Needs Assessment and Financial Sustainability

This chapter emphasizes how financial sustainability is rooted in the investigation and analysis of the needs of a target community. The chapter discusses theories about the needs-assessment process, as well as action steps toward the development of a community needs-assessment report. The chapter explores facets of financial needs-assessment of a nonprofit that can help chart a course to further the vision and mission statements. The reader will learn how to use primary and secondary data to conduct a targeted needs assessment that is linked to the financial sustainability of a nonprofit organization.


There is a variety of definitions of the concept "community/'According to Barker (1999), a community is "a group of individuals or families that share certain values, services, institutions, interests, or geographic proximity" (p. 89). Homan (2004) viewed the notion of community as "a number of people who share a distinct location, belief, interest, activity, or other characteristic that clearly identifies their commonality and differentiates them from those not sharing it" (p. 149). Community or at least a sense of community exists wherever there is a sense of common interest that binds a group together to defend a cause or to work toward the achievement of a common goal.

A community is a group of people having a common history, ethnicity, culture, geography, or interests. There can be a physical community, which is a group of people living within geographical boundaries ruled under a common political, economic, and social system. For example, a group of individuals living in the same neighborhood constitutes a community. They share a common geographic area and share common needs for services, such as roads and safety. Similarly, the population of an entire city, county, state, or country forms a community sharing a common geographic space. Whether they like it or not, they have common interests that are inherent to such a geographic area. For example, the residents of Madison, Wisconsin, constitute a community. They may not necessary share a common neighborhood, but they are all residents of the same city. A regulation or legislation that positively or negatively affects residents of that city will be of interest to all of them. This example is applicable to any city, county, or state in the United States. Physical communities are determined either legally or conventionally by geographical boundaries, which include a group of individuals who feel attached to a particular physical place or location. For example, people who have been living for a long time in a particular neighborhood may feel strongly attached to it, and they may become familiar with one another, which would be different for people who live outside their physical territory. Members of a physical community may share strong memories, past experiences, values, and cultural practices to which they may feel strongly attached.

Unlike physical communities, communities of interests are defined by either a major issue of interest or a major goal or vision, regardless of the physical location of the people concerned by such an interest, goal, or vision. Like members of a physical community, people who form a community of interests tend to share some common values, identities, past experiences, or cultural practices to which they are strongly attached. A community of interests may encompass individuals sharing a common vision, goal, or interest. For example, teachers or members of a union organization, or parents of children with a disability, or veterans of the U.S. military, or female victims of domestic violence in each case constitute a community. These people may have different religious beliefs, be from different ethnic groups, and have a different sexual orientation, but they have a particular common interest on an issue that links them as a community, regardless of their geographic location.

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