Hard And Soft Data For Grant Proposals

June 17, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

The section of a grant proposal defining the situation that has compelled your organization to seek funding is the heart of your argument. “The most convincing proposals use a combination of hard data (facts, figures, research findings) and soft data (quotes, stories, anecdotes) to demonstrate what the problem looks like in the targeted area, why the situation matters, and what’s causing it,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Floersch gave these four examples of how to use data in a grant proposal dealing with unemployment:

  • The situation causing concern. Use hard data to show the number of people who are unemployed, the unemployment rate, the demographics of those who are unemployed, and how unemployment in the target area compares with unemployment in other areas of the city, county, state, or nation.
  • The significance of the situation. Use hard data to define the problems caused by unemployment. The data might include increases in poverty levels, stress-related health issues, home foreclosures, crime, hunger, demand on social services, and homelessness. Use soft data by bringing in the voices of those affected to describe how unemployment has harmed the community or challenged families.
  • The cause of the problem. Use hard data to quantify business closings, low educational levels, lack of skilled workers for high-demand jobs, lack of affordable day care, high cost of technical and other relevant education, etc. Use soft data to increase impact by giving the situation a human face and showing the causes from the perspective of someone who is unemployed.
  • Use every available resource to build a solid, well-documented case. After reading this section of the proposal, the grant-maker should understand the situation and be motivated to provide assistance. “Vague statements of need take up space without making a case,” said Floersch. “Go for impact. Present a detailed data-driven argument that includes a human perspective.”