An assessment of your community will give you valuable insight into what your potential audiences want in a healthy marriage program. According to Powell and Cassidy (2001)1 there are three main components to a community assessment: 1) ask, 2) study, and 3) observe. Follow the below steps to get a better understanding of what information your target audience would like and how to best reach them with your message.
First, seek permission to conduct an assessment. For example, if you are looking to provide marriage education services at a church, talk to the minister about your hope to survey your potential participants. This keeps the minister informed and can also be a way for you to get some help from someone who has an "in."
Next, contact potential participants of your program. For example, talk with: employees at their work; students at their school, college, or university; or patients at a health care organization. Ask them what type of marriage education service would be the most attractive to them:
- If we offered, free of charge, a program to help you with your relationships, would you be interested in participating? (Identifies potential community interest)
- Do you believe your spouse would attend with you? (Identifies whether "couple" recruitment will be a challenge)
- Would you prefer an eight hour weekend event or multiple sessions held one night a week for a month? (Helps you decide on your program model)
- Would you need to make arrangements for childcare to attend this event? If so, do you have a support system of family and friends to babysit? (Determines if you need to offer childcare assistance and if so if you should use vouchers or on-site care)
- If we offered these services at would this be convenient for you? (Identifies effectiveness of proposed program site)
- There are many assessment techniques:
- Focus Groups. Meetings of small groups of potential participants, led by a facilitator. Focus groups allow for interaction and brainstorming between potential participants.
- Interviews. One-on-one discussions held in person or over the phone (if contact information is available). Interviews can reach those who struggle with speaking in groups, but can also be time consuming. It may be beneficial to send an outline of the questions to be discussed prior to the interviews.
- Questionnaires. Hard copy or electronic surveys. Questionnaires provide more privacy than focus groups or interviews. There is a low response rate for questionnaires mailed or left somewhere for completion.
Conduct research about the group of people you will be serving and their culture. The more you know, the better you can be at connecting with your audience. Possible places of study include the library, the bookstore, the Internet, or other unique settings specific to the group you are serving. Also, if you know anyone else who has provided services to your target population, get in touch with them to ask questions.
Observing the group you will be serving will allow you to put yourself in their shoes and better understand how to satisfy their needs. This requires active involvement in the group within which you will be offering services. For example, if you are reaching out to newlyweds, you might find a newlywed couple and ask to spend some time with them.