Community Assessment: A Roadmap to Change

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” –Cesar Chavez

The missional work you are committed to requires a “heart investment.” Perhaps like many nonprofit leaders, you assume strategies that beget business acumen and multi-year planning are too complicated and ill-fitting for your service-related culture. Brighter Strategies is passionate about partnering with you to unlock your agency’s greatest potential, always in line with your heart-centric vision. And we believe definitive – yet flexible – organization development processes form the roadmap that will get you from carrying a mission to making real change in your community.

Community assessment is one valuable practice you can implement now to take steps forward on that road to change.

Conducting community assessment

In our last blog article, we listed some affordable – free! – tools you can begin to use in your agency today when surveying various stakeholder groups. This final post in our assessment series outlines a process organization development consulting firm Brighter Strategies uses to assist nonprofit agencies in comprehensive community appraisals. We encourage you to follow this simple, step-by-step model to gather, analyze, and report data about the strengths and needs of a group served by your organization.

For more information on the below process, see the Brighter Strategies Resource Guide, “Conducting a Community Assessment”.

1. Choose a community.

Conduct assessment one community at a time for maximum impact. Consider: Is a certain community due for a strategy overhaul? Which community is undergoing new program or service development? Does a regulatory agency or governing body require objective information about a community? Choose which community is a priority for assessment, and start there.

2. Create an assessment committee.

The committee should include a variety of people who have a vested interest in the community’s well-being. In addition to members of the community, stakeholders can also include internal staff who work with community members and representatives of funding agencies that provide resources for the community. For more on team collaboration best practices, see Brighter Strategies’s Resource Guide, “Power Teams: Creating Effective Work Groups That Get Things Done.”

3. Gather information.

This step starts with defining the mission and vision of the assessment team, followed by expectations for team members. Determine the goals of the assessment and a specific timeline by which the team will accomplish these goals. Such details act as built-in accountability for your committee to fulfill its assessment purpose.

4. Assess the community.

Brighter Strategies recommends a variety of assessment methods to gather diverse, rich, and objective information from stakeholders. Archival data, focus groups, public forums, interviews, and surveys are five examples of such tools you can use during this part of the assessment process.

5. Survey the community.

What is the survey’s goal – stakeholder satisfaction or engagement? Or perhaps individuals’ needs for program improvements? First, determine the desired outcome of the survey. Then choose whom you will survey to gain this information. Finally, pick a survey tool (or several) that works best for your agency. Check out this blog article for more information on these tools.

6. Report findings.

Summarize the information collected in Steps 4 and 5 through a comprehensive report. This piece should be written in such a way that recipients – including assessment participants, program and organization staff, community members, and funding sources – can understand the purpose of the assessment, the process used, and the insights gained. Brighter Strategies suggests the report contain an executive summary, introduction, overview of methodologies, report of findings, recommendations, and appendices capturing additional details.

7. Implement improvements.

The final step in assessment requires action. Developing an action plan involves creating goals that respond to a shared vision and to the issues identified by the community assessment, and planning ways to meet those goals that form comprehensive strategies. Examples of active implementation include conducting a training with community stakeholders to develop knowledge and skills identified as lacking, applying for a grant to gain additional community resources, or evaluating a community program that is underserving stakeholders to determine appropriate improvements.

Sustaining efforts for the long-haul

After completing the community assessment process, your work is not finished. In times of constant change, it’s important to remain agile as an agency by revisiting OD practices regularly. Conducting assessments at least annually is a best practice many organization development consulting firms recommend.

How can we help you? Brighter Strategies works with nonprofit agencies to ensure their OD systems are aligned with your culture and mission. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

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