A SWOT analysis is a basic yet highly underrated tool that can help you analyze your organization while also benefiting your strategic plan and marketing campaigns. Standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats a SWOT analysis is a tool to help evaluate the internal and external factors that affect your NPO.
This may seem like obvious information but when done correctly and thoroughly it can be used to your advantage by figuring out what factors you want to maximize or offset in your organization. Think of it as a report card, it has to be an honest evaluation and used as a guide on how to do better in the future.
Dig deep, don’t be too vague. Try to get different perspectives on each topic. This is especially impotent for new nonprofits in order to help establish your mission and core ideas.
SWOT: What Does it Mean for a NPO?
Your strengths are your advantages, what do you do that gives you an edge in fulfilling your mission? It could be that you have a strong funding strategy, an internal donation source, good leadership or a really powerful message backed by a lot of support.
Discover your weaknesses so you can turn them into strengths. By pinpointing your weaknesses you are then able to develop strategies to improve on them. Some organizations are hesitant to talk about what they aren’t good at, but by confronting these issues you can only get better.
As the leader of an organization you want to take advantage of opportunities in your community. Look for areas that you know are in need of the services that your NPO offers. Opportunities can also be in marketing or events that promote the mission of your nonprofit. For example, if you are holding a big gala approach local restaurants to see if they are willing to donate catering in exchange for ad space on your website.
Threats are anything that stands in the way of your organization’s success. This can include laws, regulations and strong competition. Most of the time, threats come from external sources but they can sometimes be internal as well. For example, a disagreement between your board of directors on how to spend funds can divide your whole team.
This becomes a threat because it can create a tense work environment and stall progress, ultimately taking away attention from your NPO’s mission. It’s crucial to address any threats you have to your nonprofit to prevent your cause from being disrupted.
How to Get the Most From Your SWOT Analysis
Before coming together as a team, have each person do their own SWOT. It will help generate more authentic ideas and ultimately lead to a more productive discussion. Download our free NPO SWOT Analysis template to help you!
Don’t Be General
You have to be specific. If you identify fundraising as one of your strengths, expand on why that is. Is there a specific fundraising model that you do really well? Is it because you’ve built a strong connection to your funders? Dig deep into the "why” and "how” for the points that you make.
Find the Cause of the Strength/Weakness
Identifying a weakness is only part of the solution, you have to figure out why it’s an issue and how you can improve on it in the future. If you are having trouble scheduling all your volunteers you might want to look into management software (like Donor Engine!) to help keep track of everyone's schedule. Get to the core of the problem so you can figure out how to fix it.
Dealing with Discrepancies
Each member of your team will have different thoughts and opinions and that may lead to disagreements when completing your analysis. Maybe one person views a trait as a weakness rather than an opportunity. When this happens have a discussion, and get to the bottom of what is most important to your organization to help decide where that trait truely belongs.
Put Your Analysis to Action
The SWOT analysis is only a tool to help your organization come up with a strategy for improvement. After comparing all of your traits, use the analysis to help with your strategic planning. Capitalize on what you do best and minimize your weaknesses.
It might be helpful to create a list of "Next Steps” to clearly layout what to do moving forward. Keep in mind no analysis tool is perfect, they are made to be generic. However, by diving deep and focusing on factors that are very specific to your NPO, you will get the most out of your SWOT analysis to help move your organization forward.