One of the strategies you can use to support your case for a grant request is to provide comparative data to describe the need. Describing the data in narrative form is a good start, but you can reinforce your points by inserting charts, tables, and graphs. And you will enhance the visual appeal of your proposal at the same time!
Is That Good or Bad?
Presenting statistics for one group, time period, or geographic area is better than omitting data altogether, but how does the grant reviewer know if the situation you’re describing is good or bad? Comparing one group to another group provides the context your reader needs to determine if there is indeed a need, as well as the magnitude of the problem.
The More Local the Better
Consider the scope of the project you’re seeking grant funding for and present data for the smallest geography appropriate for that scope. If it’s a statewide program, compare the data in your state to a neighboring state.
If the program will serve a county or region, find comparison data for other areas that have similar characteristics. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to compare an urban area with a rural one.
Apply the same approach to communities and neighborhoods. Of course, you can’t get any more local than presenting data that you collected from your own clients!
Example 1: Academic Performance
When I want to make a case for a tutoring program, I present academic performance data to describe the need. I might use a line graph to illustrate how students’ test scores have decreased over time. Or I might use a bar graph to compare the performance of students in one school, district, or community to the performance in a similar school, district, or community.
Example 2: Crime
To illustrate the different types of crime committed in a community, I might use a pie graph. Or if I want to compare the crime rate in three cities for the past five years, I would use a stacked line graph.
Example 3: Subpopulations
Sometimes I want to describe an issue such as teen pregnancy that involves a specific group of people that are characterized by multiple factors. I might use a double bar graph to compare the pregnancy rate among girls younger than 16 with the rate among 17- to 19-year olds. Or I might use a stacked bar graph to compare the rates of two or more racial groups within one age group.
When I need to save space to comply with a page limit or if I have to present information that covers multiple data points, I use tables to concisely organize the information. Examples include staffing plans, test scores, demographics, curriculum descriptions, among others. I like to highlight the most important points in the body of the narrative and reference the complete data set in the table.
A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words
Cliché? Perhaps. But sometimes the most effective way to make your point is with a picture. A map to identify your service area. A flow chart to illustrate how your clients progress through a program. An organizational chart to depict where a program fits within the agency’s structure.
Be sure that each visual you use has a purpose and strengthens your grant proposal. Use charts, tables, and graphs to organize your information, support your points, and create visual interest for the grant reviewer. Label each graphic and reference it in the narrative to help your reader find it easily.
Feeling overwhelmed? Try adding one visual to your next grant proposal. Don’t know how to create a graph or chart yourself? Find a co-worker or student to help you. There are many software packages that are easy to use and produce impressive graphics.
For my next blog post, I’m pulling out my super-sized soapbox to address one of my pet peeves: passive voice. Watch for my Top 10 Grant Writing Tip #5, “Use Active Voice.”