Develop a SART
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Gather Community Data

Needs Assessments

Conducting a community needs assessment enables you to seek candid and diverse views on issues before considering and implementing solutions. The information gathered can provide you with guidance on the most appropriate methods for addressing service gaps. There is no single right way to conduct a needs assessment. However, the following steps can help you draft a practical survey that complements your community's specific makeup:5

  • Decide how many people to question. Assess a reasonable number of individuals to question based on the purpose of the survey (e.g., generate community awareness of services, identify service gaps, aid in SART planning, promote community mobilization).
  • Decide who will be questioned. Decide whether your survey will include responses just from victims currently served or if you need a broader survey to assess outreach to underserved populations.
  • Decide which questions to ask. Keep the questionnaire short. Short instruments are more readily completed by respondents and less expensive to produce, distribute, collect, and analyze. Once you have prepared a draft of the survey instrument, check it against your SART's goals and objectives to make sure nonessential information is excluded.
  • Decide how questions are going to be asked. Closed-ended questions involve a choice among fixed alternatives. Open-ended questions give those answering the chance to say anything they want. Many surveys include both types of questions.
  • Decide on a timeframe for collecting data. Limit the data collection time to no more than 6 weeks. This will help develop a sense of urgency and keep the needs assessment targeted.
  • Test the survey. Select four to five people from a group whom you will actually survey to pilot test the instrument.
  • Revise the survey. Edit the survey based on the test group feedback. You may need to repeat this test-and-revision process more than once.
  • Tabulate the results. For closed-ended questions, this can be a matter of simple addition. For open-ended questions, you can code the results into categories, which will shape the interpretation of the data. If you expect a large number of respondents, consider an online survey that can provide statistical analyses. One option is Survey Monkey.
  • Evaluate the process. Take time after the needs assessment has been completed to evaluate the instrument. What worked well? What problems did you encounter? How could you improve the needs assessment instrument? This evaluation can then be included in an executive summary, which will lend credibility to the findings.