A SWOT analysis is a vital tool for nonprofit organizations that can help them leverage their strengths and build resiliency. In this article, you will be provided with a broad overview of a SWOT analysis, how to utilize this tool, and several nonprofit SWOT analysis templates to help you get started.
Who is this template for?
This template is for all nonprofit organizations.
What are the main sections covered in this template?
SWOT analysis template for nonprofits that contains guidelines and best practices.
Understanding your nonprofit’s strengths and weaknesses and anticipating potential threats and opportunities can help position your organization for success over the long term.
The best way to identify these elements is through a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is a vital tool for nonprofit organizations that can help them leverage their strengths and build resiliency. This article will provide you with a broad overview of a SWOT analysis, how to utilize this tool, and several nonprofit SWOT analysis templates to help you get started.
Let’s dive in!
What Is a SWOT Analysis?
A SWOT analysis (or sometimes referred to as a SWOT matrix) is a powerful tool that nonprofit organizations, businesses, or enterprises can utilize to identify challenges and determine how to best leverage strengths to position themselves for growth and success.
SWOT is an acronym that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. An effective SWOT analysis can help you determine how to best achieve your objectives and how to prepare for potential crises that may arise.
A SWOT analysis for nonprofit organizations should not just be a one time undertaking. Best results come from utilizing this tool as often as possible, staying ahead of potential problems and developing a nimble response to internal and external factors that could impede or accelerate your organization’s growth.
SWOT analyses can be broad or narrow—meaning, you can use them as an analysis for your entire organization or a single program or initiative.
For example, nonprofit organizations can use a SWOT analysis to help start a new program, create a fundraising strategy, or develop a strategic plan.
Why Is It Important for Nonprofits to Conduct a SWOT Analysis?
You may be wondering: Why is it important or necessary for my organization to utilize a SWOT matrix?
Let’s take a look at a few ways a SWOT analysis is such an advantageous tool for nonprofit professionals.
A SWOT analysis allows organizations to make strategic decisions based on internal and external factors. It is an effective way for nonprofits to plan for the future while taking into account a variety of scenarios that could bolster or hinder the organization’s progress.
More specifically, a SWOT analysis can help nonprofit organizations decide if it is prudent to pursue a particular initiative or implement a new program. A SWOT analysis makes it easy to evaluate whether the threats outweigh the opportunities for a particular undertaking.
Utilizing a SWOT analysis can also help your organization identify and effectively prepare for challenges that may arise. It always pays to be prepared, and analyzing potential threats allows nonprofits to develop robust plans of action to respond appropriately or choose another course of action entirely to avoid the threat in question.
At its core, a SWOT analysis is a tool built for collaboration.
Essentially, a SWOT analysis is a formal brainstorming session where each major element of the matrix—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats—are discussed and identified. Collaboration and robust participation are essential for an effective SWOT analysis to ensure no issues are left unidentified.
Utilizing a SWOT analysis is a great way to bring employees and partners from across your nonprofit organization together, allowing them to share their expertise and experiences, ultimately contributing to a more comprehensive plan of action that takes into account all the different areas of your organization.
A SWOT analysis is a very accessible planning and assessment tool.
Nonprofit organizations have a variety of diverse stakeholders who take part in key planning processes, so it is valuable to utilize tools that are easy to understand for many different people with different lived experiences.
A SWOT analysis is a simple tool that can be performed by anyone, without requiring any formal training or professional experience. This makes a SWOT analysis perfect for nonprofit organizations that need the input of a diverse body of partners and collaborators.
Using a SWOT analysis can help a wide variety of stakeholders and partners feel more welcome and comfortable throughout the planning process and help encourage participation.
Organizational planning can be costly, requiring the need for contracted partners or experts to assist in developing projects or building out an effective plan of action for your nonprofit.
A SWOT analysis is a highly cost effective measure for your organization.
Due to its accessibility, nonprofit professionals can easily find time to facilitate a SWOT analysis session themselves.
Overall, nonprofit organizations who use a SWOT analysis find that they are better prepared for facing obstacles and also have an easily identifiable plan of action to advance their mission and achieve success over the long-term.
