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How to Present Your Target Population on a Grant Application

The target population section on a grant application is the place to write about the people you serve. If you're serving certain organizations, you write about the organizations. If you're writing a grant for an animal shelter, you write about the animals.

Give just enough detail to aid the reader in understanding who your operating dollars benefit — community members who are poor, adults who are unemployed, youths who have dropped out of high school, people who are homeless, or those with a terminal illness, for instance. To make this section as accurate as possible, do your homework.

Pull old evaluation reports from previously funded grants, and review reports given to your board members — both types of documents should detail exactly who benefits from your organization's services.

In the target population section, the grant reader wants to see

  • Characteristics of your target population (age range, gender, ethnicity, education level, and income level). Clearly define your target population. You must convey to funders that you're serving a constituency that falls within their funding parameters. Also, be sure to cite the source of your demographics.

  • Numbers served by each program (make a table that covers the past five years).

  • Changes in the target population that may relate to why you're asking for grant funds.

When you write the target population section, use boldface and italics to make words describing the population stand out for the grant reader.

In the following example from a Federal Mentoring Children of Prisoners' grant application, the grant reviewer is introduced to a faith-based nonprofit organization serving inner-city residents. Because you want the reader to understand the importance of the funding request, you can use a lot of boldface to make phrases stick in the reviewer's mind.

Conditions and Characteristics of Youth and Families Affected: According to a 2014 needs assessment conducted by Prison Families of New York, Inc., children of prisoners:

  • Blame themselves for their parent's incarceration (one in five children witnessed his mother's arrest).

  • Are embarrassed about their peers' finding out about their parent's incarceration.

  • Have difficulty dealing with the loss of a parent to the prison system.

  • Fail to address their emotional hurt and often act out.

  • Lack anyone who encourages them to achieve life success.

  • Are deeply negatively impacted by the separation (demonstrated in lower self-esteem and loss of personal and cultural identity).

  • Are in critical need of an adult mentor who can help them express their feelings about the incarcerated parent.

Almost 58% of mothers and almost 59% of fathers in state prisons report never having a visit with their children since they entered prison. African American children are 7.5 times more likely to have a parent in prison than white children. Latino children are 2.5 times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent.

The incarceration of a primary caretaker is traumatic and disruptive for children. Children of incarcerated mothers often move at least once and live with at least two different caretakers while their mothers are in prison. When a parent is incarcerated, children may face dramatically changed family conditions, particularly if the incarcerated parent was the sole or primary caregiver.

Usually, grant writers are advised to refrain from putting any language from the statement of need in the section of the proposal narrative that contains a description of the organization. However, you can break this rule if you're writing about projects serving children — specifically, a target population under the age of 18.

For children's services programs, you'll want to drop hints of need every chance you can. This strategy helps reach out and touch the hearts of the grant readers, whether foundation, corporate, state, or federal.

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