Needs assessments come in many varieties. Some are standalone reports designed to outline the challenges faced by a community or population. In other cases, a needs assessment is part of a larger report or application for a grant, and sticks to the specific needs the grant might address. Your needs assessment should be tailored to the specific end you're trying to achieve and closely follow any guidelines provided by its intended recipient.
Identify Your Purpose
Before you begin writing your needs assessment report, clearly identify the reason you're writing it. A needs assessment written as part of a grant application will be more specific and cost-oriented than a needs assessment designed to outline potential directions for helping a community or organization. Narrowly tailoring your purpose will help you gather the right data. For example, if you're exploring what a community needs to reduce poverty, your topic is much broader than if you're analyzing how a grant might help pay for school lunches.
Gather Relevant Data
A needs assessment is a data-intensive report, so you'll need to compile data related to your topic or conduct your own research. Ensure that the data are specific to your project, particularly if you're arguing in favor of a specific program or seeking a grant. For example, data on childhood poverty in general won't grab a reader's attention as effectively as data about childhood poverty in your community.
Interpret and Analyze Your Findings
After you've gathered sufficient data, provide it in a clear, understandable format such as charts and graphs. Select highlights from the data that clearly make your point or grab a reader's attention, and highlight these data points in headlines or your introduction. Next, use your data to begin drawing conclusions or tracking the history of a community challenge. For example, you might analyze the data to uncover common sources of childhood malnutrition or track the development of childhood poverty in your community.
Recommend Next Steps
A needs assessment report should also recommend ways to respond to the needs outlined in the report. If you're seeking a grant, the format is fairly simply. You'll just have to show how grant funding can help fund a need. For other types of needs assessments, you might need to gather more data or draw from other programs to make suggestions about possible next steps. If you need to do more research to draw conclusions about what to do next, note this in the report by outlining potential future research projects.