Graphic of Cover for Community How To Guide On Needs Assessment & Strategic Planning



Community How To Guide On…

Benefits of a Needs Assessment

Barriers to Conducting a Needs Assessment

Elements of a Needs Assessment

Collect Existing Data
Obtain Survey Information
Conduct Public Policy Review
Review Underage Drinking Prevention Programs
Conduct Focus Groups
Sponsor Youth Event

Strategic Plan



Appendix #1 – Community Self Assessment

Data Checklist
Enforcement Questionnaire
Prevention Questionnaire
Education Questionnaire
Public Policy Questionnaire
Media Questionnaire

Appendix #2 – Risk and Protective Factors

Appendix #3 – Youth Questionnaire on Underage Drinking

Appendix #4 – Market Survey/Adult Questionnaire

Appendix #5 – Focus Group Questions

Appendix #6 – Strategic Plan Worksheet

Appendix #7 – Work Plan and Time Line


Resources Cited in Community How To Guide

National Surveys & Data

Other Needs Assessment/Strategic Planning Resources



A comprehensive needs assessment is the critical first step a coalition or organization must take in order to develop an effective and successful underage drinking prevention effort. This "Community How To Guide on Needs Assessment and Strategic Planning," details the elements of a needs assessment. Beginning with data, the booklet walks the reader through the process organizations must follow to obtain all the information they will need to determine the exact causes of underage drinking and the appropriate solutions to those problems.

To make the process easier, this booklet includes a sample data checklist that communities can use to determine what types of data are currently available and what data the community believes they will need to be effective in the future. Sample surveys are also available along with instructions for conducting a focus or discussion group with key members of the community.

In addition, this booklet describes the other needed elements including a review of current laws, regulations, policies and procedures governing underage drinking and a review of what is currently occurring in a community with respect to underage drinking prevention. Sample questionnaires in the areas of prevention, education, enforcement and media are included in the Appendix #1 so communities can quickly begin their assessment.

Once all the information has been completed, the booklet describes how to take what the community has learned and develop a strong strategic plan. The strategic plan worksheet in the Appendix #6 provides the outline that the community can use to develop their plan based on the information collected in the needs assessment process.

Community How To Guide On…

Implementing an underage drinking prevention project is like taking a trip. You need to know where you are going, why you are going there, and the best route to take to reach your destination. A careful, thorough needs assessment is the road map for change and provides the basis for a strategic plan which addresses specific problems that contribute to illegal underage drinking in the community.

The needs assessment process helps an agency, coalition or other entity determine the nature and extent of the underage drinking problem in a community and how the problem is perceived among diverse groups. Without a needs assessment, a strategic plan is really just a best guess. A strategic plan based on a comprehensive needs assessment can become a roadmap for change.

People who have worked on the issue of underage drinking for some time may believe that they understand the nature, extent and causes of the underage drinking problem and can substitute their knowledge for a needs assessment. In fact, sometimes even the most knowledgeable individuals are surprised by the results of a thorough needs assessment. Those surprises are among the many reasons why a needs assessment is vital before a community can develop effective, workable solutions to its underage drinking problem.

Home, school, community and media environments shape children’s attitudes and behavior. Before it is possible to change young people’s behavior, their environment must be reshaped and the attitudes and behavior of adults and institutions around them must support appropriate decisions. Research on prevention shows comprehensive programs that change the environment in which people make decisions offer the greatest probability of success.

What Is At Stake?

Prevention programs aimed at youth are not new. Traffic safety organizations have been conducting youth anti-drinking and driving campaigns for a number of years. The results of these efforts have been very successful and have produced a 50 percent reduction in alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involving youth over the last ten years. Unfortunately, statistics in communities across America indicate there has been no similar reduction in youth drinking in general. A comprehensive program examines all of the issues surrounding underage drinking, including drinking and driving.

Drinking and driving among youth is a serious consequence of underage drinking, but it is not the only consequence. Teen drinking is linked to vandalism, rape and other crimes of violence, suicide, falls, boating and swimming accidents, and other unintended injuries. In addition, teen drinking can result in reckless sex, which can lead to teen pregnancy and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases and the HIV virus.

Research conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that young people who began drinking before age 15 were four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence (alcohol addiction, commonly known as alcoholism) than those who began drinking at age 21. The risk that a person would develop alcohol abuse (a maladaptive drinking pattern that repeatedly causes life problems) was more than doubled for persons who began drinking before age 15 compared with those who began drinking at age 21.

Comprehensive underage drinking prevention projects approach the problem of underage drinking from a public health perspective, combining enforcement, education, public policy, media relations and other vital elements. They are designed to change the social and legal environment within which young people function and to create an environment which helps them stay alcohol-free until they are 21.

Benefits of a Needs Assessment

Following is a list of some of the benefits that communities and organizations can realize from conducting a needs assessment.

A needs assessment makes the project defensible, fundable and measurable.

Comprehensive needs assessments achieve results because the solutions are targeted at the real causes of underage drinking. With the needs assessment in hand, proponents of the prevention program can explain and defend their activities by describing their relationship to the actual problems. Proponents also can demonstrate the basis for their plan when they request participation or financial assistance from government agencies, corporations, foundations or other potential supporters. Most funding sources insist that a project is evaluated to determine its efficacy, and the information in a needs assessment is the basis for a subsequent evaluation. As the program progresses and demonstrates success, funders will be attracted to demonstrable change.

A needs assessment targets resources.

A completed needs assessment enables a community, agency or coalition to more effectively utilize resources because solutions are targeted at the real causes of the problem of underage drinking. Since resources for most organizations are scarce, this targeting can help to achieve results without wasting precious funding or time.

A needs assessment can reenergize existing efforts.

Programs become stale after a period of time. People get tired, particularly if they are working for prevention without measurable milestones of success. The activities and approaches that worked a few years ago may not now seem quite as effective. A new initiative or a different twist on an existing program, identified by a needs assessment, can be the energizer that gets people involved and active once again. Consistent enthusiasm and involvement are always important. If a project needs to obtain private sector funding, gain media attention or advocate legislative change, energized coalition members are critical.

A needs assessment can help garner media attention.

Media attention on an issue or problem can help galvanize a community to take action. Articles in newspapers or stories on television can raise awareness that the problem is serious and demands attention. This awareness makes it easier for a coalition or organization to attract members, obtain funding or change community norms that promote underage drinking. A good needs assessment is full of information, backed by solid statistics, and convinces the media the problem of underage drinking is a story worth covering.

A needs assessment is an opportunity to take a fresh look at the problem and determine whether old programs can be scrapped and new ones begun or whether programs are working well and should be replicated.

Programs or activities that have been in existence for some time always need reexamination to determine whether changes in the community or society in general continue to make the effort relevant. A needs assessment is a good tool to determine what is and what is not working. For instance, if a coalition has been addressing the problem of underage drinking through a school-based video education program, but find in a focus group with young people that the majority of young people find the video boring or laughable, it is probably time to find another approach. However, if the coalition is testing the concept of a peer education program and finds that young people respond positively to the approach, then the group may want to replicate it throughout the community.

A needs assessment is a good strategy for involving various members of a coalition or organization in important activities.

One of the best ways to make people feel valued is to ask their opinion. The needs assessment gives people an opportunity to express their own views, relate their experiences and to help collect information from other members of the community. Coalition members can be trained to distribute and collect surveys, for instance.

Barriers to Conducting A Needs Assessment

The importance of conducting a needs assessment may seem obvious. The reality, however, can be much more challenging. The most commonly heard complaints about a needs assessment include the following:

"Why aren’t we doing something? We already know what the problems are."

"We just need to enforce the law -- arrest underage young people who buy and close down retailers who sell."

"I’m a member of too many groups who do nothing. I don’t have time to participate in this group if all we’re going to do is talk about the problem."

Completing a needs assessment takes time. Collecting data and researching attitudes behind the numbers through focus or discuss groups can be a lengthy process. When busy people hear your group will be spending six months to a year researching the issue of underage drinking, many of them may head for the door. Following are some suggestions for overcoming any unwillingness to conduct a needs assessment.

A needs assessment is an activity.

The elements of a needs assessment, which are discussed in the next section, include gathering data, reviewing that data, distributing surveys and conducting focus or discussion groups. All of those elements require someone to take an action, so rather than presenting the needs assessment as a research-based activity, present it as an action-based one that will require the involvement of all members of the coalition or organization.

Involve members of the coalition in obtaining information for the needs assessment.

Some members of the coalition, such as law enforcement, will obviously be involved in collecting data, but others can also help gather data and information. For instance, courts may have data on alcohol involvement in juvenile crime and hospital emergency rooms may have data on the number of underage youth whose injury involves alcohol.

Stress how the information from the needs assessment is critical for the coalition or organization to obtain funding from public and private sources.

