Park and recreation agencies serve their communities in countless ways. They act as hubs where people can exercise, socialize, be exposed to nature or pick up new skills and hobbies. Your agency’s facilities, programs, parks and services have a profound impact on the well-being of your community’s residents. Consequently, it is vitally important to get residents’ feedback to inform future decisions regarding agency staffing, recreation center offerings and many other factors that feed into strategic planning.

What are Community Needs Assessments? 

Community needs assessments are surveys — their results can give you a sense of how your community currently engages with your agency, provide data on residents’ satisfaction with park and recreation agency offerings and identify community needs and priorities. This combination of a satisfaction survey plus a laying-out of priorities makes needs assessments uniquely powerful feedback mechanisms.

What Is the Purpose of This Resource?

Needs assessments can be daunting undertakings — especially for park and recreation agencies that have limited resources. The NRPA Community Needs Assessment Resource will guide you through the entire community needs assessment lifecycle — from deciding on clear goals to eliciting a high response rate from your community. Most importantly, it will show you how to use the survey data to strengthen your agency in both the short- and long-term.

This resource’s four steps will help you create, administer and act on a high-quality community needs assessment:

Step 1: Clarify Your Assessment Goals

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What is prompting your needs assessment? Do you want feedback about a wide range of facilities and programs or just some of your offerings?

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Step 2: Create the Assessment

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Design an assessment that will tell you how your community currently engages with your agency and how you may want to change your programming, staffing or other key aspects of your department based on community feedback.

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Step 3: Administer the Assessment

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Involve your whole community in your assessment outreach — not just frequent users of recreation centers and parks. Achieve a high response rate that is representative of your whole community.

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Step 4: Take Action on the Assessment Data

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How will you use the feedback you receive to make longer-term shifts in strategy and resource allocation? Decide on quick wins that you can achieve in the short-term.

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