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While planning a competitive proposal, it may help to think about Need – and the Data to demonstrate it – in terms of several simple questions and your answers to them.

  1. What?  A need is a specific situation or condition that you want to change.
  2. Who?  A need relates to a specific population that will benefit from the change.
  3. Where?  A need exists in a specific place.
  4. When?  A need exists at a specific time.
  5. How?  A need can be documented with qualitative and quantitative data.


Using Data to Demonstrate Need:

Many kinds of data provide evidence of a need (or a problem). The evidence you present to a grant maker should support the focus, scope, and rationale for each specific proposal.


The table below sorts types of data useful specifically for Education Grants in terms of indicators, data sources, and American public school grade levels (prekindergarten through high school). The plus (+) and minus (-) indicate a desired direction of change in the indicator.


Potential Indicators of Need Data Sources Levels


Preschool participation rates Annual reports preK

Developmentally delayed rates Annual reports preK-1


Results in all academic subjects Annual CRT results K-12


Annual NRT results K-12


Portfolios/assessments preK-12


Periodic report cards preK-12


Attendance rates Attendance reports preK-12

Absenteeism rates Attendance reports preK-12

Short-term suspension rates Suspension reports K-12

Long-term suspension rates Suspension reports K-12

Code of conduct infractions Suspension reports K-12

Student legal infractions Suspension reports K-12

Juvenile delinquency rates Police statistical reports K-12

Gang affiliation rates Police statistical reports K-12


Extracurricular participation rates Program records preK-12


Parents’ school participation rates PTA participation rates preK-12


Parent-teacher records preK-12


Parents’ school satisfaction rates Transfer-out reports preK-12


Parent contact records preK-12


Parent surveys preK-12

Grade retention rates Membership reports preK-12


Computer availability/use Site technology surveys preK-12


Internet availability/use Site technology surveys preK-12


Software availability/use Site technology surveys preK-12


Gifted/talented placement rates GT enrollment records 3-12

English language learner rates ELL enrollment records preK-12

Dropout rates Dropout reports 6-12


High school completion rates Graduation reports 11-12


AP/IB participation rates AP/IB records 11-12


AP/IB program results AP/IB test reports 11-12


Post-graduate educational plans Annual surveys 11-12


Curricular program options Comprehensive plans preK-12


Professional development options Comprehensive plans preK-12


Staff degrees earned Personnel records preK-12


Staff certifications/credentials Personnel records Adult


Adult literacy rates Program enrollments Adult


Census Bureau reports


Beyond those types cited in the above table, among other possible information resources useful for substantiating needs for Education Grants are:

  1. Site-specific improvement plans
  2. Organization-level comprehensive plans
  3. Technology plans
  4. Long-range strategic plans
  5. Vision and mission statements
  6. Annual reports on programs and finances
  7. State and federal legislative records
  8. State and national educational standards
  9. State and national policy statements and position papers
  10. Local, state, and federal agency reports/studies
  11. Professional (peer-reviewed) research literature
  12. Meta-analyses of research studies


This is one of an anticipated series of posts on finding and using data to plan proposals and win competitive grants.


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