Nearly all funding sources, whether a government agency, private foundation or company or non-profit agency, want to know their money is needed and will be well spent. A good evaluation plan is now central to almost all funding requests. A needs assessment will provide the baseline information that clearly outlines the need for the funding as well as providing the basis against which all future action can be measured.

Announce your needs assessment findings at a media event.

People in your coalition or group may be more willing to participate in a needs assessment if they know there is a definite end date and a goal to work toward. A media event is good way to wrap up the process as well as gain attention for the issue of underage drinking. It also gives people an activity in which they can participate and keeps them focused on obtaining good data and information since it will be released to the general public.

Elements of a Needs Assessment

A comprehensive needs assessment includes the following:

In order to be successful in both the short- and long-term, a needs assessment must be comprehensive. In some areas, it may be difficult to collect all of the suggested data, but it is important to collect as much as possible. As the project progresses, a trend report can be prepared on a yearly basis either to show progress on reducing underage drinking or to demonstrate the need for further action. Following are some suggested activities to help your coalition or organization complete a successful needs assessment.

Step 1: Collect existing data on underage drinking

Data plays an important part in the comprehensive needs assessment process. The role of data includes the following:

Underage drinking data is available from several sources including the following:

Following is a listing of suggested data that is part of the Appendix #1, the Community Assessment Package. Coalitions and organizations can use the Community Assessment Package, which lists many underage drinking data sources, when conducting their needs assessment. Many states and communities have embraced the "risk and protective factor" model for prevention pioneered by Dr. David Hawkins and Dr. Richard Catalano at the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington. Assessing a community’s risk and protective factors is also part of the groundwork of a needs assessment. Appendix #2 is a listing of Risk and Protective Factors, and information on contacting the Social Development Research Group is located in the Resource Section.

The more data that can be collected, the more effective the plan to reduce underage drinking. However, an inability to collect data is also important information because it may mean the coalition or organization needs to establish a more effective data collection system as part of their strategic plan.

The data that the organization is collecting can be divided into several broad categories, which include the following:


Highway Safety Data

Liquor Law Violations (youth and adults)

Liquor law violations, which may be referred to by another name, are acts committed by an underage youth or an adult in violation of the state’s and/or locality’s liquor laws and regulations or motor vehicle licensing laws. These violations include the following:

Liquor Licensee Information and Sales to Minor Violations (liquor licensees)

Sales to minor violations are those assessed against liquor licensees that violate the state’s and/or locality’s liquor laws and regulations.

School Data

Criminal Justice Data

Injuries and Deaths Involving Alcohol (other than those involving motor vehicles)

Alcohol Treatment

After data is collected, the local findings can be compared with national data such as NHTSA’s "Youth Fatal Crash and Alcohol Facts" report and the annual "Monitoring the Future" survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to determine how a particular community compares to the national sample. Local data can also be compared with statewide data or data from other communities within a state or region.

Also, it is important to remember the coalition or organization has not failed if it cannot obtain the data or has a difficult time in finding the right information. The lack of data or an inability to obtain the data is useful for a strategic plan where the group may recommend changes in the ways in which data is collected and made available to the public. The important point is to attempt to collect the information and a report on what was learned from the experience. The involvement of police departments, the justice system, hospital/health care personnel in the coalition or organization can also help with the data collection process (See Community How To Guide on Coalition Building).

Step 2: Obtain survey information

Youth surveys

Contact the public school system(s) in your community and local colleges and universities to determine whether they survey students or adults regarding drug and alcohol use. Some schools (secondary and higher education) survey students about alcohol use as part of broader substance abuse or behavioral studies on an annual or biannual basis. In some states, statewide substance abuse prevention agencies or health departments may collect local and statewide data. Information on several national youth surveys, including the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study and PRIDE surveys, are located in the Resource Section of this booklet.

If appropriate information is available, it may become part of the needs assessment and serve as a baseline against which future surveys can be compared. Appendix #3 is a sample Youth Questionnaire on Underage Drinking.

The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) has developed a publication called "Guide to Conducting Youth Surveys" that "provides the background and rationale for [youth] surveys as well as practical, step-by-step instructions for administering them." Included are several surveys as well as a sample report once the information has been analyzed. The publication was developed as part of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP) Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Program and is available at no cost. Information on obtaining the guide can be found in the Resource Section.

Donated survey research services

Professional polling, advertising or market research organizations and colleges and universities commonly charge thousands of dollars to conduct statistically accurate surveys. If such an organization exists in your community, you can ask them to consider donating their services as a public service and as a means for generating positive public relations. If not, the coalition or organization may wish to draft a funding proposal for a local foundation. Many foundations are interested in research-based activities and programs. If none of these avenues is available, it is still possible to obtain valuable information about the attitudes and behavior of adults and youth by using coalition members, staff or graduate students.

Scientific surveys

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), through the University of Maryland, conducted both a youth survey and a household survey of adults to assess attitudes and behavior toward underage drinking in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area. Washington-area school systems were unable to provide appropriate data, but WRAP conducted a "street" survey of youth. Volunteer questioners went to places where youth congregated (malls, movie theaters, and concerts) to ask questions about their attitudes and behavior. Questioners also conducted a survey of households by telephone, and asked additional questions of adults who were parents or guardians of underage youth. Funding was provided for both of these surveys.

Surveys of adult and youth can be instructive for an organization planning an underage drinking prevention program. WRAP and other organizations have discovered, for instance, that there are striking differences on what parents know and believe about their children's drinking and what youth actually report. For parents ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous. Data and survey information can help to break down this wall of ignorance.

Market surveys

If your budget is not sufficient to conduct a scientific survey of either youth or adults, a market survey can provide valuable information. Although not based on representative samples and statistically precise measures, a market survey can help to elicit information about attitudes and behavior regarding underage drinking among key groups. (Appendix #4 is a sample Market Survey or Adult Questionnaire on Underage Drinking.) As noted in the section on barriers to needs assessments, volunteers can be mobilized to distribute surveys at local malls, movie theatres, restaurants, recreational facilities, churches and other places where potential respondents gather.

If the coalition or organization is unable to obtain any survey information on youth and adult attitudes toward underage drinking, it is not a failure. The need for such information should be included in the needs assessment and considered as a possible action step in a strategic plan.

Step 3: Conduct a public policy review

A public policy review includes an examination of the following:

Laws and regulations

One of the reasons the anti-drinking and driving movement has been successful is because citizen activist organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) enlisted public support and campaigned to make the laws against drunk driving stronger. A review of your own state’s or locality's laws and regulations on underage drinking may reveal some inadequacies or gaps that require new legislation or modifications.

In other cases, existing laws may not be easy to implement or may be so confusing that law enforcement officers refrain from using them. For instance, the state of Maryland code had three statutes concerning the use of fake IDs. The statutes, however, were so confusing that police officers were reluctant to write citations in fear of being humiliated by judges in court because they had misconstrued the laws. The Maryland Underage Drinking Prevention Coalition worked with law enforcement officers and legislators to develop and pass clear new legislation which officers can use with confidence.

Information on laws is available through most public libraries and on "Thomas" in the Library of Congress web site. An attorney in private practice, a state or county attorney, a police department or the state’s alcohol beverage control agency can also provide you with information about the local laws, which regulate underage drinking. The Community How to Guide on Public Policy also includes a state-by-state review of major underage drinking laws. This does not, however, include every law and does not reflect state and local regulations.

Relevant underage drinking laws include the following:

  • Zero tolerance laws (Under 21 driving with a positive blood alcohol concentration-BAC)

  • Use/lose laws (Laws which suspend or revoke a young person’s driver’s license for alcohol-related offenses)

  • Possession, attempts to purchase or actual purchase of alcohol by minors

  • Exemptions to the state’s underage drinking laws such as allowing youth age 18 and or older to work in liquor establishments

  • Consumption of alcohol by minors

  • Use of a fake ID

  • Open container laws

  • Public intoxication

  • Sales to minors

  • Adults who are 21 and older providing alcohol to minors

  • Responsibility by adults for alcohol use by minors

  • Licensing of alcohol retailers, including bars and restaurants as well as beer, wine and liquor stores

  • Fines or other regulatory action for retailers who provide or sell alcohol to minors

  • Keg registration

  • Dram shop and social host laws

Understanding the entire legal background of underage drinking — including the penalties for breaking the law — requires a review of federal, state and local laws pertinent to these areas. If a law seems flawed or inadequate, there are many resources for obtaining examples of successful legislation in other states and communities. National organizations dedicated to drunk driving and underage drinking prevention, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), MADD and the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances (NCUTLO), may also be able to direct a community to sources of model legislation. A list of these organizations is included in the Resource Section of this booklet.

