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    Project Planning


    The Project Cycle

    The process of planning and managing projects follows a logical, continuous cycle. Each phase of the project leads to the next.

    • The identify stage includes a needs assessment process to determine the needs and problems in a


    • The design phase includes the actual planning and design of a project.
    • The implement stage refers to the implementation of the project, whether it is a single-year or multi-year implementation period.
    • The evaluation of project results occurs at the end of a project and involves determining whether the project’s goal and objectives were achieved. The evaluation stage then leads to the identification of additional or persisting problems, allowing the cycle to begin again.
    • Project monitoring occurs throughout all stages allowing for small adjustments in the project’s planning, design, and implementation in order to ensure the project’s success.


    An Overview of Project Planning

     Project planning involves a series of steps that determine how to achieve a particular community or organizational goal or set of related goals. This goal can be identified in a community plan or a strategic plan. Project plans can also be based on community goals or action strategies developed through community meetings and gatherings, tribal council or board meetings, or other planning processes.

    The planning process should occur before you write your application and submit it for funding.

    Project planning:

    • identifies specific community problems that stand in the way of meeting community goals.
    • creates a work plan for addressing problems and attaining the goals.
    • describes measurable beneficial impacts to the community that result from the project’s implementation.
    • determines the level of resources or funding necessary to implement the project.

    Why is project planning important?


    Project Planning helps us to: Project Planning helps to eliminate:
    think ahead and prepare for the future poor planning
    clarify goals and develop a vision overambitious projects
    identify issues that will need to be addressed unsustainable projects
    choose between options undefined problems
    consider whether a project is possible unstructured project work plans
    make the best use of resources
    motivate staff and the community
    assign resources and responsibilities
    achieve the best results

    Approach to Community Development

    The community and its involvement are central to designing and implementing a successful project. Many government and other funders seeks to fund community-based projects that reflect the cultural values, collective vision, long-range governance, and social and economic development goals of native communities.

    The following overview includes some key points to consider during the project-planning phase.

    Local decision making in achieving community self-sufficiency is fundamental in the success and positive growth in every community. Community involvement is central to both the strategic planning and project planning that occurs before the development of any grant application. However, in addition to a detailed description of community involvement in the planning and implementation phases of the project, proposals must provide documentation to verify community involvement in and support for the proposed project. This documentation should explain and provide evidence of how the community was involved in determining problems faced by its members and in designing strategies for reducing or eliminating those problems.

    Keep in mind that each of the documentation sources listed below provides information about different elements of the planning process. Examples of documentation can include the following:

    • summary of a community comprehensive plan
    • summary of a community strategic plan
    • summary of results from a community needs assessment
    • Tribal Council or Board meeting minutes and/or sign-in sheets
    • community meeting minutes and/or sign-in sheets
    • community surveys

    There are different methods for involving your community in the project planning process.

    Below are some examples:

    Comprehensive Planning

    This process involves completing a community-wide needs assessment to engage the community in identifying and prioritizing all long-range goals and the community problems preventing the achievement of those goals. Next, the community is involved in the process of developing a method to accomplish long-range goals, also discussing initial ways to overcome the problems. This method should include a process to measure the progress towards achieving those goals. Comprehensive plans usually require at least a year to complete, and cover a five- to ten-year time span.

    Strategic Planning

    This is a process used when a community or organization already has a comprehensive plan and wants to move forward to achieve its long-range goals. Strategic planning involves the participation of the community in identifying problems that stand between the community and its goals and moves the community toward realizing its long-range vision. The product of strategic planning, often simply called the “strategic plan,” builds on pre-established long-range goals by designing projects related to one or more of these goals. A strategic plan generally takes at least a year to complete.

    What if your organization does not have a comprehensive or strategic plan?

    Comprehensive and strategic planning are time-consuming processes. They require the development of a community-wide needs assessment that collects community input and is then analyzed to prioritize problems and basic needs of the community. If your organization does not have a comprehensive or strategic plan that documents long-range goals and problem areas or your specific situation does not warrant having either document, there are alternative ways of documenting community involvement.

    Alternative Methods of Documentation

    Minutes of past general council meetings or community meetings that document the community’s perception of long-range goals and problems can be used to show that your project has a history of community planning activities. This historical documentation of community problems and the project designed to address those problems should be supplemented through community assessments that determine current conditions and concerns. Methods for such assessments of current conditions could include focus groups, nominal group process and survey research. Additional information on these tools can be found in Appendix B.

    When you have chosen a process that involves the community in planning and a method for documenting the planning, you are ready to begin project development.

    Initiating the Planning Process

    Project planning begins with the formation of a local project planning committee or group. Whenever possible, tribes and organizations should use a team approach to plan new projects which involves staff, community members, community or organizational leadership, and a grant writer or consultant if necessary. The committee members play an important role in keeping the project planning process on track while also ensuring everyone has the opportunity to participate. The committee can organize meetings,

    Conduct surveys, gather and analyze information, and meet with other agencies and organizations. This team will develop the project plan and use it to write the different parts of the application. Generally, you want to spend approximately 80% of your time planning your project and 20% of your time writing and packaging the grant application.

    Once your team is in place, the planning process generally begins with an assessment of community problems and issues involving various methods to gather community input. Based on information gathered, project developers can identify problems and issues or interests common to all members of the community to begin the process of setting community priorities.

    Perhaps one of the most daunting aspects of project planning is ensuring community involvement, because it requires the knowledge and skills necessary to set up and conduct or facilitate effective planning sessions, large meetings, and presentations. Public meetings are essential to the development of a project with broad grassroots support. Meetings should be held regularly throughout the planning process. Properly facilitated meetings provide a great way to gather traditional, cultural, and local knowledge. They also serve as a means to receive input on goals, objectives, and activities in order to determine ways to best prioritize them.

    Using the Community Process

    A large part of guaranteeing community involvement will depend on how you utilize and develop your community’s community process, or the way in which a community or organization involves its members in community’s community process, or the way in which a community or organization involves its members in the decision-making process. As stated above, the public process should include the many different perspectives that exist in the community, as this will help build unity around the project. Appendix B includes different methods for seeking community involvement in the project planning process. Appendix D includes some sample forms and ideas for meetings.

    In addition, keep the following in mind:

    • Keep records. It is important to document your public process, as these documents can be included in your application. See Appendix D for sample forms.
    • Use what already exists. An easy way to get participation is to think of groups that already exist in the community, such as dance, school and parent, artisan, and youth groups. Many communities also have organized public meetings.

    Attending these already established meetings and informally collecting information saves time.

    • Choose “wisely.” Meeting with people who are viewed as wise about the community, such as elders and community leaders, is an effective way to collect valuable information. These individuals can also help in encouraging support from others. Additionally, do not discount including youth.

    Getting the Word Out

    Ensuring that a maximum number of people know about the meeting can be a challenge.

    Here are some approaches that might be helpful:

    • Create colorful and interesting flyers and post them everywhere (post office, airport, stores, schools, clinics, laundromats, churches, etc.). The flyer should briefly and clearly state the purpose of the meeting and why it is important to attend. Indicate the times the meeting starts and ends.
    • Ask all local media (radio, television, and newspapers) to run free notices or public service announcements.
    • Post your meeting on any public calendars maintained in your community.
    • Elicit the help of community organizations to notify their members. Inviting them to become active participants right from the start is a good way to initiate the collaborative process.
    • Issue personal invitations to community leaders, elders, and any individuals you anticipate might oppose your ideas or project.

