What’s a Needs Assessment?

There are so many nonprofits in the United States. To be more specific there are approximately 1.6 million. With so many nonprofits, how does a nonprofit stand out amongst the crowded space?

A needs assessment is a systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or “gaps” between current conditions and desired condition. A needs assessment is more or less a research project. You don’t necessarily need to hold to the strict requirements of scientific inquiry, but just as you do when collecting information to help guide research planning, you should do everything possible to ensure that the information is accurate and free of bias.

Many nonprofits are repetitive in community services and often are similar in target populations. However, they are not the same when it comes down to operations, procedures, and methodology. Needless to say, that may be a good start to building your argument to “stand out” amongst the crowd. Yet, how much you stand out and risk deviating from the norm could make or break you as an “advocate for cause”.

Doing the proper research and community assessment could provide key insight into your community target population’s greatest needs and strategies for your program design.

Assessing Community Needs

Start by asking these 5 questions:

  • Do we need to meet any special requirements for providing the program? Does the program need to be near good public transportation? Is parking important? Will people come to the neighborhood where you’re providing the services?
  • What are the trends? Will the number of people using the service increase or decrease in the future? Is the population in your community increasing, decreasing, or staying the same? If you begin with 25 clients, how many clients do you expect to have in three years?
  • Are other organizations providing the same service? Obviously, you don’t want to duplicate services if another organization is already doing the job. If you believe that your competition isn’t doing a good job, that’s another question. Jump to the second point.
  • How many people might use the service? Getting a good estimate of the number of people the new program will serve is important. Doing so helps you justify establishing the program and helps you plan for staff needs.
  • Can and will people pay for the service? If so, how much? How many of the people you hope to serve will need discounted tuition or scholarships, for example?

Overall, having the right information to move your nonprofit forward and become a thought leader in your community may start with a needs assessment.

For more information about The Empowerment Center services, schedule an appointment or contact us at (216) 255-5151.

Published by The Empowerment Center LLC

We are a business empowerment consulting firm located in Cleveland, Ohio. We provide economic empowerment services to nonprofit and public sector businesses to include grant writing, development and consulting.

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