Policies and practices of public institutions

Public institutions that deal with youth, such as a school system, college or university, or police department, have established policies and formal and informal procedures. For instance, the policy of the local school system may be to prohibit alcohol use on school grounds, but what is the policy with respect to a student athlete who uses alcohol off school property and not during a school function? If this alcohol use is brought to the attention of school authorities, are the athletes suspended from playing on the team? Allowing a young person to continue participating in a school-sponsored event, even when they have broken the law, sends the wrong message to the student population as a whole.

As part of a needs assessment, it is useful to determine the actual practices of public agencies charged with enforcing the law or regulating the sale of alcohol. How are the penalties for breaking underage drinking laws applied? Sometimes juvenile justice authorities, judges or liquor license authorities do not apply the available legal penalties. Consequently, offenders do not take breaking the law seriously. Also, is training available for law enforcement and alcohol servers?

Project Extra Mile in Omaha, Nebraska, for instance, found that penalties assessed to retailers who were cited for alcohol sales to minors were weak, making the law ineffective at preventing underage drinking. As a result, the project mounted a legislative effort to strengthen the penalties imposed upon retailers who break the law.

Many communities have also found that police officers do not aggressively enforce underage drinking laws because the young people they cite receive little or no punishment from the juvenile justice system. Often young people who have been charged with underage drinking offenses are diverted out of the system or receive minimal fines or light community service, thereby negating the action taken by the police.
Examining not only the policy, but also the actual practices can reveal opportunities for positive change.

Alcohol advertising and alcohol sponsorship of public events

A review of billboards, window signage in retail establishments, the concentration of liquor establishments in a given area, the location of liquor establishments near schools and alcohol advertising in college and university publications may reveal needed changes in public policy. For instance, in many urban areas, liquor establishments may be located near schools thereby exposing young people to alcohol advertising on a daily basis. Data on crashes and crimes related to underage drinking can be examined geographically to determine whether these events happen in and around places that advertise alcoholic beverages.

In Detroit, MI, a local coalition formed by a member of the City Council conducted a review of billboard advertisements throughout the city and found a concentration of ads promoting alcohol in poor neighborhoods. The group publicized their findings, which lead to a reduction in the number of billboards featuring alcohol advertising.

Alcohol sponsorship of public events, particularly those where young people are present, is also another area for underage drinking prevention coalitions to examine. In New Mexico, a local group was successful in banning alcohol for one day at the State Fair. In the District of Columbia, alcohol is now prohibited at the city’s major Latino festival. Despite predictions that the event would die without alcohol, it is flourishing and law enforcement reports fewer arrests and problems.

Step 4: Conduct a review of current underage drinking prevention programs

Before proposing activities for the coalition or organization to undertake, it is useful to determine whether similar activities are already underway. This is a much more effective use of limited resources and enables the coalition or organization to learn from the experience of other organizations. A review of current programs also will determine where gaps exist so efforts can be targeted at the areas of greatest need.

The community assessment package in the appendix includes a list of questions for coalitions to answer, which will help them understand what is currently being accomplished in the areas of enforcement, prevention, education, public policy, and media.

In addition to responding to the questionnaires, coalitions should contact all relevant agencies and organizations including the following:

In Fredericksburg, VA, Juvenile Court Judge J. Dean Lewis sponsored a "Day of Discovery," to determine the types of prevention programs available for youth in the area. All relevant agencies, organizations and groups in the community were invited to attend to describe their program and what it offered. As a result of the meeting, a Drug and Alcohol Task Force evolved and subsequently developed a Youth Resource Directory to let the community know what was available to them.

This review may reveal there are many appropriate programs and activities that are not well publicized. As part of its strategic plan, a coalition might resolve to publish a monthly calendar of alcohol-free events. In Montgomery County, MD, "Drawing the Line on Underage Alcohol Use" published and distributed a monthly calendar with support from a local hospital and a local health maintenance organization. The calendar was distributed to schools, libraries, recreation centers, grocery stores, record stores and other sites.

Step 5: Conduct focus groups with key community groups

Exploring the "why" behind the numbers is just as important as collecting the data. Determining that few liquor law citations are being assessed by the local police department does not tell the whole story, for instance. There may be reasons why the police are not citing youth for violating the state’s liquor laws. The group planning an underage drinking prevention program needs to know that information.

The Safe and Sober Youth (SASY) organization in Chesterfield County, Virginia found during their needs assessment that few youth were being cited for liquor law violations. In addition, the numbers for those whose license had been suspended or arrested under the state’s Use/Lose Law were low as well. In a discussion group with local law enforcement, the coalition learned officers were reluctant to arrest youth because of the time and effort involved in dealing with juveniles. Often officers were forced to "baby sit" the young people until a parent or guardian could come and take the youth home. This took the officer away from his or her regular duties and placed a hardship on the department.

With that information, the coalition could work with police to help streamline procedures or to create "holding" centers where police drop youth off after they have completed the legal process. Information on establishing a juvenile holdover program is available from the American Probation and Parole Association, which is listed in the Resource Section.

A focus group is a process for eliciting comments, opinions and perceptions about a particular product, idea or problem. Many major corporations use focus groups to test their products before they are introduced to the general public. In the case of an underage drinking prevention group, members of key groups within the community and the coalition should be asked to participate in a focus group session. Target groups include the following:

An underage drinking prevention coalition or organization should try to obtain views from at least five of the target groups listed above. Opinions from law enforcement, youth and parents are critical in a comprehensive needs assessment and every coalition/organization will need to target these groups. During these sessions, participants should be encouraged to express their specific concerns about underage drinking in the community as well as their recommendations for solutions.

Market research firms, public opinion pollsters and advertising agencies often have staff members who specialize in conducting focus groups, but their fees may be prohibitive for non-profit organizations and government agencies. Sometimes services will be donated if a coalition asks for help.

Prevention organizations and coalitions without substantial budgets for research, however, can obtain the information they need, through a combination of imagination, willingness to learn and networking.

Ideally, local colleges and universities should be participants in the coalition. These institutions may offer classes or programs in which students learn how to conduct focus groups. Check with the college's public relations, marketing or health departments, since focus groups are used to pre-test many products and to ascertain the extent of many social and health problems.

A college in your community may be willing to train project staff or coalition members in focus group techniques. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) also has produced a focus group guide, which is available through the National Clearinghouse on Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI). Contact information for NCADI is listed in the Resource Section of this booklet.

Leading a focus group requires special attributes and some people may not be appropriate group leaders. The techniques employed differ from those used to lead a group discussion or to chair an organization. An ideal focus group moderator has the following characteristics:

At least two moderators should be available for each focus group. One moderator should lead the group and ask questions while the other takes notes during the meeting and observes participants' body language and expressions, which can be helpful cues when the results of the focus group are interpreted later. Although good notes are vital, focus group sessions should also be taped so that the information that is analyzed is verbatim and it is possible to confirm information.

Following the focus group, request that an individual from the college, university or marketing company assist in analyzing the information and drawing conclusions. Proposed solutions should be considered and perhaps included in the strategic plan, if the planning group determines that they are reasonable proposals for improving conditions or resolving specific problems.

If the coalition or organization has tried to find someone from a college, university or marketing company to assist them with the focus group and were unsuccessful in obtaining help, a less formal process, called a discussion group, can be used.

A discussion group is like a focus group but not quite as rigid. Individuals from each of the targeted groups are asked to attend a meeting to offer their opinions. Although not as scientific as a focus group, the information can still be relevant to a needs assessment and useful in developing a strategic plan. The same questions used for a focus group can be used for a discussion group. Appendix #5 lists some sample Focus Group Questions.

Following is an abbreviated guide for focus group moderators:

Introductions and warm up

  • Introduce yourself and your assistant or co-moderator.

  • Ask each participant to introduce themselves by first name only.

Explain the purpose and ground rules of the focus group.

  • Explain why group members have been asked to participate, i.e., to learn their views and
    opinions on underage drinking and to obtain their suggestions for solutions.

  • Explain the ground rules, including:

    • Only one person should speak at a time.
    • Every opinion and comment has value.
    • Everyone in the group is encouraged to participate.
    • People should remain quiet when others are offering their views.

  • Explain that the session is being audio taped so it can be analyzed later.

  • Remember to tell participants that they will not be identified by their full name and their
    business or organizational affiliation will not be identified in the official record. All
    responses in a focus group are anonymous.

Develop a list of questions about underage drinking you would like answered.
(A sample focus/discussion group questionnaire appears in the appendix section
of this booklet.)

  • With each question, you should develop a list of probes. Probes are designed to prompt
    people to answer if they are having trouble getting started or can’t think of any responses.
    For instance, your question may be: "Is underage drinking a serious problem in your
    community?" If no one answers, an appropriate probe may be "Has there been an alcohol-
    related motor vehicle crash involving a teen in your community?"

Step 6: Sponsor an event for youth to solicit their views.

