A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action
Last Revised: Nov 18, 2009 - Initial Posting: Jan 07, 2008

The North Dakota Community Action Partnership established a Statewide Needs Assessment study to help Community Action Agencies evaluate the needs of and services for low-income individuals and families.


The North Dakota Community Action Association (NDCAP) publishes a Statewide Needs Assessment Study every several years to help CAA’s identify the needs of low-income individuals and families.  Results are used to determine priorities for services that will address those needs.

Data for the study is gathered through a self-administered questionnaire completed by individuals accessing services from the seven CAA’s in North Dakota and a variety of other partnering human service organizations.  The number of respondents from each individual region is proportionate to the number of clients that they have compared to the total state population of clients.

The survey instrument used in 2006 contained 32 questions, although many questions included multiple response items.  In total, there were 114 items that could generate separate responses from each participant in the study.  Data from 1,670 clients is presented in the 2006 report.

A Statewide Report: 4-Year Comparisons presents needs assessment data gathered from the studies conducted in 1996, 1998, 2003, and 2006.  Among the trends noted were:

  • Decrease in respondents over 65 from 1996 to 2003.
  • Percentage of single clients increased from 1998 to 2003, while the percentage of married clients has decreased.
  • Percentage of single parents is very stable around the 40.0% level.
  • A great deal of stability in the percentages in each educational level.  There is a slight trend that shows a decrease in the percentage of clients with low levels of education (some grade school and completed grade school).
  • Annual income shows a great deal of stability.
  • “Low wages” was the most frequently mentioned barrier to finding employment in 2003 with an increase of 25.6% from 1998.  “Work hours” also had a high increase of 15. 4% followed by jobs not available at 14.8% and “family conflicts” at 10.4%.  2006 results show stability with the exception of the category of “jobs not available” that decreased by 8.5%.
  • In 2003 “low wages/benefits” continued to be the most frequently mentioned barrier to maintaining employment and it also had the highest increase (16.5%) followed by “work hours” (14.1%).  The barriers were generally stable from 2003 to 2006 as no increase was higher than 4.6%.

Separate reports and 4-year comparative data are also published for each region in the state – i.e. Fargo/Region 5 Needs Assessment 2006 and Fargo 4-Year Comparisons 2006.  This enables each CAA to have access to information in support of strategic planning activities.

NDCAP works through a consulting firm determined through an RFP process.  Funding for the Needs Assessment Study is provided through CSBG Discretionary funding as well as State Association Office of Community Services funding.


Conducting a statewide needs assessment provides a cohesive body of information for use with planning and evaluation activities to address the needs of low-income individuals and families.  Organizing the process on behalf of all CAA’s helps reduce the time and cost that would otherwise be necessary for each agency to gather similar data.  Needs assessment studies are one component of the Results Oriented Management and Accountability cycle.  This process is a key feature of an agency’s planning and evaluation process that relates to ROMA National Goal #5: Agencies Increase Their Capacity to Achieve Results.


Andrea Olson,