Identifying Needs

Funding applications must contain a clear and credible statement of the need or problem to be addressed. You must establish that a problem exists and that it is not being addressed elsewhere BEFORE you present your proposed solution. 

DO NOT ASSUME the funding body knows the importance and urgency of the problem. If you do, you may: 

  • Lose the opportunity to demonstrate your intimate knowledge and understanding of an issue
  • Reduce the credibility of your organisation
  • Undermine confidence in your proposed response.

This section outlines the types of information and methods you might use to demonstrate community need. 

The Importance Of Identifying Need

Identifying the needs of your community and consumer groups is important to:

  • Secure funding
  • Ensure your organisation provides quality services
  • Clarify and maintain your organisation's position and relevance
  • Build opportunities for collaboration.

Regular needs assessments are an essential part of your organisation's:

  • Strategic planning and review processes
  • Continuous quality improvement and evaluation methods
  • Sustainable funding strategies.

How To Identify A Community Need

There are many tools available to help identify community need (see the table below). While some approaches may involve traditional research methods (e.g., literature reviews), most require you to establish and build relationships with your broader community. 

You will need to collect relevant information to:

  1. Demonstrate that a problem exists in the community
  2. Highlight your organisation's strategy or proposal to address the problem.

What Information Will You Require?

Consider what information will best demonstrate the existence and nature of the problem. Use more than one type of data and clearly link the problem with your proposed solution.

Use reliable and transparent data collection methods to support your proposal. 

Ask yourself:

  • How does this data demonstrate the problem or community need?
  • How does this data justify or support the solution you propose?

Make the link sufficiently clear so that anyone, even those unfamiliar with your proposal, can see the relationship between the problem identified and the solution proposed.

What Should You Use In Your Funding Application?

Your funding application should include a simple explanation of:

  1. The community's needs
  2. How you established this
  3. What you propose to do about it
  4. Why your proposal is best suited to deliver positive outcomes.

See Developing a Proposal and Setting the Scene for more information about using your needs assessment to develop your proposal.

Methods for Identifying Needs


Local/Community Needs

Key Informant/Key Stakeholder Interviews: May be used to demonstrate that your proposal is addressing concerns held by respected community members.

Purpose Examples How Tips Activities
Demonstrates concern and potential support from respected community members
  • Police
  • Health professionals
  • Principals of local schools
  • Other community organisations
Informant interviews are relatively easy to undertake and you control the type of information that is sought Key experts and stakeholders may be able to write a letters of support for your application Read the UCLA Centre for Health Policy Research paper about how to conduct key informant interviews:
Community Forums: May be used to demonstrate that there is an identified need in your local community.
Purpose Examples How Tips Activities
A  record of community needs and support for your organisation Consult with your local community by holding a forum or focus groups with your organisation's targeted population group/s

Organising a community forum takes time and commitment:

  • Identify key community members
  • Schedule regular meetings (e.g., twice a year)
Key community members can provide support for your proposal For more information go to the Community Toolbox website:

National and State Surveys and Datasets: May be used to demonstrate the extent of the problem or issue.

Purpose Examples How Tips Activities

National surveys report the prevalence and incidence of a problem

National datasets provide a description of the extent of a problem or an issue

National Drug Strategy Household Survey

AOD National Minimum Dataset

National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing

Draw comparisons between population data and local data to demonstrate the significance of a problem in your community

An example: 10% of the Australian population have recently used cannabis, but in XXX 50% of XXX have recently used cannabis

When developing a survey, try to use the same/similar questions used in validated surveys Obtain any local relevant statistics from local councils, police, schools, hospitals or other community organisations
Literature Reviews: May be used to demonstrate ‘how big’ the problem or issue is in your local community.
Purpose Examples How Tips Activities

A synthesis of the evidence on a specific research question or topic

Provides insights on what others have done to solve similar problems

Identifies factors you need to consider when designing and implementing your proposal


Demonstrates to potential funders that you have a broad understanding of a topic and that you are aware of current practice and gaps in knowledge If you conduct a literature review it needs to be complete and current using up-to-date secondary and primary international, national, and local data sources where possible

Read the article:

Greenhalgh, T. (1997). How to read a paper: Papers that summarise other papers (systematic reviews and meta-analyses). BMJ, 315(7109), 672-675.

Service Information

Routine Information: Can be used to demonstrate the key aspects of your service provision.