Young people's views on underage drinking can be obtained either through a separate focus group or at a conference. In the Washington, DC metropolitan area, the WRAP project sponsored a "Youth Congress" at the U.S. Capitol where youth from throughout the region debated the issue of underage drinking and developed their own recommendations for solutions. MADD also conducted a National Youth Summit on Underage Drinking Prevention in Washington, DC that brought together young people from every Congressional District in the United States. These young people debated the issue of underage drinking and developed recommendations, which were delivered to every member of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. A community does not, however, have to undertake a youth event on such a grand scale in order to obtain valuable information.

Involving youth in the needs assessment process gives the process credibility since the people who are affected by the problem are directly involved in the process of developing solutions. Young people can also provide a realistic picture of what is happening in a community with respect to underage drinking. Adults may view current enforcement levels as adequate, but may reevaluate their position when young people tell them alcohol is readily available.

The following are some steps for organizing a youth conference:

A guide for implementing a youth conference, "TeamSpirit" is available from NHTSA.

Whatever process is selected, it is important to actively involve youth from the beginning of the process in order to achieve maximum buy-in and support from the people most affected by the problem of underage drinking.

The Strategic Plan

The strategic plan is the vehicle for success. Once a needs assessment is complete, the next step in developing a comprehensive prevention program is to bring people together and agree on appropriate solutions. The planning process requires three steps:

During the strategic planning process, coalition members will define goals, identify measurable objectives and develop action steps to reach these goals and objectives.

Strategic planning begins by asking the following questions:

  • Where are we going (goals)?

  • What do we want (objectives)?

  • How will we know when we have it?

  • Where, when and with whom do we want to work?

  • Where will it work?

  • What obstacles do we face?

  • What resources, including financial, do we have?

  • What resources, including financial, do we need?

  • What is the first, then subsequent steps and activities?

  • Did we do what we said we would (evaluation)? (See Community How To Guide on Evaluation)

If the coalition is broad-based and diverse, reaching consensus can be difficult and time consuming. It sometimes helps to ask coalition members to use a ranking system when they are trying to prioritize ideas. Before beginning the strategic planning process with members of the coalition, however, it is important for the project staff to determine their own goals and objectives for the project. If the project staff is unfocused and cannot decide what is and what is not important, it will be impossible to communicate with the coalition and assist them in reaching consensus. Following is an outline for a strategic planning process.

  1. Develop an organization/coalition mission statement
  2. Review needs assessment
  3. Define broad-based goals
  4. Identify measurable objectives for each goal
  5. Develop action steps to achieve each objective

Develop a mission statement

The first thing every coalition or organization needs to do is to determine why it exists — that is, to determine its mission. If the group does not know why it exists, it cannot be effective. Mission statements should be brief and succinct. They are useful for the following reasons:

Questions the group should ask when drafting a mission statement include the following:

Sometimes, organizations can get bogged down in developing a mission statement. Make certain that does not happen to your group. Appoint a small committee to develop a mission statement and set a timetable for completion. Have the committee present the proposed mission statement to the full coalition and organization.

Following is an example of a mission statement for an underage drinking prevention coalition.

The ABC Coalition was formed to reduce underage drinking by creating a clear community consensus that underage alcohol use is illegal, unhealthy and unacceptable.

Review the needs assessment

The strategic plan is based on the information obtained through the needs assessment process including all data, surveys, focus/discussion group reports, information gained through the public policy review and the review of current underage drinking prevention programs. In order to achieve the greatest buy-in and support from the community, involve all members of the coalition or organization in the strategic planning process. This can be a challenging process, but worthwhile to achieve community ownership of both the problem of underage drinking and the solutions.

To start the needs assessment review, the facilitator may call on individuals in the coalition/organization to report on the findings (using the data checklist and questionnaires in Appendix #1), to determine where the problems exist. In developing a problem statement, based on the needs assessment, an organization may want to list problems by subject area including enforcement, prevention, education, and public policy.

Under enforcement, for instance, list all the enforcement related data including drinking and driving, liquor law violations and sales to minor violations as well as information obtained through focus/discussion groups with police officers, alcohol beverage control officials, juvenile justice officials and the courts. Also list any information pertaining to enforcement from surveys and the Enforcement Questionnaire. Remember, what is included in the strategic plan must relate back to the needs assessment.

This needs assessment review, particularly if completed by subject area, should help the group focus on the goals of the strategic plan.

Critical to the success of any strategic planning process is a good facilitator. A good facilitator is able to do the following:

  • Communicate clearly and succinctly

  • Be enthusiastic and energized

  • Recognize the contributions of others

  • Bring everyone into the discussion and keep few individuals from monopolizing the process

  • Stimulate thinking

  • Summarize the opinions of others and express them clearly

  • Be persistent and patient and push ahead even when things bog down

  • Keep the discussion focused and on track

  • Communicate expectations and decisions clearly

  • Bring the discussion to a close and summarize the group’s actions

Define goals

Goals are broad, general statements describing what the project or group wants to accomplish. They are not the specific activities or action steps. Objectives and action steps are the activities to help the project accomplish the goal(s) and ultimately achieve the group's mission. Following are examples of underage drinking goals:

Reduce underage drinking by enforcing underage drinking laws and regulations.

Educate youth and adults on the serious consequences of underage drinking.

Improve communication and collaboration among agencies and organizations involved in underage drinking prevention.

Identify objectives

Objectives describe the intermediate steps that help accomplish the broader goals. They are written to articulate what the program is intended to do and should be measurable to assess progress toward the goal. They should be specific, attainable and timely. The objectives become the foundation for program development and evaluation. If they are not clear and "actionable," the program may be unfocused and ineffective. Objectives are not action steps. They do not talk about the specific steps the project will take.

Both goals and objectives should be realistic. No one wants their program to be considered a failure because of unrealistic expectations. For example, it is generally impossible to achieve a goal of 100%. If assigning percentages to an objective, go back to the needs assessment and determine how much improvement can be realistically achieved over the next two to three years.

For instance, if the goal is to reduce underage drinking by enforcing underage drinking laws and regulations, several suggested objectives could include the following:

By October 200x, increase by 10% the number citations given to youth that violate the state’s liquor laws.

By October 200x, decrease by 10% the number of retailers that sell alcohol to minors (as determined by compliance checks. See Community How To Guide on Underage Drinking Enforcement).

Both of these objectives are measurable. A percentage of increase or decrease is given along with a date to enable the coalition or organization to determine whether their actions have been successful.

Develop action steps/activities

These are the specific steps an organization will take to accomplish the objectives. Often people will first develop action steps or activities before defining a goal and objectives. It is important to follow the strategic planning process from mission statement, to goals, objectives and then action steps.

For example, if the objective is to decrease the number of retailers who sell alcohol to minors, the action steps may include the following:

Conduct compliance checks on a monthly basis.

Publish the names of the retailers that violate the law.

Determine the punishment given to retailers who are sited for sales to minor violations to insure it is sufficient and consistently applied.

Conduct server/seller training sessions.

Appendix #6 is a Strategic Plan Worksheet that a coalition or organization may wish to use as a guide in developing their own plan. The worksheet asks for goals in the areas of Enforcement, Prevention/Education and Public Policy. (See Community How To Guides on Underage Drinking Enforcement, Prevention and Public Policy for additional information on each of these issue areas). Implementing a plan in these three areas will insure it is a comprehensive effort, which has the greatest chance of both immediate and long-term success.

Every suggested goal, objective and action step should be written down, but it does not mean the coalition will be able to accomplish everything in one year. Once the strategic plan is written, the coalition must prioritize short and long-term goals, objectives and action steps, and realistically determine what can be accomplished.

To assist the organization in developing priorities, it is a good idea to develop a management/ staffing plan and time line. This will enable the coalition/organization to track the implementation of the strategic plan and determine if there are sufficient resources to accomplish the tasks. A detailed work plan includes each goal and objective, followed by specific task assignments in each category. Each task assignment is then assigned to a staff member, volunteer or board member along with target dates for completion. A separate column should list the date the task was completed. The timeline and work plan should be reviewed and updated regularly. Appendix #7 is a sample Work Plan and Timeline.

Since most coalitions have limited paid staff, organize committees and assign coalition members to chair committees based on the goals of the strategic plan. Each committee can develop a work plan and time line in their goal area and report back on progress to the full coalition. This will increase the buy-in and support for the strategic plan as well as spreading the workload.


Conducting a comprehensive needs assessment and developing a needs-based strategic plan is the only way a coalition/organization can truly be effective in reducing underage drinking in both the short and long-term. Implementing a series of activities without knowing whether they will be effective is a waste of time and resources. It will not accomplish the ultimate goal of reducing underage drinking and its dangerous consequences. Examining the problem and then developing solutions that actually address the problem is the right path to success.


Appendix 1 — Community Self-Assessment Package

The following documents are designed to assist communities in determining the nature and extent of their underage drinking problem. This self-assessment should be completed as part of a comprehensive needs assessment, which will be used in the development of a strategic action plan.

