Posted on May 05, 2021
Make sure your project accomplishes the community’s goals (and not just your club’s)

You wouldn’t start a business without first researching the market. Yet clubs often start projects without taking the step of making sure it’s something the community actually needs and can support.

“Imagine we visit a community, apply our values, and conclude they need a new well,” says Ron Denham, a past governor of District 7070 and chair emeritus of the WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Rotary Action Group. “But months later, we discover the well isn’t being used. Had we listened to the community, we would have learned that what they really needed was a new toilet so women wouldn’t risk abduction or rape by going into the bushes at night.”

So before your club spends a single minute, dollar, or brain cell on your next project, make sure it will help the community thrive. A well-planned community assessment ensures a successful project for everyone involved.

  • Do be aware of the dynamics of the room during community meetings. Are local leaders the only people speaking? You may want to organize smaller focus groups to give everyone a chance to be heard.
  • Do include more than just the physical assets in your assessment. Find out who has influence and expertise in the community. Who has the power to make decisions?
  • Do connect with local and regional government officials to see what initiatives are already underway. You’ll avoid duplicating efforts and can work to complement what’s already going on.
  • Do use a variety of methods. No one method works for every situation. A town hall is a good starting point, but you may want to include a survey or focus group to gather more information.
  • Do build a relationship with the community before starting your assessment. People will be more open about their needs, strengths, and weaknesses when they trust you and share a bond with you. 
  • Do gather data from agencies and governments working in the region, says Martin Strutton, monitoring and evaluation coordinator for ShelterBox, a Rotary project partner. “Whatever information you receive, investigate to make sure it’s accurate,” he adds.
The following elements are required for any global grant community assessment:
  • Include at least two involved stakeholder groups that fairly represent the community.
  • Use a formal methodology.
  • Assess more than infrastructure.
  • Describe the current situation, including assets and needs.
  • Explain the connection between the project and community assessment.
  • Don’t talk to just one or two people, or only meet with the local club. You can find a list of stakeholders for each area of focus in the Community Assessment Tools at
  • Don’t use a “check the box” wish list to find out what people need. If there is a menu of options, respondents are less likely to identify a need that isn’t on the list.
  • Don’t treat the surface issues and ignore the root cause.
  • Don’t cherry-pick data to validate your assumptions.
  • Don’t use the assessment to justify the project you want to do.
  • Don’t focus only on materials and infrastructure; include training and maintenance to ensure your project is sustainable.
Your membership in Rotary gives you access to experts and resources around the world that can help you design your assessment — and your eventual project.
  • Online tools at
  • Community Assessment Tools
  • A Guide to Global Grants
  • Global Grants Community Assessment Results form
  • Learning Center courses
  • Areas of focus policy statements
  • Six Steps to Sustainability
Professional expertise
  • Rotary Action Groups
  • Regional grants officers
  • The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers
  • Areas of focus staff
  • District leaders