average need. Demonstrating that your program serves an area that has a poverty rate of 25% is meaningless without knowing if that is higher or lower than average for your state or region. This comparison is illustrated most easily in table format, though that is not always ideal in the more typical online grant applications where there is little space to compare numbers to make your project appear to have the highest need. For example, if I notice that the city average is higher than the county average for poverty, I will compare my data to the city average to show that my program has the highest possible need. A table showing multiple comparisons is even more impactful.
The sheer volume of data available to grant writers these days is staggering – from U.S. Census tables, police statistics, county health departments to state education test scores – there is almost an unlimited amount of information to be used if you know how to access it. If you can take classes or webinars on any of these topics, I highly recommend it.
What tricks have you learned when putting together data for your statement of need?
April Koske has over 10 years of experience working for nonprofits in Omaha, Nebraska and is currently a grant writing consultant with Vic Gutman & Associates.



By: Chelsey Pinke
On: 04/18/2017 15:53:43
Thank you April! I was just speaking with a client this morning about developing a more evidence-based, urgent statement of need. Your advice is well-timed and gives me some ideas on how to approach this question.

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