These key areas reflect the elements of a comprehensive underage drinking prevention project, which will enable a community to develop a strategic plan that positively addresses the problem of underage drinking in both the short- and long-term.


Attached is a listing of the various data elements, which the coalition/organization should attempt to collect. If data is not available or is very difficult to obtain, the coalition should indicate this fact and discuss whether collection of the data should be included in the strategic plan.


Attached area series of questionnaires reflecting the key elements of a comprehensive plan:

Respondents should answer these questions as best they can and indicate where the information was obtained (data, surveys, focus groups, personal opinion).

By developing goals, objectives and action steps in these key areas, coalitions can begin the process of environmental change regarding the policies, programs and procedures that affect a community’s attitude and behavior toward underage drinking.


PDF — Data Checklist

The following is a comprehensive list of all possible data sources. The more information that can be gathered, the more comprehensive the needs assessment. However, if the data is unavailable or difficult to obtain, indicate that fact and move on to other questions. Consider collecting the data as part of a strategic plan at a later date. Distribute the checklist to members of the coalition/organization or key members of the community and request their assistance.

A. Demographics

1. Population

Total population of city/county/area (circle one) _________________

Don’t know/unavailable _________________

2. Ethnic breakdown (by %)

White _________________

African American _________________

Hispanic _________________

Asian _________________

Native American _________________

Other _________________

Don’t know/unavailable _________________

3. Under 21 youth

Number of youth (ages 0-14, 15-20) _________________

% of the total population _________________

Don’t know/unavailable _________________

Source: Census Bureau (Census data is available in any public library or can be obtained via the Internet at www.census.gov)

4. The number of licensed drivers who are under 21 and what percentage of the total number oflicensed drivers they represent.

Number of licensed drivers under 21 _________________

% of total licensed drivers _________________

Don’t know/unavailable _________________

Source: State motor vehicle licensing agencies

B. Highway safety data

1. Drinking and driving

Number of zero tolerance citations _________________

Number of underage DWI/DUI arrests _________________

Number of underage DWI/DUI convictions _________________

% of total DWI/DUI arrests _________________

% of total DWI/DUI convictions _________________

Don’t know/unavailable _________________

Source: Police departments, state highway safety agencies, courts

2. Motor vehicle alcohol-related crashes

Number of underage alcohol-related crashes __________________

% of total alcohol-related crashes __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: Police departments, state highway safety agencies

3. Motor vehicle alcohol-related injuries

Number of underage alcohol-related injuries __________________

% of total alcohol-related injuries __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: Police departments, state highway safety agencies, hospital emergency rooms, health departments

4. Motor vehicle alcohol-related fatalities

Number of underage alcohol-related fatalities __________________

% of total alcohol-related fatalities __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: Police departments, state highway safety agencies, hospital emergency rooms, health departments

5. Driver license suspensions/revocations for underage consumption, purchase or possession

Number of license suspensions for alcohol-related motor vehicle offenses _________________

Number of license revocations for alcohol-related motor vehicle offenses _________________

| Don’t know/unavailable _________________

Source: State motor vehicle departments/agencies, provided the state’s underage drinking laws include a licensing action.

C. Liquor Law Violations

Liquor law violations, which may be referred to by another name, indicate any acts committed by an underage youth or an adult in violation of the state’s and/or locality’s liquor laws and regulations.

Citations for underage attempts to purchase __________________

Citations for underage purchase __________________

Citations for underage possession __________________

Citations for underage consumption __________________

Citations for underage possession or use of a fake ID __________________

Citations for adult purchase for and/or providing alcohol to a minor __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: Police departments, state alcohol beverage control agencies, courts

D. Alcohol Sales

Includes retail liquor establishments, restaurants, bars or any other licensed alcohol venue that sells alcohol to a minor.

Number of sales to minors __________________

Number of license suspensions for sales to minors __________________

Number of license revocations for sales to minors __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: Police departments, state alcohol beverage control agencies

Number of retail outlets __________________

Number of alcohol beverage control agents/inspectors/police officers __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: State alcohol beverage control agencies

E. School Data

Number of alcohol-related suspensions, expulsions and other events __________________

Number of alcohol-related incidents of vandalism and campus disruptions __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: School systems, colleges and universities, campus and local police departments

F. Criminal Justice Data

Number of parties to which police were called because of underage drinking __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: Police departments

Underage alcohol involvement in cases involving

Vandalism, property damage, rape, robbery, assault, murder, etc. __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: Courts, juvenile services, police departments including any campus police departments, probation and parole, hospitals, health departments

Alcohol-related incidents on college campuses including

Rapes, robberies, assaults, property damage, etc. __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: Colleges and universities, hospitals, health departments

G. Injuries and Deaths Involving Alcohol (except those involving motor vehicles)

Recreational injuries or death where alcohol was a factor.

Swimming __________________

Boating __________________

Climbing __________________

Roller blading, skate boarding __________________

Biking __________________

Walking __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: Hospital emergency rooms, emergency medical systems (EMS), hospital inpatient and discharge data, hospital financial data, police departments

Underage youth alcohol-related emergency room admissions/EMS data __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: Hospital emergency rooms, insurance companies

H. Alcohol Treatment

Number of beds for underage youth __________________

Number of beds filled by underage youth __________________

Number of alcohol-related admissions __________________

Waiting list for admission or other indication of need __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: State alcohol and other drug abuse treatment agencies

I. Prevention Initiatives

Number of parent programs __________________

Number of alcohol-free programs and activities for youth __________________

Number of substance abuse prevention organizations __________________

Number of youth substance abuse prevention organizations (SADD etc) __________________

Don’t know/unavailable __________________

Source: School systems, state substance abuse prevention agencies

J. Youth
Youth behavioral risk survey is available _______________ Yes

Youth behavior and attitude toward alcohol use survey is available _______________ Yes

No surveys available __________________

Source: State Departments of Health, secondary school systems, colleges and universities, and other groups such as PRIDE.


PDF — Enforcement Questionnaire

The following is a list of questions on the nature of underage drinking enforcement in the community. The more information that can be gathered, the more effective the strategic plan. However, if the answer to the question is unknown or difficult to obtain, indicate that fact and move on to other questions. Distribute this checklist to members of the law enforcement community, including alcohol beverage control agencies.

  1. Do you have support of top law enforcement officials for enforcing underage alcohol violations?

  2. What are the underage drinking enforcement programs your law enforcement agencies are currently doing such as compliance checks, Cops In Shops, etc.? Is there information on buy rates, number of citations given, fines/suspensions against retailers? Can the effectiveness of these programs be measured?

  3. What is the attitude of law enforcement to enforcing underage drinking and DWI/DUI laws?

  4. What obstacles does law enforcement face in youth alcohol enforcement?

  5. Is it easy for minors to buy alcohol?

  6. Where do youth obtain their alcohol?

  7. Where does underage drinking occur? Are there specific locations where youth gather to drink?

  8. Out of 10 retailers, how many do you estimate would sell to an underage youth?

  9. Are any law enforcement agencies in your community committed to youth alcohol enforcement in terms of providing manpower, task forces, special training, etc? If so, list the programs.

  10. Which law enforcement agencies work together in the community to enforce underage drinking laws?

  11. Is there one officer from local law enforcement who could take lead in contacting other local law enforcement agencies? Who?

  12. What are the attitudes of prosecutors, judges in your community toward underage drinking? Is there any training for the judiciary with respect to youth alcohol violations?

  13. Do juvenile justice and law enforcement agencies cooperate on underage drinking issues? How?

  14. What is the attitude and policy of alcohol beverage control agencies?

  15. Are there a sufficient number of alcohol beverage control agents and inspectors to regulate establishments that sell alcohol?

  16. Is training available which focuses on effective enforcement of underage drinking laws?


PDF — Prevention Questionnaire

The following is a list of questions on the nature of prevention programs in the community. The more information that can be gathered, the more effective the strategic plan. However, if the answer to the question is unknown or difficult to obtain, indicate that fact and move on to other questions. Distribute this checklist to members of the coalition who work in the prevention field or key members of the community and request their assistance.

  1. What underage drinking prevention programs already exist?

  2. Is there a underage drinking prevention program that is successful? Is there a underage drinking prevention program that is weak?

  3. Are the underage drinking prevention programs evaluated and is that evaluation available?

  4. What institutions, organizations, agencies take primary responsibility for prevention and education programs?

  5. What kinds of alcohol-free activities are available to youth and are they well publicized?

  6. How does the media report incidents involving underage drinking?

  7. Are parents involved in prevention/intervention strategies and education?

  8. Are there prevention programs targeted at adults?

  9. Are there campus-based prevention/intervention policies, programs, and training?

  10. Is there any server/seller training for liquor licensees? Is it mandated?


PDF — Education questionnaire

The following is a list of questions on the nature of education in the community. The more information that can be gathered, the more effective the strategic plan. However, if the answer to the question is unknown or difficult to obtain, indicate that fact and move on to other questions. Distribute this checklist to members of the coalition who work in the education field or key members of the community and request their assistance.

