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Learn how to create reliable fact sheets to get information out to the public quickly and efficiently.


  • What is a fact sheet?

  • Why would you make a fact sheet?

  • Who can be targeted with fact sheets?

  • How do you make a fact sheet?

Getting the facts out to the public about community health issues can be done in a number of ways. One of the simplest and easiest things you can do is make up a fact sheet about the issues you're working on to distribute to the public.

What is a fact sheet?

A fact sheet is a single sheet of paper listing important facts about the issue. Fact sheets can be laid out just about any way you'd like as long as they list the main facts you want to include. You can do one fact sheet with basic information, or you can do a whole series of them.

Why would you make a fact sheet?

Fact sheets are easy to make and easy to understand. No need to come up with a catchy slogan (unless you already have one) or write a lengthy, eloquent essay arguing your case. With a fact sheet, you can just let the facts speak for themselves.

Fact sheets can be made up very quickly. You can crank out a fact sheet in a single day, when a more elaborate method of getting information out (like a public service announcement or a poster) would take much longer.

Fact sheets are cheap! You'll need to photocopy them, of course, and some staff or volunteer time will be spent on distributing them, but these are the only real expenses involved in doing fact sheets.

Who can be targeted with fact sheets?

Fact sheets can be distributed to the general public or to a specific audience. They can be handed out at community events, public meetings, meetings of governing bodies like the city commission, or just about any place where your intended audience will be gathering.

You can aim your fact sheet towards any of these types of audiences:

  • Civic organizations
  • Business groups
  • Grassroots organizations
  • School boards
  • Labor unions
  • Parent-teacher groups
  • Church organizations
  • The local press (editors, editorial boards, or just the beat reporters that normally cover your group or initiative)
  • Health organizations
  • Elected and appointed local government officials or entities
  • Grantmakers

How do you make a fact sheet?

Think about what message you want the facts to convey.

Do you want to shock people into action? Explain a complicated issue? Provide hard facts for the press or a governmental agency? Think about what the purpose of this fact sheet is and how you might best get your point across. For example, if you're trying to drum up support for a public art project, you could look for facts demonstrating how public art drives up property values and deters crime.

Think about the audience for your fact sheet.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who will you be giving this fact sheet to?
  • What sort of information will most appeal to this group?
  • What sort of reaction do you want this audience to have?

For example, business people tend to like numbers. The general public and (since the general public is their audience) the press are more likely to be interested in the human side of the story and with what effect the issue has on people in general.

Find your facts.

Perhaps you already have loads of factual information and just need to sort through it all to decide which ones to include in your sheet. Maybe you have a bunch of facts given to you by another coalition or a national group and need to decide which ones will work best for you. If you don't have your facts gathered already, you'll need to do some research.

These are some possible sources:

  • Television and radio reports
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Published minutes or papers from meetings and conferences
  • Newsletters and publications of other community groups
  • National organizations and institutes
  • The Internet (web searches, official sites of research groups, etc.)
  • Government sources (public records, etc.)

Verify, verify, verify!

This is extremely important. In general, this simply means using good judgment. Be sure to check facts out for accuracy. This means that your facts should come from reputable sources and be up-to-date.

Making sure the fact comes from a reputable source: Don't use facts that don't have a cited source (one that tells you where the information came from). If it doesn't have a cited source, how do you know whether it's true? Know who the source is and whether that source is trustworthy. Is the source likely to have any particular bias that makes the fact questionable? For example, did a suspiciously low figure on teen smoking come from a research institute funded by big tobacco companies? If you find a fact on a website, is the site one of a respected organization or agency, or does it belong to a private citizen or a clearly biased group? If at all possible, find a second source that can verify the fact.

The importance of using a reputable source

Using a disreputable source:

A group of anti-gay activists battling a proposed change in the city human rights code a few years ago in Lawrence, Kansas, cited facts from a researcher named Dr. Paul Cameron in arguing against equal rights based on sexual orientation. However, research by their opponents found that Cameron's statistics have never been accepted by any mainstream psychological, psychiatric, epidemiological or sociological organizations, and that he was expelled from membership of the American Psychological Association in 1983 for employing "unsound methodologies and breaching the code of ethics." Needless to say, the city commission decided to disregard Cameron's research in deciding how to vote on the issue.

Using a reputable source:

Texans Against Gun Violence, a Houston gun control organization, was attempting to prove that an ordinance to cut down on children's access to guns had been effective and should stay on the books. The group cited a long term study comparing a set period before the ordinance was passed with a set period after the ordinance was passed. The combined number of accidental and suicide deaths of children involving guns dropped from 34 to 10. Unintentional deaths alone decreased from 21 to 1. The study was done by four locally respected researchers (three of whom were doctors), and its results were taken very seriously by the public.

