WORKSHEET: How To Define And Examine Problems Facing Your Nonprofit

Defining a problem may seem like a simple task. However, what is identified as the problem at hand is often merely a symptom—and getting at the root of it requires intentional, critical reflection. Download this worksheet to get started.



Designed by Nesta as part of the Development & You Toolkit, the “Problem Definition Worksheet” is intended to help nonprofit leaders clarify their mission-driven priorities and focus on how to solve key issues.

Use this tool in partnership with a small group of key stakeholders to identify a problem, examine it from multiple angles, and reframe it.

For example, what happens if you see the people you serve as having capacities, rather than needs? Reframing can produce previously overlooked solutions.

Key Takeaways

This tool is particularly effective for a team that needs to focus and prioritize tasks associated with solving a problem. In the “Problem Definition Worksheet,” you will find:

  • A small set of key criteria by which an issue can be articulated and assessed
  • A standardized way to compare several different problems which may seem to be very different on the surface
  • Five questions you can ask key stakeholders in order to better understand a problem and how to address it
  • Prompts for reframing the problem you initially addressed


Length: 3 pages
Level: Intermediate
Recommendations: Use the “Problem Definition Worksheet” individually or in small teams and reflect on a specific issue, exchanging thoughts while writing down your notes. The objective is to capture, compare, and discuss multiple viewpoints on the problem. The “Problem Definition Worksheet” can be used not only with your team members, but with other stakeholders, such as service users, volunteers, or board members, to explore new or overlooked angles of a problem. You should set aside at least an hour to complete this activity in a group setting.

Get a copy of the “Problem Definition Worksheet” delivered to your inbox now.

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Featured Photo: Orbis Brings Clean Water to Save Sight in Ethiopia by Orbis Ireland
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