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  • Ryan Brooks

Ten Tips for Using Duplicated and Unduplicated Counts

Duplicated and Unduplicated Counts: Best Practices for Nonprofit Grant Writing

Grant proposals and grant reports are part of life for nonprofits. It’s important to know when you should use duplicated and unduplicated counts (and simple total counts) correctly in grants.  

Here are ten tips to help you use data to write clear, effective grant proposals and reports.

Learn the Basics About Duplicated, Unduplicated, and Simple Total Counts

This post is best if you understand the basics about duplicated, unduplicated, and simple total counts. To refresh your understanding of these concepts, check out our other posts on this topic: 

Start with the introductory post on Duplicated and Unduplicated Counts in Nonprofits which offers lots of examples to build your understanding

Then check out Duplicated, Unduplicated, and Simple Total Counts for Nonprofits which explains when duplicated and unduplicated count labels are not applicable or helpful.

Tip 1 Focus on clarity and transparency with your data

A funder wants an honest, clear, easy to understand presentation of the work you do, the number of people you serve (if you work with people), and the scale of your impact.   

Funders want the exact same thing when you describe what you’ll do with their money (i.e. your promise).  And, they want the exact same thing when you report how you used the grant funding they provided.

If it’s hard for the funder to understand what you do now, and what you promise to do with funds they might provide, then they are less likely to fund your program or project.   


Clarity is king, queen, north star, guiding light, and the bat signal.  

Clarity should be your top priority. Present and describe data that offers the clearest, easiest to understand story about who you are, what you do, and what you can achieve with the funder’s money.  

All of the other tips in this document are secondary to a “clarity first” mindset.  


Tip 2: Give the funder what they ask for 

Present data that matches the funder’s requests or expectations. When you do that, they will know: 

  1. You read the grant guidelines or other information they provided

  2. You collect the type of data the foundation cares about

  3. You can report the data the foundation expects

For example, the funder might clearly ask for unduplicated counts of people served or outcomes achieved. 

If you run a workforce development program, then you should focus on the unduplicated number of adults who obtain a full-time job and not emphasize the duplicated count of jobs obtained.


Tip 3: Clearly label data points as duplicated or unduplicated 

Even if you think it’s obvious, clearly state whether you are talking about duplicated or unduplicated counts. 

The last thing you want is for the person reading your proposal to be unsure. They might ask you to clarify, or they might just move on to the next proposal because they have 20 more to review.  

Tip 4: Be consistent throughout your document 


For example, if you talk about unduplicated counts at the beginning of your grant proposal, stick with that throughout. Don’t switch back and forth.

If you are inconsistent, then the person reading the proposal will have to pause, review your numbers, and adjust their expectations. They might also start to doubt that you know what you’re talking about. 

At best, inconsistency can make it harder for the funder to understand your work and what you promise to deliver.  At worst, it might seem like you are being deceptive.  


Tip 5: Use duplicated counts when it’s the norm for your program or service 

If it’s standard practice to report duplicated counts for one of your services, then report duplicated counts.  

For example, I once worked in a nonprofit that served hot meals (aka soup kitchen). We tracked the total number of people we served each day, but we didn’t take names in our data system. This was pretty typical among soup kitchens in our area.

On an average day, we served 300 people across 2 separate meals, and in a week we often served about 2,000 meals. But, it would be impossible for us to say whether we served 300, 500, or 2,000 unduplicated people over the course of a week based on the data we tracked.

Each day, week, or month, we could report “we served X duplicated people”, and it was to use duplicated counts for that type of service.


Tip 6: Use unduplicated counts when you talk about people served or outcomes achieved.  

In most cases, this is the clearest, most transparent way to describe the scope of your work and its impact.  

Why? Because sometimes people can be served multiple times or outcomes can be achieved multiple times during the reporting period. By focusing on unduplicated counts, you help the funder know exactly how many unique people you will be able to serve.

By using duplicated counts alone, the funder won't be able to understand how many unique people you served or how many achieved successful outcomes in your programs.

Tip 7: When in doubt, use unduplicated counts

If you can’t get definitive guidance from the funder, then use unduplicated counts (as long as you have the data).

Unduplicated counts are the safest way to present your data in a trustworthy, clear manner. They also leave the least room for questions or confusion.

Tip 8: Use duplicated and unduplicated counts together when it tells the clearest story of your impact 


Unduplicated counts give a clear indication of the number of unique participants you serve or outcomes you've achieved, while duplicated counts are great for demonstrating how much work you do.  


You can present both duplicated and unduplicated counts when:

  • It will strengthen your story

  • It will improve clarity

  • You have space to explain the data

However, when you present both, remember to be consistent. Don’t flip back and forth throughout a grant proposal or report. It would be confusing to the reader if the executive summary used unduplicated counts, the body used duplicated counts, and then the concluding paragraph used unduplicated counts again.   


Tip 9: Sometimes it’s just a simple total count  

Does the funder ask for the total number of units delivered? In many cases, this is a simple total count.

  • We delivered 10,000 pounds of food last month 

  • We provided $25,000 in financial assistance last year 

  • We gave out 5,000 pairs of shoes last semester 

You can use a simple total count when the funder is looking for total units of service delivered AND duplication is not a key concern.  


Tip 10: Present data consistently in your grant proposals and reports  

There should be a clear connection between the data you provided in your proposal and the data you report when the grant is done. Use the data that led to the grant award unless the funder tells you otherwise, 

This makes your report easier to understand and makes your organization seem more trustworthy and competent.  

It’s not clear that you delivered on your promise if you said you’d serve 100 unduplicated families with their funding but you report that you served 125 duplicated families 

Reporting your impact is hard when you’re juggling spreadsheets. countbubble makes it easy so you can focus on your mission.

 countbubble is case management simplified. We can help your nonprofit master data collection and reporting. Email us  or sign up for email updates on blog posts, useful content for nonprofits, and product updates.

Founder, CountBubble, LLC

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