A needs assessment is a crucial element of your programming cycle, informing decision-making processes
and intervention options for addressing identified
challenges. A quality needs assessment helps to determine an effective response that can have a lasting
impact on the effectiveness of project interventions,
level of funding and quality coordination/partnerships
while contributing to improved stakeholder engagement and beneficiary ownership.
What is a needs assessment?
Simply put, needs assessment is a process of asking
a group of people or community about their most
important need and actions they think can be taken
to address them. Findings from the assessment can
then be used to develop appropriate response for
addressing the needs.
A needs assessment should not necessarily be
formal; it can be done informally and within a reasonable time, budget and human resources. For example
you can informally ask people you know in the community where you are planning your intervention,
women in the market, attendants at petrol station,
church or mosque members etc. what they think
about the issue and document that. Or you could
do a structured survey that is administered professionally. Whatever forms your needs assessment will
take, we recommend taking into consideration these
- Pre-defined set of questions to be asked
- Pre-determined number of responses
- Pre-determined types of people in the
community to answer the questions
- Findings analysed in easy-to-understand
format and discussed with the community
- Findings used for project development and
A need assessment if properly planned and executed helps you to know more about the issue you are
trying to address and document properly your needs
(justification) as is required in funding applications
including in developing advocacy and campaign strategies around the issues. It also helps to build community ownership and buy-in for your interventions.
Note that a need assessment is not necessary before
every action especially if there are other surveys and
reports that provide you adequate information for
planning your projects.
We however think that it is good to do a needs
assessment if you:
- Are a nonprofit that is just starting out and
want to make meaningful impact
- Want to really show your stakeholders and
prospective funders or supporters that you
are addressing the most important problems
of your beneficiaries
- Want to generate community or stakeholder
participation in your activities.
In understanding the needs of a community we recommend these five steps:
- Identify a problem situation
- Speak with stakeholders to see if they think it
is a problem
- Consider every aspect of the problem
- Establish what the causes and effect are
between all the issues
- Map out the core problems (prioritise the
problems or issues)
You can follow these steps:
See sample needs assessment plan used by
the Network at http://bit.ly/34yy4JK
- Identify key person amongst the XYZ staff
team to serve as the Project Lead and Focal
- Set up a XYZ Needs Assessment Committee
and determine a reporting schedule
- Host a first meeting of the committee
to identify concerns, goals and desired
outcome for the needs assessment including
determining the indicator, data sources, target
groups and priorities.
- Develop data gathering tools based on the
outcome of the committee meeting.
- Data gathering and analysis phase.
- Hold 2nd meeting of the committee and
other critical stakeholders to validate report
and develop a plan of action.
When undergoing a needs assessment, take note of
- Always respect the community and its
- Take into consideration cultural sensitivities
- Aim for simplicity as you conduct your
- Do not raise unnecessary expectations. Be
clear about what you can do and cannot do
- Share the outcome of the research with the
community and listen to their feedback.