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Polco News & Knowledge

Small Cities Can Use Grant Funds to Purchase Polco for Data Collection

Polco can help small governments get the data they need. Grants can help small governments get Polco. 

Small cities often need data to support economic development, research, and planning efforts. They’re also the least likely to have access to this information because small governments don't have the resources or staff to collect and analyze data. 

Small communities might not be aware that they can use grant funding to purchase Polco for data collection and engagement. That’s what the Village of Flanagan, Illinois, did. 

The Village’s grant writer, Roseanna Davidson, applied for and won a Research in Illinois to Spur Economic Recovery (RISE) grant through the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). RISE grants help local governments create or update plans to boost economic recovery post-pandemic. 

Davidson then started looking for ways to gather research to draft a new economic recovery plan. That’s how she found Polco

Davidson explained that small cities don’t have access to the kind of data that large cities do. This is mainly due to their size; many data indicators are not grouped down to the smallest jurisdictions. This creates a gap in the information small cities can use to inform their decisions. 

The Village opted to use The National Community Survey (The NCS)® by Polco to understand Flanagan’s economic climate, among other factors of livability. The NCS asks residents their opinions of their community. And many of the questions on The NCS focus on the economy specifically, such as affordable housing, vibrancy of downtown areas, and more. 

“To write our plan, we need both qualitative and quantitative research. The NCS will provide the quantitative information that will help us create the economic development plan,” Davidson explained. The RISE grant allows the Village to get reimbursed by DCEO for Polco costs. 

Without doing this kind of research, municipalities run the risk of making important decisions based on anecdotal evidence and hunches. 

“We always need to know what the community focus is,” Davidson said. “You don’t want just one opinionated person to decide.” 

A welcome byproduct of The NCS is the Village will now have reliable community data to demonstrate a need and apply for more grants. 

“You’re more likely to get the grant if you really know your community,” Davidson said. 

Davidson will continue to apply for grants on behalf of the Village. She recently applied for another grant through DCEO to fund Flanagan Fest, a local festival that will draw tourists from all over the region. 

Davidson says having grant-writing experience helps with the process but isn’t necessary. 

“Many [municipalities], especially small ones, don’t have a dedicated grant writer like me,” she said. 

For those who don’t, she recommends starting with grants.gov to find federal grants that your city might qualify for, as well as checking your state’s grants website.

How Polco Can Help Small Communities Unlock Big Data

Many small governments can't access the abundance of data that's available to them because they don't have the resources or staff to make sense of it all—until now. Polco gives small governments access to hundreds of public data sources that have been distilled and analyzed into key indicators specifically for each city or town. As a community leader, see how you can put this data work for you. 

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