Conducting Needs Assessments

Fatherhood programs come in many shapes and sizes. Some begin as demonstration or grant-funded programs, some as grassroots efforts, and others grow out of pre-existing organizations. Regardless of their origin or structure, launching fatherhood programs is not an easy task. Careful planning and design are important for ensuring success and sustainability throughout the life of a program. The Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit includes resources and information to assist practitioners with each of these aspects of planning and designing a program. Needs assessments are a crucial part of this process and a good starting point for discovering the needs of the target population and other community stakeholders. A needs assessment is a systematic approach to identifying community needs and determining program capacity to address the needs of the population being served.

Nearly all successful fatherhood programs conduct at least an informal needs assessment that consider the:

  • Experience of key staff who understand the community and the needs of the target population;
  • Existing data from local, state, and national sources; and
  • Input of community partners who serve the same target population or share a concern about the identified need.

Tips & Best Practices

  • Three factors should be taken into account when conducting a needs assessment. These include the experience of key staff, existing data, and opportunities for meaningful dialogue among community partners. This will ensure that your program tailors your services to the community and target population, as well as encourages stability and sustainability for years to come. 
  • Identify and assess community concerns, needs, and assets. The Assessing Community Needs and Resources guide from the University of Kansas contains multiple sections explaining these processes. There is also information on how to develop a plan for assessing local needs and resources; conducting needs assessment surveys; and other valuable steps in conducting a needs assessment.
  • According to the Healthy Teen Network, there are five promising practices for programs to follow when conducting a needs and resource assessment.These include establishing a work group to help design and conduct the needs assessment, developing a data collection plan, collecting the data, analyzing the data, and linking assessment findings to a logic model. More information of each of these promising practices is available in this tip sheet.
Spotlight On
South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families

SC Cntr for Fathers and Families logo

The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families (SCCFF) was formed in 2002 as a result of a community needs assessment and grant-making initiative by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina that began in 1996. A task force considered grant-making opportunities by posing questions such as:

  • Is the issue a niche and does it represent an underserved community?
  • Is there any available research on the issue and can more research be done?
  • Is the issue palatable for public discourse?
  • Does the issue satisfy the mission of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine?

Based on the work of this task force, the foundation decided to address the social and economic consequences of father absence through a statewide fatherhood initiative, Reducing Poverty through Father Engagement. A partnership agreement was created with the University of South Carolina to provide technical assistance, synthesize the research that became the best practices of the initiative, and design the program models. Through a second partnership agreement with the South Carolina Department of Social Services to strengthen fragile families, SCCFF was formed with the mission to develop and support a statewide infrastructure deeply invested in repairing and nurturing relationships between fathers and families. Since 2002, SCCFF has worked with numerous programs throughout the state and developed partnerships with other key agencies, such as workforce development, child protective services, and child support enforcement, to encourage program referrals and ensure that a full array of services is available. 


What is a needs assessment?

A needs assessment is a systematic approach to identifying community needs and determining program capacity to address the needs of the population being served.

Why do I need to conduct a needs assessment?

A needs assessment can help identify current conditions and desired program services or outcomes. It can identify the strengths of your program and the challenges faced in meeting the service needs of those served.

How do I conduct a needs assessment?

Needs assessments can be conducted though focus groups, surveys, interviews, or even informal conversations. They can come in varying levels of formality. However, no matter which format a program uses, it is important that the voices of the community and other stakeholders are heard and considered throughout the planning and design process.

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