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Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a blogger for The School Funding Center since 2013. She was special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager...
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Demographics in Grant Applications

Okay, there's no way around it, there are parts of the grant application process that are just plain boring. Last time, I finished a discussion about federal and state grants with a promise to discuss the narrative writing process for prospective grant seekers. Grant writers probably develop writer's block more often than any other writing niche, so it helps to have it all compartmentalized and routine. In our resources section, you'll find a sample of a "demographics" page for a grant narrative. You will need one of your own, it should be a stock item to be kept in your files, but it needs to be updated often, to be sure the statistics are accurate.

What is (are?) demographics? Demographics are statistics that are gathered by federal, state and local governments in their annual census reports. Every ten years, you are subjected to a large census inquiry, usually a document or survey to fill out, sometimes, a person may come to your home to interview you. Census preparation is a huge undertaking but critical, a true count of people in a town will determine funding for many public services and facilities.


For grant writing purposes, you will need a demographics description for every grant narrative you prepare. Foundations and corporations will need to know all about you. Why are you worthy of the resources about to be bestowed? Your demographics, above all, must be true and up to date. They also must be as compelling as possible. It is difficult for wealthy towns to provide a justification for their needs, but there is a way for all with a critical eye. You might focus on a new influx of English language learners that have started to come in to your town. Or, when you analyze the census data, you notice there are more children who receive free and reduced lunch than in the past, showing a trend in a declining income base. Or there may be more students with IEP's in the last decade. There is information to be mined that will help support your argument for the resources you need.

Where are these golden nuggets of information? There are a couple of wonderful resources for data and with the advent of the internet, they are available to everyone for study. The first is NCES, (National Center for Education Statistics) and your state department of education site for academic and assessment information. We created a map for you in earlier blogs that will take you to your state office for federal and state grant information. From there, you can migrate to district demographics, usually called "district report card" or "school district information". Use their search engine to find school district specifics.

On the NCES site, you'll need to study the navigation tool carefully. Across the top you will see three sections of interest to you, Data and Tools, Fast Facts and School Search. Your first choice, as you learn to love this site is "school search". It helps if you already know your NCES number, this search engine is quite picky, they need you to search on the term they have on file for your district, most often your town name, not your school name. If you live in Smallville, type Smallville into the search box, you'll receive a list of choices. Your school district information is in there. When you find it and navigate to it, make a note of your NCES number, it will come in handy later.

When you find your school district, be prepared to learn things you never knew (or wanted to know) about your town, and the schools in it.

For information about academic achievement, your state's department of education is the place to go. Check out our map to get your started. You will land on the state site for federal grant information but you can find your district information from there.

So, if you are an urban district, you will have many statistics to work with to help you establish need for the funding you seek in your grant application. A smaller town with fewer economic issues may be more challenging to describe. Another place you might want to go is your public library. The librarian there will be happy to help you find out the information you want to use to bolster your application.

Next Time: Tackling the narrative of your grant application.