February 06, 2019

Grant Writing 101 | Needs Assessments

By Kelly Riding |

Since grant writing season is upon us, we thought we would offer a three-part series that includes helpful tips and tricks for writing a successful grant proposal. We know what you’re thinking...but don’t close this page! We promise to offer information that will be helpful and maybe even *yikes* fun to read! Well, maybe just helpful.

Several years ago, a colleague from the Utah State Board of Education (Lisa Wisham) and I gave a presentation entitled Telling Your Story Through Data. We focused on why needs assessments are necessary for strong grant applications. I’m going to share just a few tips from our presentation.

Why a needs assessment?

Lisa compared a needs assessment to going to the doctor. Imagine you showed up at the doctor’s office with certain symptoms, and the doctor didn’t ask any questions or perform any kind of examination. They just sent you off with a prescription...for what you’re not even sure!

Needs assessments for afterschool programs are very similar. Some foundational things to keep in mind:

  • Needs assessments address gaps between the current conditions and the desired conditions or wants.
  • They focus on the desired outcomes rather than the means or the process.
  • For example:
    • Reading achievement is the outcome and reading instruction is the means or the process.
    • Healthy lifestyles are the outcome and a nutrition program is the means or the process.

Types of needs assessments

  • Surveys (parent, student, teacher, community members)
  • Focus groups and interviews
  • Census data
  • SHARP surveys
  • Student behavior
  • Law enforcement (juvenile crime data)
  • Academic data (SAGE, graduation rates, etc.)

Pro tip: Check out the Utah State Board of Education Gateway to find school-related data. Here, you’ll find everything related to student growth, school demographics, SAGE scores, school report cards, etc. You can also utilize the new State of Afterschool Programs in Utah Report to strengthen your proposal with statewide and local data and information.  

Implementation cycle

Once you have gathered your needs assessment data (make sure you give yourself plenty of time to gather this!):

  • Select goals and outcomes based on the results.
  • Match the types of programs, activities, curriculum, prevention components, partnerships, etc. to meet the needs of your school and community and to your identified goals and outcomes.
  • Next, who is going to facilitate the services and programs? Identify what resources you have.
  • Lastly, before you decide on the programming, make sure it aligns with your budget.

Needs Assessment Cycle

Going through these steps will help ensure your programming matches the needs of your community. As always, we’re here to help!

See you next month, when we’ll dive into innovative funding partnerships!