In plain language, a needs assessment will help you determine whether your proposed work is truly necessary. It is important to know this before you begin: fundraising is a challenge under any circumstances, but it will be impossible if your organization does not address a real need that other groups do not. A needs assessment is an opportunity to ask yourself (as others will ask you later): Why now and why you?
The purpose of a needs assessment is to:
- Understand the extent of the problem.
- Gather the information about all the services that are available to your target population.
- Identify the gaps in the services available to your target population.
A needs assessment is also a great opportunity to involve current or potential program participants in the planning process. Ask them about their needs and about what gaps they see in the services available to them. This will help you design a program that is truly responsive to your target population.
Whether your data collection is formal or informal, at the end you should be able to answer four questions:
- What do the individuals who are part of your target community identify as their key needs?
- What needs are not being met by other organizations serving this target population?
- Does the need you have identified fit within your organization’s mission or statement of purpose as captured in your incorporation papers?
- Do you have within your group of skills, experiences, and connections to the target audience that will enable you to address this need effectively?
Use this chart to guide you through the process of a needs assessment. The completed chart should be used to inform your group’s choices about its programs and to form the basis for its case statement for funding.