    Boosting Attendance

    It is often difficult to motivate people to leave home and attend a meeting, especially when the meeting is devoted to broad issues of visioning and planning. There are numerous ways to maximize attendance such as:

    • Provide free childcare during the meeting.
    • Offer door prizes that require the winner to be present.
    • Offer free refreshments or organize a potluck supper.
    • Make sure there are no scheduling conflicts with other community events. Or, conversely, hold your meeting in conjunction with other, relatively brief local events, such as an award ceremony, a groundbreaking, or the opening of a new facility.
    • Choose the most convenient and appealing venue.
    • Provide translation services if English is not the first language of all community members.
    • Provide local entertainment at the conclusion of the meeting.

    Setting Group Priorities

    Building consensus in a community planning meeting can be difficult, but there are techniques to help move the process forward:

    • Many similar ideas can be consolidated. Work with meeting participants to cluster related thoughts into logical groupings (health, public safety, culture, etc.).
    • A consensus can be formed by vote. One effective method is to write all the group’s suggestions on flip chart pages, then give each participant three sticky dots. Participants place dots next to the ideas they consider most important, and the ideas that receive the most dots become the group’s top priorities.
    • An alternative to the dot voting method is a community survey, in which participants are asked to choose their priorities from a list of suggestions made at the meeting. This method is much more time consuming and labor intensive, but has the benefit of potentially increasing community awareness and involvement in the planning process.


    When planning for and designing a new project, it is suggested using the following ten steps of project development:

    1. Identify the Long Range Goals

    Begin by describing the conditions that would exist in a “perfect community;” that set of statements is the community’s long range goals in such areas as “employment”, “education”, cultural preservation”, “housing” and “family income”. Sometimes “the community” engaged in project planning is a subset of the overall community. The community subset might be the community elders, local school student population, or any of the definable sub-populations found in your community. A school’s parent association, for example, may develop a long range goal that describes a community where all children graduate from high school, where a large percentage of graduates go on to some form of higher education, and where funding is sufficient to provide assistance so that students can attend their postsecondary school of choice. There may be many other characteristics that could define the desired situation for this “student community.”

    The point is to envision an overall community, or a subset of the community, living in an ideal situation. If you could snap your fingers and create the perfect community what would it look like? What are its characteristics? What kinds of opportunities for achieving stability and self-sufficiency are available? What resources are available for the members of the community? This activity provides a framework for constructing long-range community goals that point in the right direction. You envision a place where the people’s problems and needs are met. Then design a plan that moves in the direction of that “perfect” place.

    Refer to Appendix C for additional long range goals statements.


    2A. Conduct a Community Assessment to Identify the Problem

    A successful project is one that was designed based on a good understanding of the community conditions and identifies the problems preventing the community from achieving its long-range goal(s). Community conditions include aspects of the community such as its geographic location, demographics, ecosystem, and history. A community assessment can be conducted to identify the problem(s) and determine which adverse current community condition a project will address. A community assessment can also be used to gather information once a specific problem has been identified, in order to design a project that will effectively address the problem.

    There are several methods of conducting a community assessment and different methods are appropriate for different situations. The method used should be selected based on the information you are collecting in order to produce a useful result. You can also use more than one method, and are encouraged to do so, as this will produce more comprehensive results and better describe current conditions in your community.

    Before beginning a community assessment, it can be helpful to make a list of the pieces of information you are trying to find, the source of each piece of information, and the means of gathering each piece of information. The following table can be used for this exercise (for a complete blank table, see Appendix D).


    Information Required Source of Information Means of Gathering Comments
    Identify types of items Contact native businesses Survey and follow-up Contact Pacific Native
    purchased by tourists in in heavily visited areas of with phone calls regional and village
    other regions of the the Pacific. corporations to identify
    Pacific. native businesses.


    All of the information you gather during a community assessment is valuable and can be used as a basis for defining a problem and determining the goal, objectives, and activities for your project.

    Some questions to keep in mind when planning and conducting a community assessment:

    • What conditions are being assessed? By whom?  For whom?  Why?
    • Whose adverse conditions do the findings describe?

    Refer to Appendix B for methods of conducting a community assessment.

    Problems (negative current conditions) are those things that would have to change – or be overcome – in order to achieve the long-range goals of a socially and economically healthy community. Problems can be internal as well as external and identifying the specific problems is critical in designing a successful project.

    Once you have completed your community assessment, you can define and describe problems in your community. The next step is to select the problem or problems you wish to address with your project through a community-based planning process. A project is generally more successful if it focuses on either one large problem or a small amount of specific problems, as this will help keep the scope of your project within achievable boundaries.

    Once any problems to be addressed have been identified, the community can design solutions to reduce or eliminate the identified problem. It is better to generate as many ideas as possible through focus groups and/or other community brainstorming methods, assisted by your project planning committee.

    List as many ideas as you can think of-these could become the basis for your project. The ideas will directly address the list of problems to be overcome and will become the basis for your problem statement.

    A problem statement describes a current critical condition or set of conditions affecting a defined group of people in a specific place at a specific time. The problem statement should include a clear, concise, and precise description of the nature, scope, and severity of the problem or problems the project will address. Typically, the statement identifies the specific physical, economic, social, financial, governmental, institutional, behavioral, native language, or cultural challenges of the community. The statement will include the information gathered from your needs assessment.

    Preparing the problem statement is a critical part of the project planning process as it will be included in your application and must prove that your proposed project addresses and meets an important need in your organization and community. The design and purpose of your project must also directly relate to your problem statement.

    Below, find a sample problem statement:

    The number of Pacific Island youth not completing high school has risen 1% each year for the past ten year. The community assessment also found that the Pacific Island youth are not identifying with their native culture and language and the numbers of Native language speakers are declining by 6% each year.

    In developing your problem statement, there are some things to keep in mind:

    • The problem to be addressed should have a clear relationship to your organization’s mission, purpose, and long-term goals.
    • Include accompanying information such as statistical facts, testimonials, interviews, and survey results provide additional support for your efforts to address the problem.
    • The problem you identify should be within your organization’s capacity to address using available resources.
    • Be sure to include documentation of community involvement.
    • Think about what the long-term impact will be of addressing the problem.

    Additional tips for writing a problem statement:

    • Accompanying information should be well-documented and should not include assumptions.
    • Focus your explanation of need on the geographic area your organization serves.
    • Give a clear sense of the urgency of your request.
    • Always provide a baseline population number if you reference percentages in the problem statement

    2B. Assess Available Resources

    Assessing your available resources will help determine the best strategy for implementing your project and should be part of your community assessment process. Begin this analysis with the resources that currently exist within the community. Every project and every strategy is different and requires a different set of resources, but a few hard-and-fast rules exist in the assessment of available resources. The answers to these five questions work well for project development.

    The next step in this analysis looks beyond the immediate community for assistance. Who and where are potential partners with a shared interest in your community and its challenges? What mutual benefit collaborations can be developed with partners? What expertise and resources do the partners possess? What opportunities exist in the greater community to move you closer to your vision? It is important to note that by showing a large number of partners, you are also showing that your project has credibility outside of your organization. The emphasis on the importance of partnerships cannot be stressed enough, as projects that utilize and develop partners are generally more successful.

    Partnerships can be defined as: “agreements between two or more parties that will support the development and implementation of the proposed project. Partnerships include other community-based organizations or associations, federal and state agencies, and private or non-profit organizations.” Partnerships can be internal (with departments or programs within your organization) or external (with other organizations).

    3 Refine Assessment of Assets

    Use the list of assets/resources that you identified in the community assessment to build an inventory of internal (from within the community) and external (from outside the community) resources that could be available for a project that would address the problem(s) identified in the assessment

    In designing new projects and programs, strong partnerships and the leveraged resources that usually are associated with those partnerships are two indicators that a project has resulted from a credible internal and external community-based planning process. Committed partnerships and commitment of leveraged funds are often critical components in determining project sustainability, even for projects that “will be completed” at the conclusion of grant funding.

