Data for Decision Makers

Data for Decision Makers Resource Guide

by Zach Kennedy, Extension Specialist Community and Economic Development

Data, when used properly, can improve the effectiveness of your organization or local government. The ability to tell a "data story" is important to understanding the context in which your community or organization operates. Demographic and other types of data are vital for knowing your community members, building on community strengths, and addressing community weaknesses. With this information, local leaders can better make informed decisions and plans for their community or organization's future.

Additionally, knowing where to find demographic data is crucial when pursuing funding opportunities. Most funders, both federal and beyond, require documentation on demographics for the community or population to be served by the grant award. The inclusion of demographic information is often required as part of grant application processes as a way of demonstrating the need for the funds, or for meeting certain thresholds that delineate grant award eligibility.

Most people are aware of federal data sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census is the authority on collecting and disseminating demographic information. There are other well-known federal sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics which provides information on employment and the economy. However, there are other sources of useful data, both federal and non-federal, that are more specialized and perhaps less widely known. University of Illinois Extension's Community and Economic Development team has created the Data for Decision Makers Resource Guide to aid organizations and local governments in finding free data. The resource guide is available as a PDF document that includes hyperlinks and descriptions to data in various categories. The guide is updated every couple years to remove outdated sources and incorporate new ones. The data sources included in the guide are organized topically into the following categories:

  • County Profiles
  • Education Indicators
  • Employment and Economic Indicators
  • Environment, Natural Resources, and Recreation
  • Growth & Housing Indicators
  • Health Indicators
  • Infrastructure Indicators
  • Public Safety
  • Social Indicators
  • Local Information Sources

The resource guide is available at the link below:

Data for Decision Makers Resource Guide

Suggestions for additions to the data resources included in the guide are always welcomed. Please email Zach Kennedy at if you know of a data resource that should be included in the next version.