3 Tips for Conducting a Community Needs Assessment Amid COVID-19
Chances are, demand for your organization’s support and services has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even if resources have decreased. According to a recent study, demand for nonprofits has increased on average by 10.2% while funding dropped 29%. If your nonprofit is struggling to meet demand, it may be beneficial to look for new areas to provide low-resource assistance that can be quickly scaled.
The best way to identify new opportunities for community support or optimize existing services is by completing a needs assessment. Completing a needs assessment will help your organization align needs with strategy. Keep in mind that the need within your community may be different now than it was pre-pandemic.
Researching and conducting a community needs assessment can help prove or disprove perceived need and help position your organization to make the biggest impact while maintaining identity. Do you think conducting a community needs assessment would help your organization respond strategically to COVID-19? If so, here are three tips to help.
Determining objectives is an important first step in assessing community needs. What does your organization hope to learn by doing the assessment, and how can those learnings be leveraged? When deciding the scope of your community needs assessment, consider your organization’s mission and expertise. Doing preliminary research and defining clear objectives will help guide your assessment and keep your organization on track toward fulfilling an actionable need.
Remember, objectives are different from goals; they are specific, measurable and have a defined completion date.
When determining the objectives of your community needs assessment, here are a few strategic questions to consider:
- What community or sub-communities will your assessment define?
- How will your organization collect data? Who is responsible for analysis?
- What theories or gaps will your assessment address?
- How will your organization act on assessment findings?
- What is the ultimate goal? How do the objectives align?
Be Realistic Regarding Resources and Capacity
Many nonprofits are operating on limited resources. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your organization’s resources? After defining the objectives of your community needs assessment, it is time to evaluate internal/external resources. Does your organization have the resources available to take action, depending on the findings of your assessment? Taking account of your available resources will help your organization define capacity and determine the scale of community action.
Here are some great tips, from the National Council of Nonprofits, on evaluating your nonprofit’s resources.
Decide How You Will Collect Data
There are many ways to collect data and gain insights into community needs. Information can be collected from surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, direct observations and public meetings. Your organization should use input from existing clients, volunteers, and financial donors when determining needs in the community.
Once your organization determines data sources, create a plan to both obtain the data and analyze it.
With the pandemic still upon us, now is a great time for your organization to conduct a community needs assessment to better understand how you can provide support now and in the future. Many communities are enduring unforeseen hardships, and your organization may be able to provide support and fill a need.
When planning a community needs assessment, make sure to create a list of objectives, be realistic about available resources and capacity, and decide how you will collect, analyze and execute on captured data.
Eric Burger is the marketing communications manager for VolunteerHub, an organization that provides volunteer management solutions for nonprofits across the globe. Eric has worked in the B2B software industry for the past two years and has over five years of experience in digital marketing.