    In addition to human resources, equipment, supplies, materials, and facility needs, the following questions should be answered:

    • Who is addressing some identified problems or problem components now? How well are they doing? They might be potential partners in your project.
    • What aspects of the problems remain to be addressed? This question identifies unaddressed conditions, or gaps in the situation so that you can formulate a strategy for addressing unmet problem areas without duplicating existing services.
    • What resources can be leveraged so that the project expands capabilities by adding resources that improve the chances for success?

    The methods of conducting community’s assessments discussed in Appendix B can also help determine the answers to the above questions.

    1. Determine the Project Goal

    The project goal is a basic description of the purpose of the project, in other words, a reduction or resolution of the problem or problems you identified earlier. The project goal should reflect positive changes in the set of conditions desired by the community after the problem is addressed. The goal statement represents the result of the successful completion of the project. It is important to show the relationship between the project goal and the long-range community goals.

    The project goal should clearly describe how the project relates to one or more of the community’s long-range goals. The statement should be brief and to the point, as well as realistic. Your goal determines the scope of your project, so do not state your project will accomplish more than it possibly can.

    It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between goals, objectives, and activities. The exercises and information for development steps 4, 5, and 6 should clarify these three project components.

    1. Select a Project Approach/Strategy

    Once you have determined your project goal, you are ready to develop your project approach or strategy. Based on the information gathered in the previous steps, develop a list of possible strategies for addressing your problem and achieving your goal and then select a strategy that represents the best method for implementing your project. This strategy will be the basis for developing your objectives and activities.

    Very few rules exist for ultimately selecting the most promising project approach in terms of both the problem to be solved and the opportunity to secure funding, because your approach will be unique to your community.

    In selecting the most promising project approach for solving the problem identified by the community and achieving the project goal, consider the following issues:

    • Use your organization’s experience with past similar programs – what strategy worked then?
    • Research similar projects that other organizations have completed and build off of them. Use their best practices to guide you in selecting an approach.
    • Ensure your approach is in line with the resources you have available, including what you are asking for in your budget.
    • Design the strategy so that its activities, tasks, and phases build incrementally to establish a clear path for achieving your goal.
    1. Develop Project Objectives and Activities

    Once you have determined how you are going to implement your project, you can begin developing your objectives. Objectives are specific, measurable accomplishments designed to address the stated problems and attain your project goal. An objective is an endpoint, not a process, to be achieved within the proposed project period. Completion of objectives must result in specific, measurable outcomes that benefit the community and directly contribute to the achievement of the stated project goal.

    Both the community and funding source want a clear picture of what will be accomplished by the project, how it will be accomplished, and how you will know when you have accomplished it. A project may only have one goal, but there can be several objectives to achieve that goal. For multi-year grants, this can mean having one objective each year or up to three objectives running throughout the project period.

    The clearer, more concise, and more specific your objectives are, the easier it will be to implement your project and the easier it will be for a funder to understand your project approach. A good test for this is the S.M.A.R.T. objective strategy, outlined below:

    S.M.A.R.T. objectives have the following characteristics:

    Specific — Start with an action verb (strengthen, train, develop, teach, implement) and specify the outcome; state what you will do to achieve your goal and meet your identified need.

    Measurable — The objective must include measurable outcomes and describe measurable changes in community conditions (including social, cultural, environmental, economic, and governance conditions).

    Achievable — The objective must be realistic and attainable, something you can expect to achieve given your available resources and project strategy.

    Relevant and Results-oriented— Your objective should address your project goal and therefore the long-term goals of your organization.

    Time-bound — The objective should reflect a time period in which it will be accomplished.

    When you develop your objectives, in order to keep them S.M.A.R.T., here are some questions you can ask yourself:

    • What is/are the key areas your organization is seeking to change?
    • What segment of the population will be involved in the change?
    • What is the direction of the change (increase/improvement or decrease/reduction)?
    • What is the degree or amount of change you want to obtain?
    • What is the deadline for reaching that change within the project period?

    An example of a S.M.A.R.T. objective:

    By the 12th month of the project period, establish and operate a peer-mentoring program for 45 middle school students that results in 40 students completing the school year with no unexcused absences or disciplinary actions in the final 6 months of the year.

    Once the objectives have been developed, activities are written to provide a logical sequence of measurable milestones that move the project closer to attaining the objective. The activities are both building blocks that will lead to accomplishing an objective and yard sticks used to determine how efficiently and effectively the project is completing its objectives and achieving its goal.

    Every project team must break down each specific objective into activities that will be performed in a logical progression, in a satisfactory time frame, and with the resources available. Activities describe the major tasks to be completed for each objective, but not everyday work tasks. Your project planning should provide detail of the major activities in the logical sequence that will lead to achieving each of your objectives. Your activities must also include benchmarks referring to quarterly results.

    Many government agencies use a standard form for listing the project goal, objectives, and activities called the Objective Work Plan (OWP). The OWP will be the blueprint for the entire project. Although this is mainly used in the government grant process, it is a very good document for any project and should be replicated as much as possible.

    1. Identify Potential Challenges and Develop a Contingency Plan

    Every project has the potential to run into challenges that can impede progress and prevent or delay successful completion. Development of a contingency plan requires that you identify and prepare for potential challenges that may cause your project to be late in starting up or to fall behind schedule and/or over budget.

    Developing a contingency plan as a fall back position, or “just in case”, will leave you better prepared to handle challenges. By identifying potential challenges and planning ahead, you will be more likely to overcome challenges with minimal disruption and cost to your project.

    Identification of potential challenges and development of a contingency plan should be done by a team that includes project stakeholders.

    Assumptions, Challenges and Risks

    This section of project strategy planning requires that you are prepared for any issues that may cause your project to be late in starting up or to fall behind schedule. The first step in preparing a contingency plan is to develop a list of assumptions, the challenges that result if the assumption is not realized, and the risk that is associated with each challenge.

    Assumptions might include filling or retaining staff positions, contributions from project partners, licensing requirements, internal procedures, etc. Next identify the challenges that will be faced in the event that the assumed contribution, outcome, etc, is not accomplished as planned. Finally, factor in the potential risk the challenge will pose to the implementation of your project.

    Develop a Contingency Plan

    For each project challenge that has a significant risk of delaying or stopping project progress, you should develop an alternate, or go-to plan, that will minimize the disruption. This go-to is your contingency plan. A contingency plan is an alternate route just in case the route you planned is not available. A contingency plan does not detail planning efforts that have been made to avoid challenges.

    An example of a challenge is a project requires a linguist in a native language and expertise with a certain dialect to assist with the development of project materials. A job announcement was created and sent out by the personnel department right after the grant award. However, there were no responses even after both a regional and national search. The project strategy is based on the assumption that the linguist would have complete specific deliverables each quarter beginning in quarter one. The risk is that the project would not be completed in a timely fashion or that it will fail completely.

    This is a compiled list of the most common challenges faced by its grantees during project implementation. Review the challenges below and determine whether you are making any assumptions in your project strategy related to these challenges. If yes, be sure to include a contingency plan addressing the potential obstacle.


    Staff turnover

    Late start

    Scope too ambitious

    Geographic isolation / travel

    Lack of expertise

    Underestimated project cost

    Underestimated personnel needs

    Partnership fell through

    Lack of community support (during implementation)

    Hiring delays

    A contingency plan examines potential issues that could delay or prevent a project from being completed successfully then develops potential solutions that can be implemented to mitigate the problem. A contingency plan is not a discussion of what has already been put into place to prevent problems.

