Backing Up Your Case for Support With Statistics; or Not

brainAs Jerold Panas brilliantly explains in this excerpt from Making a Case Your Donors Will Lovestatistics should be used only sparingly when making a case that your organization needs support due to an identifiable community need. “Statistics have all the spontaneity and passion of drying paint,” while anecdotes “provide action and feeling and more dramatically reveal your organization,” Panas says.

Nevertheless, he notes that there are times when statistics, particularly the impressive ones, can be useful — namely to convey relevance, urgency, or the allure of your program. Where does one find such statistics?

Here are my two cents, drawn from The Volunteers’ Guide to Fundraising.

Finding recent and appropriate statistics, especially to cover a limited geographic area, can be a challenge. But with a little imagination, you can usually patch together credible numbers.

For example, if your group is working to straighten out drug-involved youth, it may be impossible to say how many kids abuse drugs in your area. But you can probably find out the number of teenagers in your area and the percentage that didn’t complete high school, which is a significant indicator of drug-related problems. To this you might add the percentage of kids in the country as a whole (and possibly in your state) who regularly use drugs, and perhaps a quote from a local high school principal pointing out that local teenage drug use is a serious problem.

Here are some tried-and-true online sources of additional hard data:

  • The U.S. Census; still one of the best sources of statistical information, including at the state and county level, on its “QuickFacts” page.
  • The federal “Date and Statistics” page of

Various state and country governments also compile or present statistical information online. See, for example,