  1. How many high schools are in your community? How many colleges/universities? Are these colleges or universities residential or commuter?

  2. Does the school system have a policy on underage alcohol use and is it enforced?

  3. Are police officers assigned to secondary schools in the community? What is their role?

  4. Are students permitted to leave high schools for lunch? If yes, describe what happens.

  5. Is there a student assistance program? Is there evidence that it is utilized?

  6. What type of alcohol education is conducted in the schools?

  7. Has your public school system adopted a prevention model curriculum? If so, briefly describe or give the name.

  8. Do the universities and colleges have an alcohol policy? Is it widely distributed?

  9. What is law enforcement’s role on university/college campuses?

  10. Are alcohol incidents part of disciplinary programs and are they reported to the police?

  11. Is alcohol served at college/university events?

  12. Do fraternities/sororities provide alcohol at special events? What are the policies?

  13. What emphasis is alcohol given in college freshman orientation sessions?

  14. What is the environment like around college/university campuses, i.e., number of bars, advertising of drink specials, etc.?


PDF — Public Policy Questionnaire

The following is a list of questions on the status of public policy in the community. The more information that can be gathered, the more effective the strategic plan. However, if the answer to the question is unknown or difficult to obtain, indicate that fact and move on to other questions. Distribute this checklist to members of the coalition who work in the public policy field or key members of the community and request their assistance.
  1. What are the state’s and/or locality’s underage drinking laws and regulations? Check the ones which apply:

    ____  Zero tolerance
    ____  Purchase, attempt to purchase
    ____  Possession
    ____  Consumption
    ____  Public Intoxication
    ____  Use/lose (driver license suspensions/revocations for underage use/possession/purchase)
    ____  Drinking and driving
    ____  Adults who provide alcohol to minors
    ____  Sales to minors
    ____  Keg registration
    ____  Graduated licensing
    ____  Fake IDs — making, selling, using

  2. Are youth involved in any public policy initiatives?

  3. What is the state’s and local community’s number one public policy issue involving youth?

  4. How do legislators view the importance of preventing underage drinking?

  5. Does the industry have influence in the way public policy initiatives are decided?

  6. Does the coalition regularly brief policy makers on the underage drinking issue?

  7. Has the coalition ever testified before a federal, state or local government body? If so, which one.

  8. Has your coalition been involved in a public policy victory or defeat? If so, describe.

  9. Are public officials actively involved in your coalition? If so, who are they?

  10. What type of alcohol advertising (other than television) exists in the community, i.e., billboards, mass transit signs, retail establishments, sponsorship of local sporting or entertainment events, etc.?

  11. What are the regulations on getting and keeping a license to sell alcohol?

  12. Is your state a control (state control of liquor sales) or open (retail establishments) with respect to the sale of alcohol?


PDF — Media Questionnaire

The following is a list of questions on media coverage of the underage drinking issue in the community. The more information that can be gathered, the more effective the strategic plan. However, if the answer to the question is unknown or difficult to obtain, indicate that fact and move on to other questions. Distribute this checklist to members of the coalition who work in the media or key members of the community and request their assistance.

  1. Has there been an alcohol-related incident involving underage youth in the past year?

  2. If yes, did this incident receive widespread coverage in the media?

  3. Estimate how many stories have been in the media in the past year that concerned underage drinking?

  4. Does the coalition have a media plan with a complete, updated media list?

  5. Has the coalition ever conducted a media event? If so, was it successful? If it was not successful, what were the lessons learned?

  6. How does the coalition view the media? Is it important or not important?

  7. Does the coalition include members of the media? If yes, what is their role?

  8. Briefly describe what the coalition believes the media would be interested in with respect to the activities of the coalition?

  9. Is the coalition involved in any national media efforts such as the National Youth Anti-Drug Campaign, Partnership for a Drug Free America, Marin Tobacco Initiative? If yes, please give the names.

Appendix 2 — Risk and Protective Factors

PDF — Risk and Protective Factors form

Appendix 3 — Youth Questionnaire on Underage Drinking

PDF — Youth Questionnaire on Underage Drinking

Background Information

1. What was your age on your last birthday

      ___________ < 14    ___________ 18-20

      ___________ 15-17  ___________ 21+

2. What is your sex?

      ___________ Male   ___________ Female

3. What is your race/ethnicity?

      ___________ Asian                       ___________ Hispanic   ___________ Other

      ___________ African-American   ___________ White        ___________ Refused

4. Where do you live

      ______________________________ Name of city/town

      ____________________________________ Name of county

Use of Alcohol

5. Have you ever had alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, wine coolers or liquor?

      ___________ Yes

     No (skip to question 18)

6. About how old were you the first time you drank alcohol, not counting sips you might have had as child from an older person’s drink?

      ___________ years old

7. How often do you drink alcohol?

     ___________ At least once a week   ___________ At least once a month

     ___________ Less than once a month

8. Do you ever have five or more drinks of alcohol at a time?

      ___________ Yes   ___________ No

9. If “Yes,” have you done this in the last month?

      ___________ Yes   ___________ No

10. “Have you ever.... ?” (Check all that apply)

      ___________ Been absent from school because you used alcohol

      ___________ Been drunk at school

      ___________ Done poorly in school because you used alcohol

      ___________ Had family problems because you used alcohol

      ___________ Been arrested because you used alcohol

      ___________ Driven under the influence of alcohol

      ___________ Been a passenger in a vehicle in which the driver
                             was under the influence of alcohol

      ___________ Been drunk at a party

      ___________ Had an injury because you used alcohol.

11. Do your parents permit you to drink alcohol in your home?

      ___________ Never                                    ___________ On special occasions only

      ___________ Under parental supervision   ___________ Any time I want to

12. Do you discuss alcohol use with your parent(s)?

      ___________ Yes   ___________ No

13. Do your parents know how much you drink?

      ___________ Yes   ___________ No

14. Have your parents ever seen you drunk?

      ___________ Yes   ___________ No

15. Do you know of parents or adults who permit non-family members under the age of 21 to consume alcohol in their homes?

      ___________ Yes   ___________No

16. How many times in the last two months has someone offered to give you, buy for you, or sell you alcohol?

      ___________ None         ___________ Once

     ___________ 2-3 times   ___________ 4 or more times

17. Have you successfully used a fake ID to obtain alcohol?

      ___________ Yes   ___________ No

18. Have you ever purchased alcohol without an ID?

      ___________ Yes   ___________ No

Perception of Alcohol Use by Other People

19. Most people my age who drink, do so because… (Check all that apply)

      ___________ They want to have a good time at a party

     ___________ They are sad or depressed and want to feel better about themselves

     ___________ They wish to rebel and defy their parents, teachers and other adult authorities

     ___________ They wish to fit in or be accepted by their friends or peers

     ___________ They are bored

20. Do you think alcohol use by underage youth is a...

      ___________ Serious problem  ___________Not at all a problem  

      ___________Minor problem

21. Within the past year, do you think heavy use of alcohol among people your age has..

      ___________ Increased    ___________ Decreased    

      ___________ Stayed the same

22. Who is responsible for contributing to the problem of alcohol use by youth under age 21?

      (Check all that apply)

     ___________ Parents

     ___________ Public agencies

     ___________ Alcohol outlets, such as liquor stores, bars and restaurants

     ___________ Advertising

     ___________ Youth themselves

     ___________ Other (write in)

     ___________ Don’t know

23. Do you think drinking and driving among youth is a…

      ___________ Serious problem    ___________ Minor problem

     ___________ Not at all a problem

24. Do you know someone with an alcohol problem?

      ___________ Yes   ___________ No

25. If the response to question 24 was “Yes,” what was their relationship to you?

      ___________ Relative    ___________ Non-relative (e.g., friend or acquaintance)

26. Where is the primary source where people under the age of 21 obtain alcohol? (Select only one)

      ___________ Parent’s home      ___________ Liquor store

     ___________ Bar/restaurant       ___________ Grocery/convenience store

     ___________ Friends/relatives   ___________ Other

27. Which of the following approaches would you support to decrease alcohol use by youth under the legal drinking age of 21? (Check all that apply)

