Grant proposals need facts. Grantors are dealing with figures of one sort or another every time they send out an Request For Proposal (RFP), and statistics are often a convenient way to draw a picture of your program in a way that makes it easy for review committees to grasp the problem quickly.
There are many sources of information for statistical data. Let’s take a hypothetical nonprofit applying to a community foundation, and explore the ways that the proposal writer can find statistics to present the need for their services.
This nonprofit has focused their mission on providing school supplies to lower income children from the age of six to eighteen. The task is to define how many children will need supplies, what type of supplies they need most, and how best to deliver the supplies to the children.
One place to start is the most recent census, where you can locate figures on the target demographic. Simply go to www.census.gov to find state and local census figures from the United States Census Bureau. In the search box on the first page at the top right, type in your state and county. This will take you to a page that says (Your County) Quickfacts. That link will take you to a detailed breakdown for the county, and by following other links such as the American Community Survey, you will find that you can extract data on how many children were under 18, and how many of those were also under five. I used my own state and county, and discovered that there were 32,794 persons under 18, and of those 9,455 were under the age of five. That leaves 23,339 children in my target age group.
From here it depends on exactly how precise your data needs to be and whether you can access that data within your state or county bureau of statistics. If you only need general figures, you can use the census figures showing average household or individual income below the poverty level, and develop an equation to show that your target group has say 9% of the children living below the poverty level, or 2101 children.
Or you can access the state data, if available, which shows that in my county, 11.9% of the population receives some sort of state or Federal assistance, or is under the poverty level. and use that data instead. Notice that it is a higher figure than I reached using the general census data. Another approach would be to show that teachers in your specific area spend on average $5,232 per year purchasing supplies for their classes. You could the further refine that figure by finding out which supplies are purchased most often. You might want to meet with your local school board, or teachers union, and incorporate their figures.
For the purpose of this discussion, the point that I am making is that you need to have some concrete data assembled that supports your mission and vision statement. It can be as general as that which can be calculated or inferred from census data, or you can achieve a nearly 100% accurate snapshot in time by utilizing both the internet and going on down to personal meetings with the real people who will benefit in some way from your efforts.
The nice thing about all this is that you will have concrete facts to back up your request for funding. The data may and probably will help you to focus your mission and define specific project breakouts within that mission, and will involve you more fully in your community. This data can often be used for several programs, so be sure you save your source searches for future reference.