Conducting a Needs Assessment

What is a needs assessment?

Conducting a needs assessment is a systematic process of investigating a population or community to assess the state of current resources such as knowledge, abilities, interests, and approaches pertinent to the focus of the needs assessment such as a concern, aspiration, or intention. 

A needs assessment is a focused examination of the way things currently are and the way things can or should be in order to fill a gap in services, (e.g., establish trainings to address a specific need).


Why conduct a needs assessment?

A needs assessment is most commonly conducted to guarantee that there is a need for a type of program or service and to determine what type of content should be included in the program curriculum, for example. The needs assessment process includes a few steps:

  • Collecting information about a target population or community
  • Deciding what needs are being met and what resources exist
  • Determining what needs are not being addressed


How do you conduct a needs assessment?

Several methods can be used when conducting a needs assessment. These can include conducting focus groups, key informant interviews, community meetings, and administering surveys, which are outlined below.  Referring to existing data sources, such as census or hospital data, can provide you with information specific to an issue in the community.

Focus Group

  • A method of interviewing a carefully selected small group of people, who participate in a pre-determined, focused discussion led by an experienced evaluator
  • Helpful when working to collect specific in-depth thoughts and opinions on a topic

Key Informant

  • Intensive interviewing with an individual who meets specific selection criteria based on their personal experience
  • A way to obtain in-depth information about feelings and perspectives

Community Meetings

  • Community meetings include gathering information about individuals in a target population or community
  • Does not provide as in-depth information as a focus group or key informant interview but is a way to gather information from larger groups


  • A method of data collection that provides evaluators with specific information that can be used to create a statistical summary of the thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and opinions of a target population

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