    1. Develop a Project Evaluation Plan

    A project evaluation measures the effectiveness and efficiency of a project, and determines the level of achievement of the project objectives. Findings from an evaluation will also help a tribe or organization plan for the future, as it can identify additional or persistent problems that need to be solved. This is why the project cycle is a continuous process.

    Outcomes and Impacts

    There are different components involved in project evaluation. Outcomes are the measurable changes that can be observed as a result of the project’s successful completion. These are the measurable results and benefits that will be observable within the targeted population once the project is complete, determining the extent to which the identified problems were reduced, resolved, or eliminated. The results and benefits measure the progress toward achieving project objectives. Outcomes are the short-term and medium-term effects of the project on the community. Examples of outcomes include new knowledge, increased skills, increased understanding, and increased participation in after-school activities.

    Impacts differ from outcomes in that they are the lasting effects of the project, as seen years down the road from the project’s completion. Impacts measure the change that can be specifically associated to a project’s implementation and after project completion. In other words, they measure the extent to which the project achieved its goal. Examples of impacts include increased quality of life, decreased incidence of disease or infection, and higher numbers of students completing post-secondary education. The relationship of outcomes and impacts to the project is:

    An evaluation plan is the next key element for the successful implementation and management of a project. An evaluation plan describes the process and provides the tools to measure progress in implementing the project; it also assesses how effectively the project addressed problems and achieved its objectives.

    It is important to develop an evaluation plan during the project planning process prior to implementing your project and to include it in your application. This will show the application reviewers that there is a system in place to measure the level to which the project addresses the identified problems, ultimately determining its cost-effectiveness.

    There is no perfect or minimum number of measurements that must occur in order to properly and fully evaluate a project’s success. Instead, each project component must be analyzed, and decisions must be made based upon the findings. The evaluation should be designed to track progress on each objective, completion of activities, and dates of completion.

    In designing the evaluation plan, include the following three components:

    1. Impact Indicators

    The objectives and project goal provide the framework for project evaluation. Achievement of each objective is measured by its accompanying results and benefits (outcomes). Achievement of the project goal is measured by impact indicators. The evaluation of these indicators will measure the extent to which the desired change has occurred. The indicators must be quantifiable and documented, and should include target numbers and tracking systems. The evaluation will consider the indicator, the mechanism for tracking the indicator and the target number or situation at the end of the project period. Reference to the pre-grant status of the indicator and final target for the indicator will greatly assist in project evaluation.

    For example:

    Prior to starting a language implementation project, a community had 10 fluent native language speakers. The project spent three years teaching daily language classes to 100 community members. By the end of the project, there were a total of 27 fluent speakers including the 10 original speakers. The project chose “number of fluent speakers” as their project specific indicator, as measured by pre- and post-tests based on the community’s definitions of proficiency levels. The change in fluent speakers was therefore 17.

    1. Methods/Procedures

    The project is likely to have several objectives to evaluate, and several different methods of evaluation might be needed.

    • What methods will be used to measure the results and benefits?
    • What records will be maintained?

    The evaluation plan must include the method(s) used to determine whether the objective was accomplished, and whether the desired change actually occurred.

    Reporting methods are a crucial part of your evaluation plan and the frequency and responsible parties must be specified.

    • How many total measurements will be taken?
    • How frequently will the data be collected and by what means?
    • What will be done with the data?
    • How will the data be analyzed and what form will the report take?
    • What is the dissemination plan for the report (i.e., to whom will it be distributed)?
    1. Reporting

    In addition to evaluating the final project results, you also should regularly monitor and evaluate the project’s progress in carrying out work plan activities, completing project objectives and staying within the approved project budget. This “process evaluation” determines whether the project was conducted in a manner consistent with the plan and whether the project activities contributed to the success of the project. In other words, was the plan followed, and was the plan effective in achieving the objectives? This part of the evaluation plan is used to effectively manage the day-to-day and week-to-week activities and is the basis of regular progress reports prepared for the project’s funder.

    Many funders requires reporting on progress made towards achieving the impact indicator target numbers, and annual reporting on the results and benefits outlined in your project work plan.

    1. Develop an Objective Work Plan

    An Objective Work Plan (OWP) is to describing how (through what activities), when (within what time frames) and by whom (assignment of responsibility) the project will be implemented—as well as the expected outcomes or benefits. Items included in an OWP are:

    • Project Title and Goal
    • The problem addressed
    • The Results expected and criteria for evaluating success in achieving them
    • The Benefits expected and criteria for evaluating success in achieving them
    • The Project Objectives (an OWP form is needed for each objective)
    • Activities
    • Begin and End Dates
    • Positions Responsible for the activity accomplishment
    1. Develop a Sustainability Strategy

    A sustainable project is one that can and will continue without additional Federal funds, and will therefore contribute to long-term success and impacts within your tribe or organization. However, sustainability is not simply about generating new grant dollars, it also involves outlining a specific strategy and action plan for continuing your project. Significant attention is placed on this section of your application because the funding source does not want the project to fail once support is complete. Some projects lend themselves more to sustainability strategies, however all projects include benefits to the community that can be continued after implementation is complete.

    A sustainability plan is a narrative description of how you plan to continue your project after Federal funding is complete. Perhaps the first question to ask is:

    • How can we use available, existing resources to continue our project’s benefits and achieve our long-term vision?
    • Will other outside funding be needed or can the project processes be absorbed into the organization’s daily operation without placing a burden on the staff?

    Consider if you already have a network of supporters and potential funders in your area. If your organization has had previous success in funding projects after their initial funding is complete, describe these accomplishments as a background for your sustainability plan. This shows the funder that you have a pre-established method for sustainability.

    If outside resources are needed, list potential sources that should be considered. Some resources for finding potential funding sources are:

    • Regional training and technical assistance provider ‘Client Application Information Development Resource Directory’ (CAID)
    • Agency websites

    Be sure to be specific in your sustainability plan. Do not simply state future funding will come from “a variety of sources, including other federal funds.” Your plan should indicate you have conducted research and have specific ideas in mind. The sustainability plan should also provide information on how your tribe or organization will incorporate the new project into their funding or fundraising plan and who will be responsible for its continuation.

    Obviously, this future funding will not be in place during the writing of your proposal, but try to think of your sustainability plan as a “wish list” or a list of possibilities.

    Below are some examples of areas for future funding:

    • Organization funds: Your organization may wish or be able to provide continuation funding for your project. Be sure to discuss this possibility during your project planning process. Provide a letter of support or commitment from your governing body in your application.
    • Continuation grants from private foundations: Funding from private foundations can be used to support ongoing projects and programs. Provide information on how your project fits into their grant programs.
    • Other Federal funds: There are numerous other federal agencies that provide continuation funding for community-initiated community development projects. Provide information on how your project fits into their grant programs.
    • State funds: There are also state agencies that provide continuation funding. Provide information on how your project fits into their grant programs.
    • Unrestricted revenue: If your project will generate revenue, either through sales of goods, fees for service, or some other means, you can use the revenue generated after the grant ends to sustain your project. Include a revenue plan or fee scale in your application outlining your methods. (Bear in mind you must use any program income (revenue) generated during the grant period prior to spending down Federal funds. However, future revenue can be used to sustain the project).
    • Colleges/Universities: Many colleges or universities provide funds for ongoing projects and programs, or will supply project staff in the form of degree candidates or research assistants. Include a description of the institution and other projects it has funded similar to yours, or if possible provide a letter of support or commitment in your application.
    • Partnerships: Looking at local and regional partners to assist in continuing the project impacts in your community after funding has ended is a potential method for sustainability.

