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Learn how appraising community goals allows you to get a better feel for the likelihood that your constituents will join you in pursuing a goal.


  • What does it mean to rate community goals?

  • Why should we rate community goals?

  • When should we rate community goals?

  • How do we rate community goals?

What does it mean to rate community goals?

Rating community goals that have been developed through a planning process is a way to discover if the community believes its goals are desirable and realistic. The goals should be appraised by people both in and outside your group. They should be asked to explain which goals they believe are most important and most feasible for the community. Asking a variety of individuals to express their opinions about what goals would best serve the community will increase the likelihood that actions taken later will have the support and backing of the community. Goals can be any change in a policy, program, or practice that may have an impact on the issue your group has chosen to resolve.

Why rate community goals?

When your group rates the community's goals, it is listening to the community --What should the goals be? How should these goals be reached? Your group then refines these goals, clarifying and carefully defining them. Your group then asks the community to rate the revised goals to ensure they reflect the community's views, and what they think will work effectively.

For example, let's say you and some neighbors decide to develop a program to reduce cardiovascular disease in your community. To understand the basics, you read some helpful books on health promotion, community development and cardiovascular disease. You collect information from community members on the types of programs people want the most. But, suppose everyone's vision isn't the same! Maybe a group of people thinks you should work on building a community walking-trail. Others don't think this. They have lived in this part of the country for many years longer than you. Their experience tells them past similar programs aimed at increasing physical activity in their community have failed, and only aerobics classes have worked in the past, for a variety of reasons. Others have different suggestions. To satisfy everyone's dreams, you would probably try to incorporate as many suggestions as possible into your grand plan.

You then organize everyone's view into goals and present the results to your community. The community members vote on the goals they think are most important, and most easily accomplished. Based on the votes, you prioritize the goals. You sit down to create a five-year plan or design describing the steps you will take in order to see a once passive, apathetic community come alive with activity and an interest in doing something about reducing heart disease.

In a similar way, your group can benefit from asking both members of your group and members of the community what they think might work best to solve a problem in your community.

Appraising community goals can help the community and your group:

  • Reach consensus among members
  • Continue to set priorities
  • Validate the choices they have made about their goals

When should you rate community goals?

In this step of the evaluation process, the early bird gets the worm. That is, the best time to rate goals would be before you set your action plan in stone, and certainly before you begin to take action. That way, your group can make any needed adjustments before beginning work toward meeting its objectives.

How do you rate community goals?

Do you want to hear people's opinions? Do you want to know what the community thinks about the goals your group has developed? Do you want to feel confident that your group's plans have a solid chance of producing change in the community. If you do, you are ready to conduct a survey of members of your group and community who have something to say about the issue.

However, before you begin, you should review the reasons for doing the survey. That is, what do you hope to learn by asking for input about the importance and feasibility of the community's goals?

  • Verify the importance of the goals
  • Prioritize the goals
  • Revise the goals

Develop a survey that lists and explains your objectives

At this point, members or staff of your group will create a survey that asks for importance and feasibility ratings about proposed goals. A small, or fledgling initiative may only have a dozen or so goals, while a large, extensive, long term initiative might have hundreds of goals.

For example, if your group wants to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy, one of the goals listed on the survey might be: "Distribute written material to schools and the target area concerning the problem of teen pregnancy."

You will ask the person filling out the survey to rate the importance and feasibility of each goal. How important is this goal to accomplishing your mission of reducing teen pregnancy? How easy will it be to reach this goal?

The importance of a goal to your mission is related to how much of an impact it will have on the problem. Distributing brochures on the legal consequences of selling tobacco to minors to convenience stores in your community will probably help reduce smoking among high school students more than the goal of creating a biking/hiking trail.

Feasibility, on the other hand, is asking people to rate your chances of accomplishing the goal. That is, how many barriers and obstacles such as the amount of resources available, stand in the way of you reaching the goal.

For example, the goal of establishing a peer education group in a local high school to help reduce teen pregnancy is probably more feasible than distributing free birth control to any high school students that ask for it. The latter is, of course, highly controversial and could meet political opposition.

Members of your group who are responsible for evaluation or members of an outside evaluation team (if you have the resources to hire them) should propose a format for the survey.

These people would then help design and develop it. However, here's an easy way to set up the survey:

For each goal, give the respondent a scale of 1 through 5, with "1" being "Very Unimportant" and "5" being "Very Important" Then the respondent can evaluate each goal according to both it's importance and it's feasibility.

The figure below illustrates a sample Survey of Goals used in a school-community initiative to prevent adolescent pregnancy.

Survey of goals for school/community initiative to prevent adolescent pregnancy 

Proposed Goal
(e.g., develop a mentoring program)
Importance Feasibility
  Unimportant                   Very Important Not Feasible                   Very Feasible
1. Distribute written material to schools and
the target area concerning the problem of teen pregnancy.
 1          2          3          4          5  1          2          3          4          5
2. Provide support group training for youth and adults.  1          2          3          4          5  1          2          3          4          5
3. Work with USD 259 to facilitate parent/teacher
interaction and involvement in sexual risk reduction activities.
 1          2          3          4          5  1          2          3          4          5
4. Recruit and train teachers and students involved
in drama clubs, journalism and other clubs to begin
youth presentations and support group activities about teen sexuality
 1          2          3          4          5  1          2          3          4          5

 Looks easy enough? Try creating your own!

