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In winning a grant, obtaining useful data for defining problems and needs is crucial. Such data form the basis for much that follows in a competitive grant proposal.


Although a grant writer may be expected or required to do it solo, assessment of needs is often far more fruitful if it involves as many diverse sources of information as time permits.


Among the many (sometimes overlapping) facets of assessing needs are:

  1. Why it is done (purposes)
  2. What is already at hand to do it (considerations)
  3. What must be done to augment what is at hand (tasks)
  4. How it can be done (approaches)


Purposes of Doing a Needs Assessment:

  1. Clarify the nature and extent of the problem to be solved
  2. Substantiate the existence of a problem requiring a solution
  3. Focus resources on well-defined problems that amenable to solution
  4. Create a basis for a logic model and a work plan to address needs/problems


Considerations in Defining Problems and Substantiating Need:

  1. Extent of available data
  2. Quality of available data
  3. Nature or types of available data
  4. Degree of access to sources of available data
  5. Recentness of available data
  6. Degree of access to reviews of scientific research literature


Tasks in Doing a Needs Assessment:

  1. Decide who is to participate in the assessment process
  2. Establish a rationale for doing the assessment
  3. Create a timeline, a schedule, and a task analysis for assessing needs
  4. Identify and collect sources of pertinent data
  5. Analyze existing data sources and extract relevant data
  6. Select the most useful data from all that is already available
  7. Create instruments for generating current data if none exists
  8. Use the new instruments to generate current data
  9. Collect and analyze the scientific research literature
  10. Monitor quality, privacy, consent, and confidentiality in collecting data
  11. Discuss progress of needs assessment with key stakeholders
  12. Review findings of needs assessment as a team or task force
  13. Draw conclusions about the magnitude, nature, and scope of needs


Approaches to Assessing Needs:

  1. Ad hoc survey of intended beneficiaries (e.g., students, librarians)
  2. Ad hoc survey of stakeholders in the larger community (e.g., parents, faculty)
  3. Ad hoc survey of local or regional service providers (e.g., hospitals, childcare agencies)
  4. Ad hoc focus groups or charettes or similar public forums
  5. Analysis of data collected from existing instruments (e.g., arrests, state-mandated tests)
  6. Analysis of data generated from new instruments (e.g., ad hoc library surveys)
  7. Analysis of content of questionnaire responses and similar instruments
  8. Review of published needs indicators (e.g., social, economic, educational, labor, crime)
  9. Solicitation of data and other inputs from partner organizations
  10. Solicitation of data and other inputs from sources within the applicant organization
  11. Solicitation of data and other inputs from other service providers
  12. Interviews with subject area experts and key stakeholders

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