    Finally, keep in mind that a firm, long-term commitment of leveraged funds can be a very effective strategy on which to build a project sustainability plan, even for projects that “will be completed” at the conclusion of Federal funding. For example, applications for projects that focus on drafting environmental codes often indicate that the project will be completed at the end of Federal funding and will not need to be sustained. Instead, the applicant could include a sustainability plan that describes how those codes will be used to further benefit the community through ongoing tribal court and natural resources staff operations. In other words, a long-term commitment of leveraged resources.

    1. Develop a Project Cost Estimate

    The project budget is a program and fiscal document. The budget reflects the costs necessary to perform the activities of the project. The budget is the dollar expression of the project being proposed and must be reasonable and tied to the project objectives and work plan.

    The budget should not be prepared until the organization’s policies, priorities, and plans have been established. Without clearly stated goals and objectives financial projections cannot be made nor should budgeting substitute for planning. Approval of the budget should be regarded as a commitment on the part of the governing body and the administration to carry out the policies, respect the priorities, and support the plans that have been translated into dollars through the budget.

    Budgeting is the method by which an organization translates the project goals and objectives into the resources necessary to accomplish the goals and objectives. Budgeting is not a hit-or-miss approach. Rather, it involves serious consideration of many factors. These factors include:

    • Available Resources. Analysis of available resources involves an identification of what is available in terms of dollars and people. This includes an assessment of human resources, capital resources, and financial resources. If the budgeting process does not assess the three areas of resources available it lessens its ability to achieve the goals and objectives.
    • Regulations. The regulations govern programs. The budgeting process must assess the impact that these regulations will have on the allocation of resources to the various line items. If this is not done the tribe or organization will spend excessive time forcing expenditures into inappropriate cost categories.
    • Scope, Quality and Method of Service. One of the most important factors in determining expenditures is the range and quality of services to be provided.

    This must include the methods that will be used to provide the service. Rather than just basing the budget on past expenditures, the tribe or organization should look at alternative ways of providing the services as part of the budgeting process.

    • Volume of Activity. The volume of activity must be analyzed to determine fixed costs and those that are impacted by an increase or decrease in the funding or level of activity. The organization must establish a base level at which the project can be operated. If this level of revenue is not secured, then the tribe or organization will have to either generate additional revenue or combine the project with another with similar goals.
    • Cost elements. The organization will need to determine the types of labor, materials, equipment, and other cost elements required to perform the services and the cost for each.

    When planning the budget, answer the following questions:

    • What is the staff time required to complete the project?
    • Will consultants be needed for the project?
    • What travel is necessary to perform all activities?
    • Will equipment be needed to perform the scope of work?
    • What supplies will be needed by the project?
    • What other costs will be incurred to complete all activities of the project?

    Once the resources necessary to carry out your proposed project have been determined it is time to begin researching and gathering the cost estimates for these resources. Organizations that have an accounting or purchasing department can work together to gather the required information. It is important that good documentation is kept during this process. This documentation will be needed when writing the budget justification. Some of it may be included in the proposal.

    Although budget formats and requirements differ among funding agencies, the following is standard for the development of most Federal budgets.


    List all full- and part-time staff in the proposed project, the number of hours they will work on the project, and the hourly rate. Identify each position working on the project as a percentage of full-time equivalent (FTE). The Federal government uses 2080 hours as the equivalent of one FTE, however if the tribe/organization uses a different definition, it must be identified in the budget justification section. For non-salary personnel, the hours listed in the budget must be reasonable and must align with the hours listed on the Objective Work Plan in the non-salary personnel column.

    Fringe Benefits

    List each of the fringe benefits the staff will receive and the dollar cost of each benefit. The fringe benefit category will include both mandatory payroll taxes and organizational employee benefits. Examples of mandatory payroll taxes include FICA or OASDI and Medicare. Examples of employee benefits include health and life insurance and retirement plans.


    Only out-of-area travel is calculated in this budget category as local travel will be included in the “other” category (see below). In the budget identify each of the out-of-area trips planned and the cost of airfare, ground transportation, lodging, and meals for each planned trip.

    The General Services Administration (GSA) website is a good reference for federal travel rates: d=17943


    List all the items of equipment to be purchased. Equipment is defined as an item costing more than $5,000 and with a useful lifetime of more than one year.


    List all supplies such as paper clips, paper, pens, and pencils. Do not simply use one line item, written as “Office Supplies: pens, paper, pencils, etc.” If there are unusual needs for project supplies such as training supplies use a separate line item for each category of supply and the amount.


    If the project plans to contract with a company or individual to perform work for the project, the cost of the contract should be included under the “contractual” category. It is important to include cost of the contract. The scope of work should be included as an attachment to the application.


    Additional costs of the project should be included in the “other” category. Examples of other costs include:

    • Facilities used: In this section list all of the facilities that will be used during the Rent must be comparable to prevailing rents in the geographic area in which the facility is located. In addition to the actual rent, include the cost of utilities, maintenance services, and minor renovations if they are absolutely essential to your project.
    • Telephone: Telephone should include the cost of basic services, if not provided through indirect costs (see explanation below), and all planned long distance usage.
    • Postage: Include the projected mailings, purpose, and cost.
    • Copying and printing: Provide information on the materials to be copied and/or printed and the projected cost by product.
    • Professional services: List the professional services (consultants) that are anticipated during the project. It is important to include the projected number of days of use and the cost per day. Include a scope of work or RFP as an attachment to the application.
    • Local travel: Provide information on the planned local travel, purpose of the travel, and cost. All travel that does not require per diem is considered local travel. The organization’s finance department can provide information on what travel qualifies for per diem.
    • Any other items that do not logically fit elsewhere in the budget.

    Indirect Costs

    Indirect costs are costs an organization incurs for common or joint objectives that cannot be readily and specifically identified with a particular grant project or other institutional activity.

    If an indirect cost is to be charged, the organization must provide a copy of its current negotiated indirect cost rate agreement from the cognizant agency. A current copy is defined as one that encompasses the project period or a portion of the project period. A new indirect cost rate agreement will be required if the one submitted with the grant expires during the project period. If the organization has a provisional rate the indirect cost final rate will have to be submitted prior to closeout of the grant. The organization’s finance department can provide information on how the rate is to be applied and the costs paid with indirect funds.

    Again, the budget is the financial expression of the project’s scope of work. It is important that all costs be associated with the activities required to meet the project objectives.

    1. Write the Project Summary

    The project summary is the last component written but will be the first read by an application reviewer. The project summary should not exceed one single-spaced page, and should reflect the essence of the entire project.

    The summary section should include the following:

    • Clear statement of the priority area the application is submitted under
    • Two or three pertinent facts about the community and the population to be served
    • A brief discussion of the problem that exists in the community, relating it to the facts you presented in the first paragraph about your community (one paragraph maximum). This can include your problem statement
    • The project goal
    • The project objectives
    • The impact indicators
    • The number of people to be served or impacted by the project


    The process of project planning involves twelve development steps, the first being identification of a long-term goals for the desired condition of the community. The second step involves assessment of the current conditions of the community, resulting in the identification of the problem or problems as well as assets. Once the problems are identified, the project planning team refines the inventory of available resources during step three, and then chooses a goal for the project in step four. Step five involves choosing a strategy to achieve the goal using the previously identified resources. The project plan begins to take shape during step six when the project objectives are established. Also a part of step six, the project activities are designed to accomplish the project objectives. In step seven, the planning team studies the objectives and activities, identifies any potential challenges to the project’s successful completion, and develops a corresponding contingency plan. Step eight focuses in creating the project Objective Work Plan. The next step is to select a method to evaluate progress towards achievement of the project objectives and goal. After creating an evaluation plan, step ten is to develop a sustainability plan that ensures the project’s benefits to the community will continue after the end of project funding. Finally, during step eleven, the financial resources required to perform, evaluate, and report on the project will be estimated and a budget established. Summarizing the project by writing an abstract is the last step.

