The Needs and Assets Assessment: What it is and Why it's Important Print

What is a Needs and Assets Assessment?

A needs and assets assessment will help to:

  • Determine the extent of teen pregnancies, births, and abortions in your state;
  • Evaluate community efforts to prevent teenage pregnancy, by documenting the baseline problem and current activities within your state;
  • Outline the way the issue is perceived by young people, service providers, public officials (elected and appointed), and other stakeholders;
  • Evaluate resources available to address teen pregnancy, including programs already in place, and funding sources;
  • Assess the possibility of new funding sources; and
  • Assess the climate for collaboration, for allocation of new resources, and/or interest in developing adolescent pregnancy prevention components in existing or new programs.

Why Do a State-wide Needs and Assets Assessment?

It is a way to determine which types of programs will best meet the needs of teens in your state.

There are many advantages to doing a state-wide needs and assets assessment:

  • It gives you an opportunity to develop or reinforce contacts with public officials and professionals concerned with adolescent pregnancy prevention.
  • If done carefully, it demonstrates your group's interest in and dedication to your state prior to project development.
  • It helps identify organizations within your state that may be interested in working collaboratively to develop and implement programs, and therefore reduces duplication of services.
  • It provides the objective documentation necessary to negotiate arrangements among agencies, helping to avoid or resolve possible turf issues.
  • It allows those individuals most involved in, or touched by, the issue of adolescent pregnancy to define the problem as they perceive it, thus making an initial investment toward creating a solution.
  • It provides the documentation of needs in the state that is absolutely essential when applying for funds and other support.
  • It provides baseline data, against which resulting programs can be evaluated for effectiveness.

Deciding Whom to Interview

  • Interview a variety of agency and state representatives during your needs assessment process. 
  • Be sure to include individuals from agencies that serve geographically and financially diverse areas in the state.

Training Interviewers

  • Whether you use staff or volunteers to collect the needs assessment data, they must have adequate training.
  • Interviewer training should include an explanation of the survey's purpose, the intention and meaning of each survey question, the information sought by asking each question, as well as opportunities to role-play and practice interviewing. 
  • Consider using interviewing teams of two, with one person asking the questions and the other recording the answers.  This can save time and assure more consistent information recording. 
  • Training should also include practical suggestions for gaining entry into organizations.
  • Allow enough time to collect data in a thorough manner, but keep to a reasonable time limit since you may be talking to people with competing demands on their time.

The Needs and Assets Assessment Report

  • Following each step of the needs assessment, immediately record the collected information.  
  • Be sure to include the date, pertinent demographic information of interviewees, interviewee responses, and a summary of your impressions. 
  • Share intermediate reports with others conducting the assessment so they can use that information to probe further in the interviews they are conducting.  
  • Place all answers to each individual question side by side to assess consistencies and inconsistencies among responses.
  • The needs assessment report should include a short summary, methods (what did you do, how you did it, who did it, and when was it done), and findings (responses to questions, observations, problems discovered, resources available, potential obstacles, and possible ways to overcome them).

Using Needs and Assets Assessment Data to Increase Inter-agency Cooperation

  • You may want to share the state-wide needs assessment data with specific human services agencies serving your state.
  • The information you gather can also be used to identify areas in which cooperative service provision among agencies can effectively meet a community need, while avoiding duplication of services. 
  • Publicly, it can be disseminated as an indication of unmet needs in the state.

Preparing and Disseminating Your Report

  • Distribute a draft form of the assessment report to key individuals (supervisors, planning committee members, etc.) to solicit their comments and critique.
  • Using the feedback that you have received, create brief documents that visually summarize your findings. These can be used to show potential locations of programs and the projected impact of these programs on the target population.
    • Identify major issues and unmet needs and note recommendations and follow-up activities. 
    • Based on the data that were collected, you may be able to draw conclusions as to the extent of the problem in your state.
    • All this combined information must be blended into a "problem statement," which clearly spells out a message leading to action.
  • The report or a summary should be provided to all participating agencies and other individuals who have indicated throughout the needs assessment process that they are interested in participating in follow-up activities.
  • You should also develop a simple fact sheet outlining the most important findings.  Place these fact sheets in publicly accessible areas, such as in libraries and community health clinics. 
    • Salient quotes are often helpful in supporting data, tying the human experience to the numbers you have collected.
  • Create a summary report for distribution to policy makers; this should include a clear statement of the goals of the project, a description of the lead agency and other sponsoring agencies and organizations, and an explanation of how data were collected. 
    • This report should also include a summary of the state‚Äôs pregnancy prevention programs and activities, including some details as to what services they provide and whom they serve. 
  • Needs assessments are also important for process-monitoring and for maintaining a pulse on changing needs, perceptions, and priorities. 

Next Steps

  • The program planning process uses the information obtained in the needs assessment to create focused goals and objectives for a program that responds to the identified needs.
  • A comprehensive plan will also include the establishment of standards for the program's outcome, a timetable, methods of integrating the program with existing programs, and establishment of a referral system outlining how individuals will enter and exit from the program. 
  • Once specific strategies are adopted, it becomes a baseline document against which program development and implementation can be measured.


Adapted from: Brindis CD, Pittman K, Reyes P, et al. Adolescent pregnancy prevention: a Guidebook for Communities.  Palo Alto, CA: Health Promotion Resource Center, Stanford Center fro Research in Disease prevention, 1991., Used with Permission in Brindis CD, Davis L. Communities Responding to the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, Vol. II, 1998.