Foundation Takes Deep Look at Community Needs

2012 Community Foundation BoardWhen donors give to the Community Foundation, they expect us to invest every dollar as effectively as possible. With that in mind, in 2015 we commissioned a detailed assessment of the most pressing needs in the region the Foundation serves.

This five-month study created profiles of needs and service gaps in Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Otsego and Tioga Counties, focusing on demographics, health, housing, child care and education, transportation, public safety, arts and recreation and economic development.

This is the Foundation’s second needs assessment. The first, conducted in 2011 with support from the Hoyt Foundation, looked just at Broome County. The results helped us to develop our most recent strategic plan. Also, the Foundation’s Planning Committee, which sets guidelines for our Board’s grantmaking decisions, referred to the assessment when setting priorities.

But several years along, it was time to revisit the needs of our communities. And this time, we felt it was important to cover all five counties in our region.

Lisa Horn, president of Horn Research in Slaterville Springs, N.Y., conducted the new assessment, first by digging into databases and documents produced by nonprofit organizations and government agencies. To collect further information, she also consulted secondary sources and surveyed about 30 expert key informants. The result is a 227-page report, with a section on each county. Click here to review the 2015 Regional Needs Assessment.

The study revealed that each county has unique needs, but also that certain experiences apply across the region, Horn says. “For example, challenges with access to health care came out in all of the counties.”

David Guy, who recently completed his term as a Board member and chair of the Planning Committee, found some of the findings on mental health services particularly striking. “I expected we would find a dearth of providers,” he says. But the data showed that the problem isn’t always lack of services; often, services exist, but people who need them can’t gain access.

Besides using it to inform grantmaking, the Foundation will use the needs assessment in other ways. For instance, we might collaborate with other foundations on specific issues that emerged in specific counties. Or we could share the assessment with government representatives, to help them advocate for programs that will aid our region.

One thing is certain: the needs assessment is a working document. “This will inform the Planning Committee’s work for years going forward,” Guy says. And the Community Foundation will continue to update this important resource, keeping us in touch with our communities’ needs as they evolve.


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