    The formal project development process is both simple and complex. Conceptually, the process is very simple—a progressive narrowing of strategic choices—although it may involve many activities and require an extended period of time. Approximately 80% of your time should be spent planning your project and only 20% of your time writing and packaging the actual application. Operationally, the project planning process is far more complex than the project goals, objectives, and activities. Project development is one component of an overall strategic plan designed by a community working toward positive change through a community-based planning process.


    Activities: The smallest units of work in a project, also often called “tasks.” Associated with an objective, activities provide a logical sequence of measurable milestones that move the project closer to attaining that objective. Activities have a definite duration, are related to other activities in the project, involve resource consumption, and have an associated cost.

    Budget Justification: A narrative that provides information that validates each expense is necessary and reasonable. The budget justification will explain how the cost was calculated and provide additional information about each expense.

    Community Assessment: A systematic process to acquire an accurate, thorough picture of the strengths and weaknesses of a community. This process is utilized to help identify and prioritize goals, develop a plan for achieving those goals, and allocate funds and resources for undertaking the plan. A community assessment can be conducted to identify problem(s), define which condition a project will address. And identify resources that can be used in the project to reduce or eliminate the problem

    Community Involvement: How the community participated in the development of the proposed project and how the community will be involved during the project implementation and after the project is completed. Evidence of community involvement can include, but is not limited to, certified petitions, public meeting minutes, surveys, needs assessments, newsletters, special meetings, public council meetings, public committee meetings, public hearings, and annual meetings with representatives from the community.

    Community-Based Projects: Projects designed and developed in the community, by the community. Community-based projects involve tapping into local needs, understanding and building on the strengths of existing institutions and resources, and defining the changes needed to support community action. They reflect the cultural values; collective vision; and long-range governance, social, and economic development goals of native communities.

    Comprehensive Plan: A document developed by the community that outlines a method to accomplish the community’s long-range goals, including ways to overcome current problems. The plan should include a process to measure the progress towards achieving those goals. Comprehensive plans usually require at least a year to complete and cover a five- to ten-year time span.

    Contingency Plan: A plan that identifies specific actions to be taken in the event a specific challenge arises. The purpose of a contingency plan is to reduce the negative impacts on the project. The contingency plan should ensure that the project will be successfully completed within the proposed funding timeframe. A contingency plan is not to pre-empt challenges, but rather to address challenges if they arise.

    Cost Effectiveness: A brief narrative providing information on the relationship between the project objectives and activities and the cost analysis that supports the project plan.

    Evaluation: Involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of programs, policies, personnel, products, and organizations to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Project evaluation measures the efficiency and effectiveness of a project and determines the level of achievement of the project objectives.

    Evaluation Plan: Describes the process and provides the tools to measure progress in implementing the project and to assess how effectively the project addressed problems and achieved its objectives.

    Goal: The specific result or purpose expected from the project. The project goal specifies what will be accomplished over the entire project period and should directly relate to the problem statement and community goal. The goal is achieved through the project objectives and activities.

    Grant: A legally binding agreement between the government and the grantee authorizing the transfer of government funds to the grantee in order to facilitate the execution of a project.

    Impact: The change in the physical, economic, social, financial, governmental, institutional, behavioral, native language or cultural conditions in a community as a result of the ANA-funded project.

    Impact Indicators: Measurement descriptions used to verify the impact or the achievement of the project goal. Indicators must be quantifiable and documented. Impact indicators include target numbers and tracking systems. ANA requires one impact indicator per project. Impact indicators are separate from the results and benefits section of the OWP.

    Indirect Costs: Costs an organization incurs for common or joint objectives that cannot be readily and specifically identified with a particular grant project or other institutional activity.

    Leveraged Resources: The non-Federal resources, as expressed as a dollar figure, acquired during the project period that support the project and exceed the 20 percent match required for ANA grants. Such resources may include any natural, financial, and physical resources available within the tribe, organization, or community to assist in the successful completion of the project. An example would be an organization that agrees to provide a supportive action, product, service, human, or financial contribution that will add to the potential success of the project.

    Line Item Budget: The dollar expression of the project being proposed. The line item budget must be reasonable and tied to the project objectives and work plan. It is an estimate of anticipated project expenses.

    Local Decision Making: Involves the active participation of the community in making decisions that have an effect on their well-being. It is to the community’s benefit to collaborate in setting goals, in organizing themselves, and mobilizing the resources to achieve these goals. Local decision-making is important because it allows decisions to be made by people who know the areas, people, and groups the decisions will affect.

    Objective Work Plan (OWP): The form that documents the project plan the applicant will use to achieve the objectives and produce the results and benefits expected for each objective. The OWP provides a project goal statement, objectives, and detailed activities proposed for the project and how, when, where, and by whom the activities will be carried out. Some government agencies require separate OWPs per objective for each budget period of the project. The form is found at:

    Objectives: Specific outcomes or results to be achieved within the proposed project period. Completion of objectives must result in specific, measurable outcomes that would benefit the community and directly contribute to the achievement of the stated project goals.

    Outcomes: Measurable, beneficial changes that can be observed as a result of the project’s successful completion.

    Problem Statement: A clear, concise, and precise description of the nature, scope, and severity of a problem. A problem statement typically identifies the specific physical, economic, social, financial, governmental, institutional, behavioral, native language or cultural challenges of the community. The problem statement describes the community condition(s) that the proposed project will address.

    Project: A large or major undertaking that has a start and end date, is designed to achieve a goal by completing objectives and activities, and includes a budget.

    Project Approach or Strategy: The direction the project will take in order to successfully achieve its goal and objectives.

    Project Goal Statement: Clearly describes how the project relates to one or more of the community’s long-range goals. The statement should be brief and to the point, as well as realistic. The goal determines the scope of the project.

    Project Planning: The process of developing a project from determining the needs and problems to creating activities and writing a budget. Project planning involves a series of steps that determine how to achieve a particular community or organizational goal or set of related goals.

    Project Planning Committee: The team identified to develop a project plan and write the different parts of the application. Ideally, the committee should have a representative from all aspects of leadership in the community, and can also include people who are committed to a healthy future for the community. The committee may also include a grant writer or consultant.

    Public Process: The way in which a community or organization involves its members in the decision-making process. This can include gatherings, interviews, public meetings, and surveys.

    Results and Benefits: Measurement descriptions used to track the progress of accomplishing an individual objective. The results and benefits must directly relate to the objective and the activities outlined in the OWP and include target numbers used to track the project’s quarterly progress.

    Stakeholder: A stakeholder (or interest group) is someone who has something to lose or gain through the outcomes of a project.

    Strategic Plan: Builds on pre-established long-range goals by designing projects related to one or more of these goals. These projects are viewed as “high priority” and will therefore be pursued within the next two to three years. A strategic plan generally takes at least a year to complete.

    Sustainability Plan: A narrative description of how a project and its benefits will continue after grant funding is complete.

    Sustainable Project: A sustainable project is an ongoing program or service that can be maintained without additional ANA funds.

    Total Project Cost: In a project budget, the sum of the federal request amount and the applicant match.



    Focus Groups

    Invite individuals and partnering organizations who will benefit from your project idea to a gathering. The individuals invited should, at a minimum, include beneficiaries of the project, tribal council or organizational board members, elders, and other interested partners who will benefit from or assist with the project. Establish three to five questions to help clarify what community problem your project will address and seek input on how to develop the project. These questions will also serve to jumpstart and guide the group’s discussion. Carefully record group and individual responses and ask follow-up questions that help clarify the problem area you are addressing. With permission of the group, tape-record the session and summarize key findings. Be sure to include discussion on what type of impacts this project will have on the community, if successful.