      ___________ New and/or stiffer penalties

     ___________ More law enforcement

     ___________ More alcohol education in schools

     ___________ More alcohol education in the mass media (TV, radio, magazines)

     ___________ Alcohol-free teen night clubs

     ___________ Public presentations by people who have been seriously hurt or impaired by alcohol abuse

     ___________ Driver’s license suspension for youth who drink alcohol

     ___________ Ban on alcohol advertising

Appendix 4 — Market survey or Adult Questionnaire on Inderage Drinking

PDF — Market survey or Adult Questionnaire on Inderage Drinking

1. What was your age on your last birthday?

      ___________ < 14     ___________ 21-29    ___________ 50-59

     ___________ 15-17   ___________ 30-39    ___________ 60+

     ___________ 18-20   ___________ 40-49    ___________ No response

2. What is your sex?

      ___________ Male  ___________ Female

3. What is your race/ethnicity?

      ___________ Asian    ___________ Hispanic                 ___________ Other

     ___________ White   ___________ African-American   ___________ Refused

4. In 1999, what was your household income?

      ___________<$5,000                 ___________ $40,000-$49,999    ___________ $100,000 +

     ___________$5,000-$19,999     ___________ $50,000-$59,999    ___________ No response

     ___________$20,000-$39,999   ___________ $60,000-$99,999

5. Where do you live?

      _________________________________ Name of city/town

     __________________________________ Name of county

6. If you are a parent, what is your child or children’s age(s)?

      __________ <14      ___________ 21+

     __________ 15-17   ___________ None

     __________ 18-20

7. The current legal drinking age in the U.S. is age 21. Do you think...

      __________This is the right age ___________ Do not know

     __________The age should be lowered to 18 ___________ No response

8. Do you think alcohol use by minors is a...

      ___________ Serious problem    ___________ Minor problem  ___________ Do not know

     ___________ Somewhat serious ___________ Not a problem

9. Do you know youths under the age of 21 who use alcohol?

      ___________ Yes ___________ No

10. Do you know someone with an alcohol problem?

      ___________ Yes ___________ No

10A. If the response to question 10 was “Yes,” what is their relationship to you?

      ___________ Relative         ___________ Both

     ___________ Non-relative  ___________ No response

11. Do you know someone who has been killed or injured in a drunk driving crash?

      ___________ Yes    ___________ No

12. Do you know someone who has been arrested for drunk or impaired driving?

      ___________ Yes    ___________ No

13. Do you know of parents or adults who permit youths under the age of 21 to consume alcohol in their homes?

      ___________ Yes    ___________ No    ___________ Do not know

14. Do you know if your child(ren) has consumed alcohol in the last 30 days?

      ___________ Yes    ___________ No

15. Do you talk to your child(ren) about alcohol?

      ___________ Yes    ___________ No

16. Which of these is the primary source where minors under the age of 21 obtain alcohol?

      ___________ Parent’s home  ___________ Grocery/Convenience store

     ___________ Liquor store     ___________ Friends

     ___________ Bar/Restaurant ___________ Other

17. Under what circumstances is it acceptable for an adult to provide alcohol to minors under age 21?

      ___________ Holidays ___________ Never ___________Other

     ___________ Special occasions ___________ At meals

18. What forms of advertising do you think influence alcohol use among minors under age 21?

      ___________ Television ___________ Music ___________ Bus signs

     ___________ Magazines ___________ Billboards

19. Does your school have an alcohol policy?

      ___________ Yes ___________ No ___________ Do not know

20. If you were aware of a minor under the age of 21 who was consuming alcohol, what would you do?

      ___________ Talk with parents of minor              ___________ Contact school officials

     ___________ Speak to minor who was drinking  ___________ Do nothing

     ___________ Talk to friends of minor                  ___________ Other

21. What do you think prevents society from eliminating alcohol use among minors under age 21?

      ___________ Acceptance by society  ___________ Lack of education/school

     ___________ Parental attitude            ___________ Lack of enforcement

     ___________ Peer pressure                ___________ Other

     ___________ Alcohol advertising

22. Are there resources available in your community that address alcohol use among minors under age 21?

      ___________ Yes    ___________No

22A. If the response to question 22 was “Yes,” then what resources are available?

      ___________ Community-based prevention programs  ___________Law enforcement

     ___________ School-based prevention programs          ___________Parent groups

     ___________ Alcohol server/seller training                    ___________Student/youth groups


23. Would you favor new and/or stiffer penalties for...

      ___________ Parents who serve alcohol to minors under the age of 21?

     ___________ Peers over 21 who purchase alcohol for youth under the age of 21?

     ___________ Bars/restaurants/liquor stores that sell to minors under age 21?

24. Do you favor driver’s license suspension or revocation for minors under age 21 who violate underage drinking laws?

      ___________ Yes    ___________ No    ___________Do not know

25. What government agencies should be involved in solving this problem?

      ___________ Youth service agencies                    ___________ Police departments

     ___________ Health & human service agencies   ___________ Courts

     ___________ School systems                               ___________ Other

26. Select the possible solution(s) that would be effective to combat underage drinking in your community?

      ___________ Tag beer kegs with ID of purchaser

     ___________ 800-number for citizens to report stores that sell to minors

     ___________ Server/seller training programs for places that sell alcohol

     ___________ A public awareness campaign

27. Are there programs in your community that address the issue of underage drinking? (Please specify)




Appendix 5 — Focus/Discussion Group Questions

PDF — Focus/Discussion Group Questions

1. Is underage drinking a serious problem in (name of the community/town/county)?

If yes, why?

If no, why?


Does anyone know or come in contact with underage youth that drink?

Has there been an alcohol-related incident (crash, death, injury) involving an underage youth?

2. Do all youth engage in underage drinking or is it just a few?


Is underage drinking more of a problem for some young people than others?

Is underage drinking just a common right of passage?

3. What do you think causes underage drinking?


Is it the fault of parents?

Is it the youth?

4. Does the community send mixed messages to youth about underage drinking?


Is there a lot of outdoor alcohol advertising?

Do adults permit underage drinking?

5. What are the barriers to solving the problem of underage drinking?


Who or what would stand in the way of effective solutions?

What prevents the problem from being solved now?

6. What are your suggestions for solving the problem of underage drinking?


Should there be more education in the schools?

Should there be stricter enforcement?

7. What do you think your agency/organization/institution’s role is in addressing the problem of underage drinking?


What kinds of programs or activities does your agency/organization/institution do for youth?

Does our agency/organization/institution pay enough attention to the problem of underage drinking?

Appendix 6 — Strategic Plan Worksheet

PDF — Strategic Plan Worksheet


(Brief statement on why group was formed, what problems group is trying to address, how the group intends to solve the problem and goal for the future).



GOALS (Broad, general statements describing what the project or groups want to accomplish.)

Enforcement Goal



Objective #1 (Ways in which group or project wants to accomplish its goal.)



Action Steps/Activities (Specific steps group/project will take to accomplish objective.)

Objective #2 (Ways in which group or project wants to accomplish its goal.)


Action Steps/Activities (Specific steps group/project will take to accomplish objective.)


Public Policy Goal



Objective #1 (Ways in which group or project wants to accomplish its goal.)


Action Steps/Activities (Specific steps group/project will take to accomplish objective.)

Objective #2 (Ways in which group or project wants to accomplish its goal.)


Action Steps/Activities (Specific steps group/project will take to accomplish objective.)

Prevention/Education Goal



Objective #1 (Ways in which group or project wants to accomplish its goal.)


Action Steps/Activities (Specific steps group/project will take to accomplish objective.)

Objective #2 (Ways in which group or project wants to accomplish its goal.)


Action Steps/Activities (Specific steps group/project will take to accomplish objective.)





Appendix 7 — Workplan and Time, Underage Drinking Prevention Project

PDF — Workplan and Time Form



Resources Cited In Community How To Guide

American Probation and Parole Association
Juvenile Holdover Programs
P.O. Box 11910
Lexington, KY 40578
Fax: 606-244-8001
Web site: http://www.appa-net.org

Day of Discovery
Spotsylvania Juvenile Court
9113 Courthouse Road
P.O. Box 157
Spotsylvania, VA 22553
Fax: 540-582-2029

Drawing the Line on Underage Alcohol Use
Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services
8630 Fenton Street, 10th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Web site: http://www.co.mo.md.us/services/hhs/ pubhlth/dtl/dtl.html
E-mail: nancy.rea@co.mo.md.us

Maryland Underage Drinking Prevention Coalition
Executive Director
Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention
300 East Joppa Road, Suite 1105
Baltimore, MD 21286-3016
Fax: 410-321-3116
Web site: http://www.cesear.umd.edu/goccp/drinking/drinking.htm

Mothers Against Drunk Driving
511 East John Carpenter Freeway, Suite 700
Irving, TX 75062
Web site: http://www.madd.org

National Association of Governors’ Highway Safety Representatives
750 First Street, NE, Suite 720
Washington, DC 20002
Fax 202-789-0946
Web site: http://www.naghsr.org/uddp

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI)
Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
P.O. Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20747-2345
Web site: http://www.health.org

National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances (NCUTLO)
107 South West Street, Suite 110
Alexandria, VA 22314
Fax: 540-465-5383
Web site: http://www.ncutlo.org

