A Look Inside a Needs Assessment Questionnaire

Last Thursday, I explained why needs assessments are helpful and today I shall review my needs assessment questionnaire. Check out my description of what my needs assessment involves. You will see where the questionnaire fits into the assessment. Next time I shall discuss how I deliver the assessment.

The current questionnaire is daunting. It has nine sections and aims to trigger deep thinking about the organisation. Follow completing the questionnaire with a conversation; it is not necessary to complete all the questions before the conversation. Often in conversation new ideas emerge and sections that started difficult can become easier to complete.  Some organisations may not have previously met anything like this and so may need more support.

Here is a brief description of the nine sections of my questionnaire:

Web Presence

The consultant will want to review the organisation’s current web presence and so needs the details of everything the organisation has online. Be aware of likely issues such as the current site controlled by a previous designer. A surprisingly common problem that may need to be resolved before the client changes their site.


This section helps picture the people involved with the organisation and the skills or experience they can offer to its online work. Most organisations need to build their capacity to maintain their web presence, and this helps assess their current capacity and potential to develop it.  Some organisations will want to develop their own site and others will need to maintain a site developed for them.

The questions cover the skills of people who are directly involved and whether there are others who might be invited to be involved with the website, eg as guest bloggers.

Marketing Plan

This section reviews  aims and objectives, hopes and fears, frustrations with performance, etc.

The aim is to encourage deeper reflection about the organisation and what it wants to do online.  Many organisations want a website and have given little thought to what they need it for and often find they do not appreciate what their site can do for them.

Development Plan

This section is about finance and the organisation’s aspirations. Many organisations focus on balancing their current accounts and this section invites them to consider what they would do if their income increased significantly beyond their current expenditure. This is an important question because it can unearth aspirations that would otherwise remain obscure. With such objectives stated, it may be possible to include them in the objectives of the organisation. They are not always so expensive and it may be possible to meet them, at least in part, with lower income.

Products and Services

Products and services are things to sell or give away. A product  can be replicated and sold to many people. Tailor services to the needs of each customer. Both products and services can be real life or online.

This section goes into a lot of detail about the information the organisation owns. Many organisations have material they can turn into products and skills they can turn into services and they are not aware of the potential of what they own. Some organisations may be sitting on a goldmine. Others may be able to generate modest income online, supplementing their work. It is important to make sure this work progresses the organisation’s wider aims. Money is a means to an end and not an end in itself.

Some organisations may want to give stuff away and do not need an income. There are pros and cons to this approach. It needs to be considered in the wider context of the organisation’s objectives.


To design your web presence, you need to be as clear as possible about your market. Some organisations have a membership list and / or a list of web subscribers. These contacts will not only join purchase products and services, they will also pass on information to friends and other contacts. This is why it is important to add stimulating material to the website, as this will appeal to new contacts.

These questions cover the current contacts the organisation has as well as potential contacts they have yet to reach.


Partners are organisations who support or might support the organisation’s work. These questions cover current partners, potential partners and competitors.


These questions assess capacity to communicate with market and partners; including mailings lists, which can be stored in a variety of media and covers social media.


This is about equipment organisations can use to develop products and services.


This summarises my current needs assessment questions. My plan is to review them in the near future. There are other systems which might have a better fit to my market. Next time I shall explain how I use these questions and alternative options for their use.

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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