August 11, 2011
A nonprofit SWOT analysis may seem simple, but it packs a powerful punch that can help you take your strategic plan or marketing plan to the next level. Don’t avoid SWOT analysis because it requires you to ask the hard questions and face problems within your organization. It will make your operations and marketing more effective and arm you with the next steps you need to take.
SWOT analyses are better done in groups, as the communication and interaction far outweigh the chance for conflict. And to help avoid uncomfortable moments, there are a few ground rules that you should follow for the meeting:
If a meeting with your staff and/or board members isn’t possible, try sending out an e-mail with a request for people to participate in a survey. But try to stick to the above rules—people can get even more out of hand if they don’t have to meet in person.
If you are meeting in person, you’ll be making a lot of lists. Find a way to display the lists so everyone can see. A computer hooked to a projector, large sheets of adhesive paper, or an old-school overhead projector work well.
Create a list of any of your organization’s internal strengths that the group can think of. Write down every idea, since you’ll be narrowing down the list later. To help you get started, here are some examples:
Next, create a list of list of internal weaknesses. Some examples:
Strengths can also be weaknesses—for instance, a long-tenured staff may have a lot of experience, but they may be too comfortable, set in their ways, or have stale ideas.
Now for the “external” factors. Opportunities are the thing your organization has no control over, but could potentially take advantage of. Examples for opportunities may include:
Try to think outside of the box on these. Your ability to see opportunities coming and take advantage of them could mean the difference between a down year and an up year. Or an up year and a really up year.
Next, we’re looking for the opposite idea: what external threats exist that could harm your nonprofit? The recent event that might be at the top of your list is the economic downturn. Here are some other examples:
Now that you’ve finished your nonprofit’s SWOT analysis, you can use it as a reference during each step of creating your nonprofit marketing plan or strategic plan. As you move forward, look at your strengths and opportunities and try to match them up so your organization is taking the path of least resistance in your marketing.
And remember that your weaknesses and threats can be converted into strengths and opportunities by looking at them differently. Can you frame your loss of government funding as an opportunity for major donors to step up? Or maybe you can take your bad website and make it into something you’re truly proud of and that the community, your volunteers and donors enjoy visiting.
What has been your experience with doing a SWOT analysis for your nonprofit organization?