The mission of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is “to discover, develop, disseminate, preserve, and use knowledge to strengthen the social, economic and environmental well-being of people.” To that end, Cooperative Extension is charged with developing, implementing and evaluating educational programs that address critical needs and issues in Douglas County. Comprehensive need assessments are used to direct programming efforts.

Not all needs identified in this assessment process may be addressed by education. Some needs may be better addressed through regulation, service, entitlements, etc. Furthermore, some needs may be better addressed by entities other than Cooperative Extension. The results of this study, therefore, should be useful to other organizations.

Knowing which needs are most important to our community is critical to effective planning. If we focus our energies on high priority needs, our chances of improving the quality of life are greatly enhanced. Hopefully, many will see the value of this information and use it to benefit citizens of Douglas County.


Three community leaders were asked by the principal investigator to recommend potential participants. The principal investigator used the list of potential participants to select fifty individuals based on their knowledge of living conditions, health and education, public services, business and industry, or human resources. The objective was to select a representative panel of Douglas County citizens in terms of expertise, as well as gender, geographic location and ethnicity. Of the 50 participants, 22 were female and 28 were male; 42 were located in the valley and eight were from the Lake Tahoe basin; one was Latino, two were American Indian and the remainder was Caucasian.

The principal investigator contacted all participants by phone. The study’s process and purpose were described, and prospective participants were asked if they were willing to commit their full participation. All 50 participants expressed interest in being involved. It was also explained that those participating would remain anonymous and strict confidentiality would be practiced.

The Delphi technique was used to assess community needs. This technique is one way of obtaining citizen input for ideas and problem solving. It uses a series of carefully designed questionnaires generated from feedback information from preceding responses. As with all community needs assessment models, there are advantages and disadvantages. The Delphi technique allows participants to remain anonymous and is relatively inexpensive. It is conducive to independent thinking and gradual formulation, and is free of social pressure, personality influences and individual dominance. However, the Delphi technique may be criticized for forcing a middle-of-the-road consensus, producing results from relatively few participants, being dependent on the judgment of a select group of people who may not be representative of the population and requiring substantial time and participant commitment.

The first of two questionnaires was called round one. Participants were asked to list up to four possible endings, in no particular order of importance, to the following question.

What are the most important NEEDS facing you, your family and your community in the next five to 10 years?

A cover letter accompanied the round one questionnaire, which further explained completion directions. Each letter was personally addressed and signed by the study administrator. The cover letter, round one questionnaire, and return envelope were sent out Aug. 28, 2002 and were due back by Sept. 6, 2002. All participants were mailed a reminder postcard on Sept. 3, 2002.

The round two questionnaire was prepared from the round one responses. No attempt was made to place needs into individual, family or community categories. Duplicative responses were combined and wordy statements were paraphrased. Care was taken not to delete or change the meaning of the needs submitted in round one. One hundred fifty-four statements were represented in 11 subject categories in the round two questionnaire.

The objective of this round was to rate the importance of each need statement on a scale of 1 (most important) to 9 (least important). This questionnaire, cover letter, and return envelope were sent to the same 50 participants on Oct. 30, 2002, and were due back on Nov. 8, 2002. All participants were mailed a reminder postcard on Nov. 5, 2002.

Need statements were prioritized based on the importance rating averages. Needs with lowest average values were ranked the highest priority, while those with the highest average value were ranked the lowest in priority. Needs with identical averages were assigned the same priority rank.

Limitations of the Study

The following outlines the limitations of this study

  • The principal investigator selected participants he knew in the community based on his knowledge of their expertise, gender, ethnicity, and place of residence. This may have introduced some bias in the responses.
  • The intent was to select a panel of participants that mirrored the county demographics, however, no measure was made to validate the representativeness of the sample population.
  • No attempt was made to compare the opinions of the non-respondents to that of the respondents. Bias may have been introduced through the missing response of participants representing specific expertise, gender, ethnicity, and place of residence.

Response Rate

Forty responses were received from the round one questionnaire mailing, for an 80 percent response rate; while 37 responses were received from the round two questionnaire mailing, for a 74 percent response rate.


