In any problem statement, one data point will not do. What if I said, alcohol abuse increased by 100% in our community this year? Does this shocking bit of data mean anything? Perhaps not. What if you had one case of alcohol abuse in your community of 200,000 last year and one more this year for a total of two? Does this constitute a severe problem? Of course not.
Data is only pertinent and has an impact if it is comparative so that the reader can relate the statistic to something. It is only important if the reader can clearly see its relevance in light of known data about the problem.
You need to place your data within the range of data known about the problem in general. It is good to compare your community's problem to the problem in the state and the nation. The Internet is an extremely valuable tool to get state and national statistics. Use a good search engine like Google (www.google.com), enter keywords or a brief phrase of the information you want, and you will surely find it if any agency or organization collects that data.
Grant makers, unless they are local, are not that interested in providing a solution to a problem in your community. What they are interested in is providing a potential solution to a problem that can be replicated in communities like yours in other parts of the country. If your problem is unique to your community only a local group is likely to fund you. Part of your task is to depict your community as similar to many other communities across the nation. Remember, most proposal readers will not be familiar with your community. Even if your community is New York City, how many false ideas are there of life in New York? Many. Even if you think your community is well-known it is important for you to place your community's problem firmly in the minds of the potential funder.
Wrong—Our community has a shocking level of B.A.D. bacteria in the groundwater. This obviously affects our community by causing a potential for serious illness. Our local health department reports an increase of both infection and pneumonia that we believe can be traced to our groundwater bacteria. We are most concerned about our more than 300 children below the age of five and our senior population.
Right —Our community has a level of B.A.D. bacteria at more than one part per liter. Our community is heavily industrialized with krypton fabrication plants from which seepage causes B.A.D. bacteria to flow into groundwater used for drinking and bathing. There are numerous communities like ours in every state with the exception of two in the nation. The lessons we learn in our project can easily be transferred to other communities like ours. According to the most recent EPA study (Groundwater Danger, October 2000), one in five communities with krypton fabrication plants have the potential to have B.A.D. bacteria in groundwater. At the level of bacteria in our system, infection and pneumonia are serious health concerns. In fact, in the past year the health department reports an increase in bacterial infection of 45% and in pneumonia of 32%.
In the second case, the reader knows that this is a serious problem, and also that it affects many communities other than the one seeking funding. Statistical data is provided that is professional and credible. The funder can clearly see that if the project works in this community, it will benefit many others.
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