Why Evidence Matters – Grant Writing Tips from Calgary Learns


Establishing evidence of need for a project or program is one of the most important questions grant seekers must answer on any grant application. You may have an exciting idea for a project or program but you must make the case that your particular approach will address the unique and identified needs of your community. In the case of a Calgary Learns application, you must show how your approach will positively impact your adult foundational learners and support them in their learning journey. 

The way in which you present your evidence of need can set your application up for success because it gives funders an excellent snapshot of the ‘why’ of your work. It shows that you have considered your learners’ needs, and are working to address them with thoughtful real-world solutions. It also gives funders confidence in your ability to report and share your activities and results.

I like to think the art of presenting evidence is like taking photographs of the same subject through different lenses. The first is the wide shot or the big picture of the subject you are capturing. The next captures the same image but from a specific angle that shows a unique perspective, and the final shot zooms in on specific details that are embedded within the whole composition. 

The Big Picture:

This is an opportunity to root your program or project within established evidence such as current national/provincial data trends, scholarly articles and research. In the field of adult foundational learning, research statistics and scholarly articles will have quality data on national or provincial trends which may or may not be entirely relevant to your local specific community of learners. Using this evidence however, can highlight broader issues such as poverty, inequity, mental health, addiction, and immigration trends which are often contributing factors in an adult learner’s journey. When using this type of evidence it is critical that it is recent, cited, and relevant to your program or project. 

The Unique Angle:

This type of evidence focuses on your local and immediate knowledge about the problem you are attempting to solve through your project or program. It can also demonstrate your program’s unique impact on the issue at hand.  For example, evidence can be related to your current intake data which points to emerging trends within your community. Another example is data collected through your organization’s evaluation framework which illustrates how your objectives and outcomes are contributing to positive results within your learning community. The key is to ensure that the current data you present magnifies the need you have identified and provides a solid case for the work you are proposing.  The unique angle is something only your organization can provide, so this should always be the bulk of your evidence. 

Zooming In:

Here is where you can share with us the details about your community of learners which really bring your work to life. This can include a short impact story, quotes from learners, their families, or your practitioners. Be mindful that sometimes by zooming in too close you may lose sight of the whole composition so this type of evidence should be used judiciously and only when it truly shines a light on the need you have identified. 

Finally, like photographs, it is always a good idea to use editing tools for applications! Really work to sharpen the focus of your evidence, and crop out things that are extraneous and don’t serve the overall case you are making. 

Author – Kristine Gaston