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
6000 Executive Boulevard, Suite 409
Bethesda, MD 20892-7003
Web site: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Traffic Safety Programs
“TEAMSpirit” Youth Conference Guide
400 Seventh St., SW
Washington, D.C. 20590
Fax: 202-366-2766
Web site: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov

Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention
810 Seventh Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531
Fax: 202-307-2093
Web site: http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org

Project Extra Mile
Executive Director
302 South 36th Street, Suite 214
Omaha, NE 68131
Fax: 402-231-4307
E-mail: driibe@alltel.net

Safe and Sober Youth Coalition
Executive Director
Children at Risk Today
14005 Steeplestone Drive, Suite A
Midlothian, VA 23113
Fax: 804-378-7752

Social Development Research Group (SDRG)
University of Washington
9725 3rd Avenue NE, Suite 401
Seattle, WA 98115-2024
Fax: 206-543-4507
Web site: http://www.sdrg@u.washington.edu

“Thomas” at the Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20540
Web site: http://thomas.loc.gov

Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center
Guide to Conducting Youth Surveys
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
11140 Rockville Pike, 6th Floor
Rockville, MD 20852
Fax: 301-984-6559
Web site: http://www.pire.org/udetc

U.S. Census Bureau
U.S. Department of Commerce
Fax: 301-457-4714
Web site: http://www.census.gov

Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP)
Executive Director
8027 Leesburg Pike, Suite 314
Vienna, VA 22182
Fax: 703-893-0465
Web site: http://www.wrap.org

National Surveys and Data

Youth Fatal Crash & Alcohol Facts
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Traffic Safety Programs (NHTSA)
Impaired Driving Division
400 Seventh St., SW
Washington, D.C. 20590
Fax: 202-366-2766
Web site: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/alcohol/

Each year, the agency publishes Youth Fatal Crash & Alcohol Facts. The figures and data contained in the report focus on alcohol-related fatal crashes involving young people, ages 15 through 20, beginning in 1982. The source of all data contained in the report is from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, National Center For Statistics And Analysis, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other data were derived from the current population surveys of the Bureau of the Census and alcohol consumption data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Monitoring the Future

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 5213
MSC 9561
Bethesda, MD 20892
Web site: http://www.nida.nih.gov
E-mail: MTFinfo@isr.umich.edu
Web site: http://www.MTFweb@isr.umich.edu

Monitoring the Future, begun in 1975, is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults. Each year, a total of some 50,000 8th, 10th and 12th grade students are surveyed (12th graders since 1975, and 8th and 10th graders since 1991). In addition, annual follow-up questionnaires are mailed to a sample of each graduating class for a number of years after their initial participation. The study is funded by research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institutes of Health. MTF is conducted at the Survey Research Center in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Survey results are usually released in December.

Youth Risk Behavioral Survey
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Division of Adolescent Health and School Health’s Information Service
P.O. Box 9017
Silver Spring, MD 20907
Fax: 888-282-7681
Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs

The Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (YRBS) is a national school-based survey conducted biennially to assess the prevalence of health risk behaviors among high school students. The YRBS focuses on priority health-risk behaviors established during youth that result in the most significant mortality, morbidity, disability, and social problems during both youth and adulthood. These include: behaviors that result in unintentional and intentional injuries, tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use; sexual behaviors that result in HIV infection, other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), and unintended pregnancies; dietary behaviors, and physical activity. Results from YRBS are used by CDC to monitor how priority health-risk behaviors among high school students (grades 9-12) increase, decrease, or remain the same over time; evaluate the impact of broad national, state, and local efforts to prevent priority health-risk behaviors, and monitor progress in achieving relevant national health objectives for the year 2000.

College Alcohol Study
Harvard School of Public Health
Department of Health & Social Behavior
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
E-mail: cfinn@hsph.harvard.edu
Web site: www.hsph.harvard.edu/cas

The Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS) is an ongoing survey of 15,000 students at 140 four-year colleges in 40 states. It was the first study to use the term “binge drinking” to describe the pattern of heavy episodic alcohol use that is characteristic of many college students. It was also the first to identify the “second-hand effects” of binge drinking— those problems suffered by other, non-binging students. The study examines important issues in college alcohol abuse, including the role of fraternities and sororities and of athletics, the special situation of freshmen, the influence of student drinking norms on behavior, and the role that availability and price play. The College Alcohol Study has now surveyed different random samples of students at the same four-year colleges three times: in 1993, 1997, and in 1999. Results of the College Alcohol Study are usually available in March. The Harvard College Alcohol Study web site has additional information including “What Colleges Are Doing About Student Binge Drinking – A Survey of College Administrators.”

PRIDE Surveys
166 St. Charles Street
Bowling Green, KY 42101
Fax: 270-746-9598
Web site: http://www.pridesurveys.com

Founded in 1977, PRIDE (Parents’ Resource Institute for Drug Education), is the largest and oldest organization in the nation devoted to drug- and violence-free youth. Since 1982 PRIDE Surveys have been used by over 6400 school systems. The surveys are a used a measure of effectiveness of the White House drug strategy and required for organizations receiving Department of Education funding. PRIDE surveys are conducted during the school year to assess adolescent drug and violence problems and represent data from sixth through twelfth grade students. Schools that administer the PRIDE questionnaire do so voluntarily, or in compliance with a school district or state request. They receive explicit instructions for administering the anonymous, self-report instrument. Results of the PRIDE Survey are generally consistent with the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF) and are usually released in September.

Other Needs Assessment/Strategic Planning Resources

How Do We Know We Are Making A Difference?
A Community Substance Abuse Indicators Handbook”
Join Together
441 Stuart St., 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02116.
Fax: 617-437-9394.
Web site: http://www.jointogether.org

Written to assist community coalitions and other groups fighting substance abuse, the book is a guide to help communities develop indicators that describe the scope and nature of local substance abuse problems. The book provides basic information on a menu of 20 substance abuse indicators and guides community leaders to data to start a study. Indicators are divided among five primary topic areas: Availability/Environment; Use; Prevention/Treatment Activities; Enforcement/Regulation Activities; Harm. It also outlines some important use and interpretation issues and contains state and local directories and data references.

The Board’s Role in Strategic Planning
by Kay Sprinkel Grace
National Center for Non-profit Boards
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20036-4907
202-452-6262 800-883-6262
Fax: 202-452-6299
Web site: http://www.ncnb.org

This booklet discusses the importance of strategic planning and why boards should play an integral roll in the planning process. It includes an example of a strategic planning system and a plan it produced.

Best Practices of Effective Non-Profit Organizations: A Practitioner’s Guide
The Foundation Center
79 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003-3076
Web site: http://www.fdncenter.org

Topics include defining purposes and goals, adhering to missions, obtaining and retaining high quality volunteers and staff, creating comprehensive financing plans, responding to change by adjusting services and operations, evaluating services to assess effectiveness, and communicating goals both internally and externally.

Creating and Implementing Your Strategic Plan: A Workbook for Public and Nonprofit Organizations
by John M. Bryson and Farnum K. Alston
Jossey-Bass Publishers
350 Sansome Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
888-378-2537 800-956-7739
Web site: http://www.josseybass.com

A step-by-step guide to conducting strategic planning, with worksheets that take participants through each phase of the process. It includes guidelines for brainstorming sessions.

The Data-Smart Manual. Use and Analysis of Data for Local Highway and Traffic Safety Programs, January 1999
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Research and Development Office
400 Seventh St., SW
Washington, D.C. 20590
202-366-6616 or 202-366-9588
Web site: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov

The Data-Smart Manual uses an “internet-like” approach to present information about data. The first section lists twelve questions that every program needs to address along with the type of data, data concepts, and analytical methods that are relevant to answering the questions. The second section describes the commonly used data sources, explains the advantages of data linkage, and provides guidance on obtaining, organizing, analyzing, and presenting data. Instructions are included for calculating various statistical measures that can be used to summarize the data. The third section focuses on expanding data capabilities and ongoing improvement of program data.

Leonard Communications
15713 Cherry Blossom Lane
North Potomac, MD 20878
Fax: 301-948-3736
E-mail: trina@erols.com

PMB Communications
1114 North Illinois Street
Arlington, VA 22205
Fax: 703-237-8831
E-mail: PMBEER@worldnet.att.net

Successful Strategic Planning: A Guide for Nonprofit Agencies and Organizations
by Patrick J. Burkhardt and Suzanne Reuss
Sage Publications
2455 Teller Road
Newberry Park, CA 91320
Fax: 805-499-0871
Web site: www.sagepub.com

This guide is for small to medium sized organizations. It includes information on organizational problems that signal the need for improved planning, internal and external assessments, and how to put a strategic plan into operation and evaluate it. It provides examples and exercises in a workbook format.

DOT HS 809 209
March 2001

Logos of the sponsoring organizations: NHTSA, Zero Tolerance, NAGHSR, and Safe Communities