To gain insight into the 22 communities we serve, UWNCM launched a community needs assessment in fall 2020 to identify critical gaps in service and priority areas for investing donor dollars.
Needs assessments are valuable tools for determining community perceptions, strengths and concerns for the purposes of planning and community improvement. UWNCM undertook this effort to gather qualitative and quantitative information from a range of sources:
Public data – we analyzed publicly available data from our network of over 30 service agencies, the US Census and diverse academic and community studies.
Community-wide survey – we conducted a survey in multiple languages to identify and rank critical need areas impacting low- to moderate-income residents, including health, housing, income building, education and employment. A total of 315 surveys were completed, and participants included residents, municipal representatives, program participants, service providers, students and volunteers.
Interviews & focus groups – we conducted over a dozen interviews and focus groups with representatives from academic and health institutions, municipalities, foundations, non-profit organizations, ethnic advocacy organizations and resident groups.
Given that we are in the middle of a pandemic, we believe that many of the answers to our questions were heavily influenced by COVID-19 and its impact on our communities.
Findings & Next Steps
Overall we found that there are significant pressures impeding socio-economic trajectory for low- and moderate-income residents in our service area.
Wages are not keeping pace with high costs of housing, child care, transportation and basic needs, and a disproportionate number of residents in our region are living at or below the Federal Poverty Level. In fact, all of UWNCM’s core communities have higher poverty rates than the state average, and the average weekly wage for people living in these communities is about half of the state average.
Ongoing economic instability resulting from these factors has created the need for a continuum of programs to help families meet basic needs and build financial stability while providing opportunities for early childhood literacy and youth development.
In response to these needs, UWNCM will employ a range of strategies including investing in community-based organizations through grant support and technical assistance; continuing and developing initiatives that leverage innovation, partnerships and best practices from program models across United Way’s national network; and engaging the public and the private sectors through volunteerism.
UWNCM President Kory Eng notes that the community needs assessment provided essential information to guide future efforts, stating, “Our work and commitment to building a brighter region for everyone must be driven by an informed process to deepen our understanding of the most critical issues impacting local residents.”
Our Community Needs Assessment Impact Paper and Request for Proposals were released in January 2021.