Making sure the fact is up-to-date: That figure on breast cancer rates might be interesting enough to include in your fact sheet, but what if it's from 1964? Check the dates and if you have facts from a variety of dates, go with the more recent ones whenever possible.

Narrow it down.

Go through all the factual information you've gathered and decide what's most important or attention-grabbing, then decide which things you're going to use.

The facts you use should be relevant. A fact sheet is worthless if the facts on it aren't fitting or don't drive home the point. Let's say you work with an after -school college prep program for low income high school kids. Your program doesn't work with any particular race; any student whose family meets the income guidelines is eligible. You may find some suitably attention-grabbing statistics on the rate of Hispanic students going on to complete college, for example, but even if you have a lot of Hispanic kids in your program these statistics wouldn't be suitable for you to use. Why? Because not all of your students are Hispanic, and because the central problem your program deals with is poverty, not race. You would be better served to find figures on college graduation rates for low income students, since that is the focus of your program.

Decide how you want to lay your fact sheet out.

Just the facts, ma'am! Fact sheets aren't meant to be lengthy missives. One side of a single 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper is sufficient. To make it more eye-catching, you can use brightly colored paper or even some carefully selected clip art (use it judiciously, though --you want to be taken seriously). A short introductory paragraph can be included if you like, but it's not absolutely necessary, the focus here is the facts themselves.

Find a simple way of presenting your information. You might want to use a "who, what, when, where, why" layout, or you might use a bulleted list. Keep it simple. See the examples at the end of this section for some ideas.

Cite your sources.

Your fact sheet will be more credible if you can tell people what sources your information came from.

Ways to cite sources

Using footnotes:

The average age at which a federal prisoner first fired a gun is 13 years old (1).

(1) Source: Department of Justice

Using parentheses:

The average age at which a federal prisoner first fired a gun is 13 years old (U.S. Department of Justice).

Including in the wording of the fact:

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the average age at which a federal prisoner first fired a gun is 13 years old.

Explain what the facts mean.

Some facts speak clearly for themselves. However, if you have a fact that you want to include that isn't completely clear, be sure to take a sentence or two to explain what it means and how it applies to your issue. For example, the fact used in the above example speaks for itself. However, if your fact was, for example, "Two out of three Pinkerton Valley High School students has tried marijuana," you could follow it up with an additional fact to further drive your point home -- such as, "Only one in three are involved in school sports activities. That means there are more kids who have tried pot than are on our school's football, basketball, volleyball, and softball teams!"

Things to avoid:

  • Don't overdo percentages: A statistic that comes in the form of a percentage can be confusing to some people. If possible, state it as a fraction instead. For example: "66.2% of adult women in Anytown report that they do not do regular breast self -examinations" can be stated more clearly by saying, "Over two thirds of the adult women in Anytown do not do regular breast self-examinations."
  • Don't stretch the truth: Exaggerating makes you look dishonest. It's okay to round a figure to the nearest whole number or to use averages, but be sure you do so accurately.
  • Avoid unscientific surveys or polls: Figures from this sort of source can be very skewed. For example, surveys taken on the World Wide Web aren't representative of the public as a whole because the respondents are only going to be people who have access to computers and enough knowledge and skill about it to navigate their way around the Internet -- which of course leaves out a lot of people who are economically disadvantaged or lack technological savvy. If using results of polls or surveys, stick to the ones that have used sound research methods to guarantee a representative cross-section of people.
  • Don't be repetitive: The reader of your fact sheet may get bored and stop reading if you do this. You may have drunk driving accident rates from each of the last ten years, but it's better to put a single average or a simple range than to list each year individually.
  • Don't inundate the reader with too many facts: Keep it down to one side of a sheet of paper, if possible. Including everything you found out might be tempting, but pick out the facts you see as most important and leave out the rest. If you have so many facts that you can't possibly do that, think about making a series of fact sheets on different topics.

In Summary

Fact sheets can be an easy, important way of getting information out to the public quickly and efficiently. There's no one way to make a fact sheet. Look at the different examples provided below and decide what format might work best for what you're doing. Try not to spend too much time getting bogged down in the details, and have fun!

Chris Hampton

Print Resource

Brigham, N., with Catalifo, M., & Cluster, D. (1991). How to do leaflets, newsletters, and newspapers. Detroit, MI: PEP Publishers.