    Community Mapping

    Community maps are used to identify locations, resources, and their importance within a specific area. The goal of creating a community map is to develop a visual document illustrating how groups potentially affected by or involved in a project are currently using the community and how the project will enhance their experience. There are many different types of maps, dealing with a variety of subject matter. Essentially, a community map can be used to locate, describe, and compare any aspect of the community, from social structure to environmental data.

    Community Maps:

    • provide a framework for discussing the location of resources
    • highlight resources of importance
    • analyze the status or condition of a location or resource
    • raise awareness of existing facilities or natural resources
    • identify which aspects of the community and which resources are important to specific groups
    • create a visual representation that can be understood by all (community members, agency representatives, funders)

    The following is a list of different types of community maps:

    • Social Maps: Include locating houses, services and infrastructure (roads, utilities etc.). The map could also include more detailed information, such as the occupants of the houses, their family make-up, etc. Social maps can identify other social issues, such as areas specifically used by men or women, cultural sites, and polluted areas.
    • Topical Social Maps: These maps identify specific social aspects such as kinship make-up, skills of the population, education, and health.
    • Political Maps: Show concentrations of political affiliations.
    • Resource Maps: These maps cover a wide range of natural/physical resources and land use types. Identification of resources can include forests, swamps, rivers, grazing areas, hunting grounds, and bare land.
    • Topical Resource Maps: Like topical social maps, this type of map focus on a specific issue such as agriculture, water, livestock, or forestry.
    • Futures Maps: These maps can be used to illustrate changes the community would like to see.

    Stakeholder Analysis

    A stakeholder (or interest group) is someone who has something to lose or gain through the outcomes of a project. In project planning, it is very beneficial to not only involve all stakeholders, but to also identify and analyze their needs and concerns.

    An easy way to conduct a stakeholder analysis involves first identifying all project stakeholders, be they community members, government departments, state or federal agencies, specific social groups, or a governing board. Again, stakeholders include anyone potentially influenced by the project.

    Once you have identified all stakeholders, you can begin placing them in the following chart:

    Engage Closely and

    Keep Satisfied

    Influence Activity


    Monitor (minimum effort) Keep Informed

    Stakeholders with high influence and high interest are those who you want to ensure you fully engage and bring on board. Stakeholders with high interest but low influence need to be kept informed of the project’s progress and could be used for gaining interest from other groups to support the project. Those with high influence but low interest should also be kept informed and could potentially serve as high-profile patrons and supporters for your project.

    The final step of a stakeholder analysis involves developing a strategy for how best to involve different stakeholders or groups in your project. This can involve designing specific methods of presenting the project to each group that will spark their interest and lead to their support. The stakeholder process can also help you identify partnership opportunities for your project.

    Community Scales

    The development of a scale framework can help project stakeholders to analyze and describe different dimensions and conditions of their community. The development process can be utilized as a community assessment, planning, and/or evaluation tool. The framework helps to assess the current conditions in a defined community according to pre-defined “threshold levels” of functioning: thriving, safe, stable, vulnerable, and in-crisis. When completed, the framework will outline where the capacity currently lies and where it should ideally be.

    To use the community scale process, follow these basic steps:

    • Pre-fill each row heading with the threshold levels along the left side of the framework table.
    • Have stakeholders identify the analysis dimensions. Place these along the top of the framework columns.
    • Through discussions, public meetings, focus groups, and other preferred methods of feedback procurement, community stakeholders will define each specific threshold on the scale.
    • Once the community stakeholders have an outline of the levels of each dimension, members will discuss and identify where on the scale each dimension lies.
    • The completed framework can then be used to develop strategies for improving struggling dimensions or to focus on and use the strengths of successful dimensions.

    Below is an example of a scale framework for a language project. From this framework the community can then determine where each dimension currently falls on the scale. As an example, the current level of each dimension is underlined:


    Language Learning Inter-departmental Partnerships
    endangerment opportunities communication and
    support for language
    Thriving Daily usage by over Many varied Proactive and Proactive
    80% of community opportunities available comprehensive
    members to all community
    Safe Growing community Limited type of Comprehensive Cooperative
    with speakers of all opportunities available
    generations to all community
    Stable Small but semi-stable Numerous types of Consistent and useful Willing
    speaking community opportunities available


    Language Learning Inter-departmental Partnerships
    endangerment opportunities communication and
    support for language
    to select community
    Vulnerable Youngest speakers all Limited opportunities Sporadic and Disinterested
    over 60, no children only available to select insufficient
    speak language community members
    In-Crisis No speakers No opportunities Nonproductive Hostile

    Problem Tree

    Problem tree analysis is useful in many forms of project planning. Problem tree analysis (also called situational analysis or just problem analysis) helps to find solutions to an identified problem by mapping out its causes and effects. A problem tree seeks to answer the question of “why” something is happening in a community, truly getting to the root cause of a problem and thereby making it easier to develop solutions.

    Problem trees are useful because they:

    • Break down a problem into manageable and definable chunks. This allows for a clearer prioritization of factors and can help shape and focus project objectives.
    • Provide more understanding of the problem and its causes. This is often the first step in finding win-win solutions.
    • Address current issues in the community.
    • Help establish whether further information, evidence or resources are needed to make a strong case or build a convincing solution.
    • Enable discussions and analysis that often help build a shared sense of understanding, purpose, and action.

    Turn to the next page for a sample problem tree.

    Nominal Group Process

    For large group settings, form groups of five to eight participants, encouraging the participants to form groups with people they do not know well. Assign a facilitator and a recorder for each group. The facilitator gives the participants a written statement of the problem the intended project will be addressing, such as, “The most important problems faced by our community in the past three years are….” Participants silently write down

    their ideas about problem areas addressed above on index cards without discussion with others in the group. Give the group about five to ten minutes to complete the exercise.

    Each group then discusses their own ideas. The recorder writes down all comments on a flip chart for the entire group to see. After all ideas have been recorded, encourage each group to discuss the ideas listed on the flip charts. The group clarifies, compares, discusses, and approves all ideas. Agreement or disagreement with ideas may be encouraged but should be controlled by the facilitator to ensure that a heated debate does not develop. Each group then needs to choose its top five priority areas through a group voting process. Next, each group facilitator reports the group’s priorities to the entire meeting. The entire population votes to determine the top five problem priorities that could or should be addressed. Discussion continues on methods to reduce or eliminate these problems and becomes the basis for the organization’s project. Solutions are suggested and community impacts discussed.

    Advantages of nominal group process include:

    • Interaction
    • Low cost
    • Identifies key stakeholder groups
    • Engages a cross section of interests
    • Clarifies needs
    • Suggests solutions
    • Introduces possible impacts

    Disadvantages of nominal group process include:

    • Not a random sampling
    • Not easily replicated
    • Difficulty in guiding conversations
    • Difficult to record all comments accurately
    • May not represent the interests of all members of a group

    Survey Research

    Surveys provide a strategy and process for developing a uniform set of questions to be asked of a group of people. Answers to these questions help community leaders understand the range of opinions on topics central to the future of the community. Surveys can be either open-ended questions (“Choose the three most serious problems facing our community today”) or closed-ended questions (“Choose the three most serious problems facing our community today from the following list of problems”). It is recommended that surveys include both open- and closed-ended questions to the individuals taking the surveys so individual input is considered.