One hundred fifty-four need statements, identified in round one and prioritized in terms of importance in round two, are represented in Table 1. Twenty-six need statements had identical averages and were assigned the same priority rank, thus producing a total of 128 priority ranks. The widest gap or difference between averages was between needs 22 and 23, thus creating a logical break in the data demarking a “top” set of needs. Of the top 22 need statements five were related to the environment, four to growth, four to safety, three to health care, three to citizenship and three to the economy.


It must be recognized that this assessment represents a picture of the perceived needs in Douglas County for the next five to ten years. Care should be taken not to read too much into the results. Certainly some needs have been ranked more important than others but it is not possible to draw a line to separate the most from the least. Where would one draw that line?

These results provide a good starting point from which to embark upon a comprehensive planning process. The results most certainly should not be treated as a total solution to forecasting. It is recommended that others use this information in the following manner:

  • First, consider the mission or purpose of your group. Start from the top of the list of prioritized need statements and check the needs you feel are mission related. These are the needs that your organization could positively impact. Write these out on a separate piece of paper.
  • Prioritize this list and determine the top three needs. A representative group rather than a single individual should conduct this process. It may also be advantageous to involve members-atlarge or other community citizens to bring a new perspective to the discussion.
  • Next, brainstorm to generate ideas how your group could effectively address those specific needs. The Delphi technique could be used at this time to gather ideas.