Purpose Examples How Tips Activities
Information your organisation routinely collects for current reporting and funding purposes

Number of NSP clients, new service clients, gender, age, marital status

Activities held for mothers with children

Identify and clearly state the key aspects of your service provision that are relevant to a particular funding application Information can also be used to highlight unique aspects of your organisation (e.g., specific activities, particular location, targeted issues) List the type of information that you currently collect for funding purposes
Assessments/Evaluations: Demonstrate you know what works and what doesn’t work.
Purpose  Examples How Tips Activities
Illustrate the success and achievements of previous initiatives

Service evaluations

Quality assurance assessments

Consumer feedback

Can be used to document evidence-based practice in service delivery, intervention tools, and access and equity in community interactions Use information that your organisation routinely collects as part of evaluations and quality improvement activities List the type of information that you currently collect for funding purposes
Case Studies: May be used to demonstrate need and successful client outcomes.
Purpose  Examples How Tips Activities
Illustrate the challenges and successes of your clients

Success stories

Case studies

  • Ask client/s' permission if not anonymous
  • With your clients' involvement develop an analytical, realistic description of their problem/situational need for services
Clients'  confidentiality and privacy must be maintained Identify your organisation's procedures and protocols for writing up case-studies
Government Policies and Strategies: Can be used to demonstrate that your proposal aligns with the potential funders’ broader program of work.
Purpose Examples How Tips Activities
Establishes the significance of an issue at a global, national, state or local level

National Drug Strategy

National Mental Health Strategy

Identify the components of government policies and strategies that are directly relevant to your organisation and proposal If applying for funding through a private body, consider the strategies and policies they have on their websites and ensure your program goals align with theirs

Identify relevant government-based policies and strategies

Identify the policy or strategy of a charitable trust from whom you would like to apply for funding

Protocols and Guidelines: May be used to demonstrate that your proposal follows standard clinical, community practices.
Purpose Examples How Tips Activities
Establishes the significance of an issue at a global, national, state or local level

NHMRC Alcohol Consumption Guidelines

National Guidelines for Managing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)

Clinical guidelines and procedures for the use of methadone in the maintenance treatment of opioid dependence

Identify the components of government policies and strategies that are directly relevant to your organisation and to your proposal Elsewhere in your proposal (e.g., under Risk Management) you can highlight how staff and volunteers adhere to these protocols and guidelines Identify relevant protocols and guidelines

TIPS: Identifying Needs

  • First describe the problem, not your solution.
  • The identified need is not the services to be provided.
  • Use evidence, not assumptions or undocumented assertions, when establishing community needs.
  • Use relevant statistics to support the problem and proposed solution.

References & Resources

The websites and resources below will help you to conduct a community needs assessment:

Sample community needs assessments may be found on the websites below:


Complete the activities below by en​tering text into the fields provided and/or completing the attached documents. If you download and complete an attached document, you will have to save this to your personal file.

You may also:

  • Export these answers: You may export your answers to the activities to a word document without saving to Your Funding Portfolio. Responses can then be saved in your personal files
  • Print this page: Users may print the page
  • Save and continue to next step: Users may save their responses to a secure server before continuing to another section of the resource. Users may then export and print all their saved responses from Your Funding Portfolio
  • Save progress: Users may save their responses as they work on the page.

Activity 1.1 Needs Assessment Worksheet

Complete the needs assessment questions and provide examples of information that demonstrate the problem or need.

List the information you need to develop an accurate assessment.

If you cannot answer the questions below, look at the resources listed in the References & Resources section of this page for information about how to conduct a needs assessment.

1.1.pdf (133 KB)

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Activity 1.2 Describe the Identified Need

Focus on the need/problem that your organisation wishes to address.

Develop a three- or four-sentence description that depicts the need/problem you will address.

Try not to use technical language or jargon.

Show this to a colleague with relevant expertise (e.g., Board members or senior staff). Ask them to define the problem and provide feedback on the clarity of your description.

1.2.pdf (86 KB)

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Activity 1.3 Promote the Identified Need

Organisations often have to also approach local community members to obtain support for their proposal.

Develop a short 100 word "speech" using two or three key pieces of evidence to obtain support for your organisation from funders and local community members.

Cut straight to the heart of the issue and quickly and effectively convey the thrust of your argument to convince funders and community members to support your proposal.

In your "speech", try to provide a sense of the urgency for your request. Help the funder and community understand why the proposal is important now.

1.3.pdf (72 KB)

Activity 1.4 Community Mapping Tool

This activity was adapted from the Western Australian Government Drug and Alcohol Office Community Mapping Tool.

Visit the Western Australian Government Drug and Alcohol Office website for more information about community engagement.

1.4v2.pdf (116 KB)

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