    Advantages of survey research are:

    • Can be distributed to a random sampling of the community
    • Results are statistically more reliable than other processes
    • Areas of high and low community support can be easily determined
    • Relatively low costs for implementation
    • Gives guidance to best action to take

    Disadvantages of survey research are:

    • Difficulty in getting returns of surveys
    • Community members may resent surveys
    • Wording of questions need to be carefully reviewed to ensure clarity

    Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis

    One strategic planning tool that many communities use is called a SWOT analysis. Internal conditions that stand in the way of reaching the community’s vision may be seen as weaknesses in community conditions. External factors that negatively impact the community are defined as threats to the community’s ability to achieve that vision. Strengths are the internal resources available to the community that can be used to move toward vision accomplishment. Opportunities are the external resources and partnerships that the community could access in strategies to resolve the problem.

    In conducting a SWOT analysis, a facilitator can lead participants through four brainstorming exercises. For example, for a particular project your organization may brainstorm to determine:

    • What are the strengths of your organization that may help you to address the challenge(s) at hand?
    • What are the weaknesses of your organization that may prevent you from addressing the challenge or may increase the level of challenge facing you?
    • What are the opportunities your organization may have available that may contribute to addressing the challenge?
    • What are the threats facing your organization that could prevent you from addressing the challenge at hand or threaten the stability of your organization?

    Your identified weaknesses and threats help you to “identify the challenges.” Your identified strengths and opportunities help you to “assess available resources,” both internal and external to your organization.

    Depending on the participants in a SWOT analysis, the process could involve a focus group or nominal group process planning initiative. It might evolve into a steering committee, as well. The community members and staff who are supporting the community in their planning efforts should be thinking about how to broaden community involvement in the planning process. Staff may be tasked with designing a survey to secure information from a wider sampling of the community on problems impacting students. Students themselves could be part of that process.

    Staff will want to pull together information from existing community plans, policy documents and other, earlier statements from the community on problems impacting tribal youth and community concerns in that area. These statements will document the issues identified as current priority problems that have been impacting the community and a particular component of the community such as tribal youth for an extended period of time.

    To identify problems, think analytically about the current situation and the vision for the future—what stands between where the community is now and where it wants to be? Your community development “projects” ultimately will describe an approach or strategy for overcoming the identified problems—projects are the plans or proposals for eliminating the problems that are preventing a community from moving toward achieving its identified need and ultimately, its vision. Thus, a well-developed project begins with a thorough analysis of the problems.

    Tips on Conducting a meeting

    Preparing the Meeting Room

    There are several important logistical considerations when organizing a community planning meeting:

    • Room Arrangement: What is the best use of the available space and what arrangement will encourage the most community participation?
    • Acoustics: How well does sound travel in the meeting space? What impact will participant noise have on the ability to hear? Is a sound system necessary or desirable? Be sure to take into consideration the fact that even the most soft-spoken participant needs to be heard by everyone present.
    • Visual Aids: If visual aids are to be used during the meeting, it is important to write large and with colored markers, so that your materials are visible from all parts of the room.

    Facilitation Skills

    An effective meeting facilitator:

    • leads in a determined but respectful manner.
    • focuses by not losing sight of the group’s purposes and goals.
    • stimulates by encouraging constructive dialogue between group members.
    • supports by eliciting opinions from quiet members of the group and encouraging the suggestion of new ideas.
    • participates by promoting new discussion when the group is interacting poorly or off-task.
    • builds a team by encouraging collaboration among participants and with potential community partners.
    • regulates by maintaining order and setting ground rules (i.e. only one person may speak at a time, no one will be allowed to dominate the meeting, etc.) that discourage unproductive behavior.
    • protects by ensuring that no one is denigrated for his/her comments.
    • solves problems by controlling difficult people and diffusing tension promptly.
    • encourages feedback by promoting fair evaluation of each point raised.
    • has at least one support person to handle clerical chores (taking notes, ensuring that the sign-in sheet is completed) and help with any audio-visual equipment.
    • gets the job done by adhering to meeting schedules that ensure completion of the agenda.
    • keeps the momentum going by announcing the date and time of the next meeting prior to adjournment and by regularly distributing progress reports throughout the community.



    The following statements are examples of potential long-range goal statements:

    GOAL: Healthcare

    To continue the development of a Health Care Program, while considering all factors involved, that will ensure each community member receives proper and high quality health care

    GOAL: Community Facilities

    To provide the improvement of existing, or development of future, community facilities.

    GOAL: Education

    To provide lifelong learning opportunities, formal and informal, for community members

    GOAL: Heritage

    To retrieve, maintain, and preserve the history, heritage, cultural and spiritual beliefs of village and to pass them on to the future generations

    GOAL: Housing

    To ensure standard housing for community members

    GOAL: Natural Resources

    To protect, acquire, and develop, Country’s natural resources

    GOAL: Recreation

    To further develop recreational activities for village members

    GOAL: Service Expansion

    To expand services to all village members, regardless of residency

    GOAL: Communications

    To constantly seek methods to improve communications

    GOAL: Individual Business Development

    To provide assistance to individual community members in their pursuit of business development, including, start-up, expansion, retention, and recruitment

    GOAL: Employability

    To increase the employment levels, as well as the employability of village members

    GOAL: Drug and Alcohol

    To develop a drug and alcohol facility and program focusing on both rehabilitation and prevention for the village

    GOAL: Economic

    To improve the overall economic viability of the village

    GOAL: Land

    To increase and develop the Village Land Base

     Center Example:

     Village Center

    We envision our center as the town area’s central resource for comprehensive culturally appropriate services and preservation of Native traditions that provides a welcoming environment for village members. 

    • We work to assist families to adjust to town living
    • We work to assist families in maintaining their cultural ties to their home communities
    • We strive to build bonds of understanding and communication between s and non-s in the town area

    Keeping Our Heritage Alive…

    • We provide comprehensive culturally appropriate services (health, education, and social services) to our community members to promote and maintain general welfare
    • We provide programs that foster the economic and educational advancement of people
    • We provide adult and youth programs to sustain cultural, artistic, and vocational pursuits and to perpetuate cultural values

    Version 2: Simple Statement

    Another type of vision statement can be quite short; almost simplistic in its view of the future. It answers the question, “What would a perfect world look like, where our organization was no longer needed?”

    For example:

    • All our Hawaiian keiki (kids) grow up speaking the Hawaiian language fluently in every home, workplace, and community event
    • Every home in American Country’s will be energy efficient

    Neither of these types is particularly better or worse than the other; merely different approaches to envisioning the difference that your organization or your efforts can make leaving the world a better place because you were here. Your organization must determine which approach is better suited to your organization and the people you serve.


    Sample meeting invitation form, adapted from Community Strategic Plan Guide and Form (p. 13):

    Invitation to Plan Our Future

    We are making a plan for our community. Come and help. The plan will be based on our common values.

    This meeting is an opportunity to help create a picture of what you would like to see when you look out the window of your home, and what kind of a place you want our community to be many years down the road.

    Please come, share your thoughts, listen. Help make our future.

    Date: _______________

    Time: _______________

    Place: _______________

    Sample public process recording form, adapted from Selkgregg’s Community Strategic Plan Guide and Form, (Form #22):

    Provide a record of your public process below. Use one of these forms for every meeting, interview or survey you complete.

    Type of public process (circle one):

    meeting                               interview                            survey                                  other




    Date:    _____________


    Location: _____________


    Topic: _____________

    People in attendance:

    For meetings, attach a sheet with the names of all people attending.

    For interviews, record the name of the person below.

    For surveys, write the number of people surveyed below.


    Include a brief summary of the key outcomes below.

    Blank Chart for Needs Assessment:


    Information Required Source of Information Means of Gathering Comments


    Information Required Source of Information Means of Gathering Comments