Conduct a survey of constituents

Now is the time to distribute the survey to your constituents or those persons most interested in the problem:

  • Members of your group
  • Outside experts
  • Funders
  • Those people affected by the problem
  • Other interested community members

These are the individuals who will provide different perspectives and ideas about the plans your group is proposing. By sampling a diversity of voices, you bring to bear on the goals vast experiences and community knowledge.

Ideally, you might distribute the surveys when you have a captive audience--at meetings or similar events. Mailing the surveys is also an option, although you should keep in mind that return rates might be low. Also, do not forget to include a return address so people will know where to return the survey! Stamped envelopes help too... If you have the resources.

Review the ratings from the returned surveys

Ideally, the information that you receive should be broken down into two categories:

  • How is this goal important to the mission?
  • What is the feasibility, or possibility, of this goal becoming a reality?

By examining the information returned on the survey, you can better evaluate the importance and the feasibility of your group's plans. How do you go about evaluating this information? First, someone in the group will be responsible for averaging the ratings for importance and for feasibility of each proposed goal.

Let's look at an example of what the results might look like. Let's say 10 people returned a survey that included the four goals from our previous example. The responses were averaged and the results compiled in the table below.

Sample Importance and Feasibility Ratings from Survey of Goals

Proposed Goal Importance Rating Feasibility Rating
1. Distribute written material to schools and the target area 1.5 1.7
2. Provide support group training for youth and adults. 4.5 4.1
3. Work with USD 259 to facilitate parent/teacher interaction and
involvement in sexual risk reduction activities.
1.8 3.9
4. Recruit and train teachers and students involved in drama clubs,
journalism and other clubs to begin youth presentations and
support group activities about teen sexuality.
3.7 1.6

But what do these numbers mean? It might be useful, at this point, to order the goals by their importance rating. The ratings are important to you because they tell you how the community feels about its goals. Does a 3.0 for importance mean the goal should be included in the action plan? Not necessarily. There's still one more step to help you prioritize your goals even further.

Use the survey results to finalize the plan

Doing the survey will prove useful only if your group uses the results to select and implement community-supported goals and to reevaluate those that are viewed less favorably.

There are several ways to order the goals, based on the community responses to them:

  • Must Do: These are goals the community thinks are important and feasible. You will want to pursue these right away.
  • Important to Try: These are goals the community thinks are important, but will be difficult to accomplish. You should try to do these, but keep in mind these goals will require extra effort to accomplish.
  • Easy to Do: These are goals that the community thinks are easy to accomplish, but are also are not all that important. You should do these if you need to increase your group's credibility.
  • Last Resort: These goals are of low importance to your community, and are difficult to do. The only time you would want to do these is if you know something the community doesn't; because you won't get much support and even if you do succeed it may not matter.

Matrix for Prioritizing Goals

  High Importance Low Importance
High Feasibility Must Do Easy to Do
Low Feasibility Important to Try Last Resort


How do you decide which importance and feasibility ratings are high or low?

This is a somewhat arbitrary decision. You can divide them in half and lump them into high and low categories..

Using the ratings of importance and feasibility from our earlier example of importance and feasibility ratings, the first goal of "Distribute written materials in schools and the target area concerning the problem of teen pregnancy." received an average importance rating of 1.5 and a feasibility rating of 1.7. These results would put this goal in the Last Resort quadrant, as it has low feasibility and low importance. Therefore, you would probably want to drop this goal as it would be too difficult to accomplish, and most likely would have little meaning or effect on your community if you were successful.

The second goal, "Provide support group training for youth and adults," on the other hand, received high feasibility and importance scores of 4.5 and 4.1, respectively. This goal, with high feasibility and importance, falls into the Must Do quadrant of the matrix. You would certainly want to pursue this goal quickly, as you will most likely be successful and your success will lend credibility to your group.

So what about the third goal of "Working with USD 259 to facilitate parent/teacher interaction and involvement in sexual risk reduction activities," which had an importance rating of 1.8 but a feasibility rating of 3.9 This falls into the Easy to Do category. That is, the goal is not that important to the community, but it would be easy for you to do. What should you do? You may want to go ahead and do this as your success will build your group's credibility.

Finally, the fourth goal, of "Recruit and train teachers and students involved in drama clubs, journalism and other clubs to begin youth presentations and support group activities about teen sexuality" received an importance rating of 3.7 and feasibility rating of 1.6. This places the goal in the Important to Try quadrant of the matrix. You probably should go ahead and try to reach this goal, as it will definitely be important to your mission. However, this will probably not be an easy task, so keep in mind the extra effort it will take to accomplish the goal.

In Summary

Appraising community goals allows you to get a better feel for the likelihood your constituents will join your group in pursuing a goal.

The entire process (from developing the questions to final summary of the data) can take a long time, depending on the size of your group. For small groups turn around time might only be a few weeks, while large community work groups might take months. From our experience, staff or members of your group could spend from a few hours to over 10 hours, again depending on your size, in developing questions, distributing appraisals, and tabulating results. Ultimately, all of your careful preparation will result in a plan that has the potential to be tremendously useful in developing consensus and direction in your group.

Eric Wadud

Online Resources

The American Planning Association provides a presentation from their Arizona chapter called Achieving Sustainability: Setting Goals and Measuring Progress from their annual meeting in September, 2013.

Print Resources

Fawcett, S., Paine, A., Francisco, V., Schultz, J., Richter, K., Lewis, R., Williams, E., Harris, K., Berkley, J., Fisher, J., & Lopez, C. (1994). Work Group Evaluation Handbook: Evaluating and Supporting Community Initiatives for Health and Development. Lawrence, KS: Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development, University of Kansas.