  • Anderson, R. 1979. Take a good look at your community. North Dakota State University Cooperative Extension. CRD- 1 (revised).
  • Beech, B. 1999. Go the extra mile – use the Delphi technique. Journal of Nursing Management, v7, pp. 281-288.
  • Butler, L.M., & Howell, R.E. 1980. Community needs assessment techniques. Washington State University. WREP 44.
  • Custer, R.T., Scarcella, J.A., & Stewart, B.R. 1999. The modified Delphi technique – A rotational modification. Journal of Vocational and Technical Education, 15(2). VT Site.
  • Dunham, B.D. 1998. The Delphi technique. University of Wisconsin School of Business, Organizational Behavior. Learn Tech Site.
  • Duttweiler, M.W. 2002. Delphi technique. Cornell Cooperative Extension. Cornell Site.
Table 1. Prioritized needs for Douglas County, Nevada in 2002
Order of Priority Need Statement
1 Clean, drinkable water for all inhabitants
2 Affordable health care/insurance
3 Access to health care
4 Growth/development planning using master plan
5 Children’s safety in community/neighborhood
6 Safe school environment
7 Availability and continued assurance of enough water for all uses, municipal, agricultural, domestic, recreational, etc.
8 Air quality protection
9 Water conservation
10 Respect for American values
11 Controlled, planned growth
12 Housing affordable for young families
13 Protection of wetlands to improve ground and surface water quality
14 Maintaining a low crime rate
15 Stable, cost-effective government
16 County commissioners who listen to the community and the voice of the majority
17 Zero tolerance for gangs
18 Health insurance that covers higher percentage of care costs
19 Home ownership for young families
20 Income opportunities that would allow for home ownership
21 Stable tax base
22 Responsible citizenry
23 A feeling of confidence that our commissioners will respect the master plan and avoid water/overcrowding issues
24 Environmental solutions and awareness
25 Retention of farm and ranch lands, agriculture sustainability
26 Infrastructure to support anticipated population growth
27 Income that increases with inflation and keeps pace with family needs
28 More time for self
29 Restoration/protection of the Carson River
30 Employment that provides financial security
31 Recruitment and retention of quality teachers
32 Higher education degrees (bachelors & masters) offered locally
33 Maintenance of Parks and Recreation facilities
34 Retirement without burdening family
35 Diverse job market, relying less on service
36 Increase in undevelopable open space
37 Cultural activities/opportunities, plays, concerts, etc.
38 Classes offered in computer programs
39 Roads/highway improvements
40 Diversity embraced
41 Protection of foothill forests from development
42 More college courses (WNCC & UNR) offered locally
43 Retirement benefits that cover expenses
44 Stoplight on corner of Highway 88 and County Road
45 Less bickering/more cooperative efforts
46 Economy that meets the demands of higher prices/quality of life
47 Access to public lands for hiking/biking
48 Low utility costs; i.e., water, sewer, trash, power
49 Bike and walking paths/routes linking communities, schools and parks
50 Improved north/south roadways or alternate routes
51 Recreation opportunities/activities for youth/teens
52 Classes offered in job training
53 Economic climate that supports small, local business
54 Economic expansion that goes beyond tourism and big boxes, with employers that require college degrees
55 High technology, clean-air employers
56 More time for family
57 Independent-living condominiums for seniors
58 Recreation opportunities/activities for families
59 Maintenance of property appearance and condition
60 Low-cost dental care
61 Tax structure that doesn't penalize most to benefit a few
62 Reduced costs for prescriptions, particularly for the elderly
63 Transportation for youth and seniors
64 Multiuse, multigenerational community center
65 Wages and benefits comparable to other areas in the region
66 Classes in management
67 More online (distance) education
68 Classes in accounting
69 Community support and county funds for police/fire protection
70 Protection/preservation of native plant and animal species
71 Reduced traffic through Gardnerville and Minden
72 Increased entry-level job opportunities for 20- to 30-year-olds so they may remain in the community
73 Meaningful paid or volunteer work
74 Winning the war on terror and protecting the constitution
75 Sustainable growth policy or plan
76 Recreation opportunities/activities for adults
77 Vocational school
78 Education programs on importance of native flora/fauna
79 Senior daycare
80 Diversity of restaurants
81 Relationships, people, communication
82 Classes in clerical training
83 Classes in construction technology
84 Traffic control to eliminate jams
85 Streetlights, where needed for safety
86 Facilities for seniors
87 Increased resources and financial support for public education
88 Community service projects that involve native habitat restoration
89 Preservation of the history of Genoa, Nevada’s first settlement, and the history of Carson Valley
90 Public education programs on conservation easements
91 Opportunities for professionals to speak with school classes
92 Health insurance services
93 Child daycare options
94 New Senior Center with satellite facilities in the north and south, and Lake Tahoe
95 Better local information, i.e. newspaper, television news
96 Diversity of retail stores
97 Enforcement of the master plan without variation
98 Cultural facilities for indoor/outdoor musical and theatrical performances
99 Mass transit system serving neighborhoods on a regular schedule
100 Access to public lands with parking and restroom facilities
101 Lower student/teacher ratios in K-12 schools
102 Assisted living/long-term care
103 Planning and providing for kids’ college expenses
104 Elder-care services
105 Religious/spiritual interests
106 Hospital in the county
107 Development of natural resources for economic diversification
108 Subsidies/assistance with child-care costs
109 Noise reduction in neighborhood
110 Support services if death of spouse occurs
111 Access to public lands for equestrians
112 Increased police presence in neighborhood to cut down on speeding vehicles
113 Opportunities to meet and commune with neighbors and townspeople
114 Classes in gardening, botany, ecology
115 Youth/adult mentor services
116 Performing arts theater
117 Jogging/walking tracks
118 Restricted or limited growth
119 Stoplight on corner of Highway 395 and Ironwood
120 Gymnasium/basketball court
121 Doctor trained for special needs of the aging
122 Transportation options for tourists
123 Retirement planning
124 Assistance with utility costs
125 Tax support for seniors
126 Meeting rooms
127 Health education/prevention programs
128 Charter schools or affordable alternative education
129 Full-time, paid fire personnel
130 Diversity of political/government representatives and workers
131 Flex hours/telecommuting
132 Mental health counseling without delay
133 Grand jury investigation every four years on county government conduct, performance and implementation of previous jury' s recommendations
134 Dependable and competent home repair and maintenance
135 Free/affordable legal aid
136 Grocery store in north town, Minden
137 Aerobic exercise facilities
138 Weight training facilities
139 Fitness center
140 Alternative educational services
141 Hispanic services
142 Clothing stores for youth and adults
143 Regionalization of governmental services
144 Ice skating rink
145 Sewer plant relocation out of town
146 Cable access to sporting events
147 Home mail delivery
148 Local state welfare
149 Financial management services
150 A hardware store in Gardnerville
151 Less homework for kids in order to have more family time
152 Water park
153 Golf courses
154 Two-year sabbatical to attend seminary
Lewis, S. 2003, Community Needs Assessment: Douglas County 2002, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-03-11

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