NA TIG Week: Sue Hamann on How to Improve a Needs Assessment Proposal

Hello, my name is Sue Hamann, and I work at the National Institutes of Health. One part of my job is to solicit and review proposals from evaluation contractors for various types of evaluation projects, including needs assessment and program planning. Today I will share some tips about improving your proposed needs assessment.

Hot Tips:

Show that you are knowledgeable about needs assessment. Don’t even think about submitting a proposal that does not define needs assessment or mention its rich history and development. This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised that I often review proposals that are lacking evidence that the proposers know the field. Be sure to cite the Altschuld and Ryan edition (New Directions for Evaluation, #144, winter 2014). Justify your proposed methodology based on existing literature.

Assemble and describe a team with all the required skills. Michael Scriven in his 1991 Evaluation Thesaurus listed the following as content areas in which evaluators should be skilled: statistics, cost analysis, ethical analysis, management theory and practice, pedagogy, social psychology, contract law, interviewing skills, professional politics, presentation graphics, dissemination, synthesis. Altschuld and Watkins (2014) stated that needs assessment involves the following methods, in addition to the qualitative and quantitative methods employed in other evaluation activities: gap analysis, causal analysis, prioritization strategies, comparison of solutions. Needs assessment is usually a team effort. Make sure that you document and budget for the skills that you already have available and the skills that you will add to your team.

Be alert to the culture of the organization to which you are applying. I read a lot of proposals that are obviously boilerplate. It is generally not worth your time to submit a vague needs assessment proposal, that is, one that is not tailored explicitly to the organization or solicitation. Sometimes you have to do some online searching about the history and status of an organization to determine the kind of needs assessment that will be consistent with the culture of an organization and useful to it. Be sure to read the article from Maurya West Meiers and colleagues (New Directions for Evaluation, #144, winter 2014); it has great tips about planning international needs assessments, but the tips are applicable to any new environment.

Document your membership in AEA. If you are reading this blog, you are probably a member of the largest group of evaluators in the world. Be sure to mention this when you state your qualifications. If you belong to the Needs Assessment TIG, say so. If you do not belong and you are interested being paid to do needs assessments, you should join and become active in the TIG.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Needs Assessment (NA) TIG Week with our colleagues in the Needs Assessment Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NA TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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