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Politics and Government

Community assessment program surveys clients of nonprofits to determine needs

Ellen Abbott
WRVO Public Media
Frank Ridzi of the Central New York Community Foundation.

Social service nonprofits that deal with poverty in Onondaga County are finding more ways to collaborate through a year-old community assessment program.

The program led by the Central New York Community Foundation, lets individual nonprofits figure out what the biggest needs are in regards to poverty through surveys of their clients. Then they can share that information with other nonprofits. It’s something Frank Ridzi of the foundation said really never happened before.

"In the past we only knew what our clients needed,” Ridzi said. “And it was hard to reach out to another organization and say, I have ten people who need this, and you have 20, and their both in the same neighborhood. Let’s write a grant together, let’s coordinate some services, or let’s reach out to another organization who provides that service.”

Ridzi said taking smaller steps can ultimately have an impact on Syracuse’s staggering poverty rate.

“When you start to look at those things that make up the experience of poverty, those are the things we are addressing," Ridzi said. "So we want to see change on those fronts first. Once those things change, we hope to see more changes in the longer term poverty numbers.”

Ridzi said nonprofits can then track the success of the programs next time they do a needs assessment. The collaboration has been underway for a year now. So far, affordable long-term housing, addiction, lead poisoning, job readiness and economic independence are the biggest issues facing the 1,500 individual who’ve taken the survey. Ridzi said this also allows nonprofits to identify trends in a timelier manner, rather than relying on federal poverty statistics, which often comes with a time lag.