Understanding the Elements of a SWOT Analysis
Now that you understand the fundamental elements of a SWOT analysis, let’s take a closer look at the four key components that make up this assessment tool.
Strengths are the key positive features of your organization or the initiative you are evaluating—features that make your nonprofit first-rate or exceptional. These are the qualities of your organizations that set you apart from other nonprofits in your sector or community or features that would give you an edge in a competitive grant or proposal process.
Identifying strengths can be a challenge. When you are immersed in the work of your organization day in and day out it is sometimes easier to recognize what doesn’t work than to take notice of what does work.
Be sure to engage as many stakeholders as possible when implementing a SWOT analysis. Hearing what works from participants or individuals who engage in your organization’s services can highlight some of your nonprofit’s very best features!
Identifying your organization’s weaknesses is just as important as identifying its strengths.
Maybe your primary weakness is that your organization is understaffed—a common issue that nonprofits throughout the sector are currently grappling with. An inability to recruit and retain quality staff members can lead to deeply serious problems if not faced head on.
Determining what your organization’s weaknesses are is the first step to developing a plan of action that will help remedy these issues and build resiliency so you can make strategic decisions moving forward.
If you are analyzing a program or initiative and the issues you’ve identified far outweigh its strengths, perhaps wait to pursue it in the future or at another opportune moment when you are positioned for success.
Opportunities are external or environmental circumstances that can position your nonprofit for growth and success.
A great example of a common opportunity for a nonprofit organization is a grant opportunity. For example, let’s say that the municipality where your nonprofit is located recently released an RFP that aligns perfectly with your mission and the type of services your nonprofit provides to your community. This is an external opportunity that could potentially lead to new revenue streams.
It is also important to keep up to date on what is currently important to your community or to society at large. Perhaps a celebrity or politician is advocating for the kind of work that your nonprofit engages in. This could provide a great opportunity to engage new audiences or gain new supporters.
Other opportunities could be:
Leveraging new technology to improve service delivery
Threats are external problems, crises, or other issues that could severely hinder or negatively impact your nonprofit. A potential threat could be the sunsetting of a current grant or revenue stream or anticipated changes in politics or the economy.
Sometimes dips in the economy and/or inflation can result in increased operational expenses coupled with overall less giving.
Anticipating and preparing for these types of trends can help you prepare for even the worst catastrophes.
Free Nonprofit SWOT Analysis Templates
By now you may be wondering how to get started on your own SWOT analysis. Below are several nonprofit SWOT analysis examples and nonprofit SWOT analysis templates to help your organization get started.
Hubspot offers a simple, straightforward, and free SWOT analysis template that is downloadable and editable. The template is a standard four square or four quadrant SWOT analysis table with a section for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
This is a great, easy to use option to begin working on a SWOT analysis for your nonprofit organization.
WordStream provides additional tips and tricks on how to develop an effective SWOT analysis. Their pointers can be applied to any organization, project or individual, not just nonprofits. What is really great about WordStream is that they offer a handy template that is editable in google sheets. You can keep or toss out any of the examples they include here as needed.
Creately provides several beautifully designed templates and examples of what a SWOT analysis can look like. Some templates are basic four quadrant designs that you will see quite frequently, while others are very unique and creative.
Use these helpful nonprofit SWOT analysis templates to get started on one for your own organization today!
Tips for Effectively Using a SWOT Analysis to Inform Decision-Making
Here are a couple of helpful tips to ensure your organization’s SWOT analysis is effective.
DON’T limit participation: A SWOT analysis is more effective the more people involved. If the process is closed off to important stakeholders then the analysis will also be missing essential information that could ensure your organization’s success. The more the merrier!
DO be open and honest about the negatives: It can be intimidating to discuss or highlight things that simply don’t work at your nonprofit organization. Remember—it’s not personal. Identifying weaknesses and threats is as important as determining strengths and highlighting opportunities.
DO repeat a SWOT analysis as much as needed: SWOT analyses are most effective when they are iterative. If you started a program 10 years ago and performed a SWOT analysis then it is time to do one once more (or preferably, it would have been done much earlier). As the world around you changes your organization should iterate along with it. A SWOT analysis is one of the best ways to make that happen!
Keep these helpful tips in mind during your own SWOT analysis to stay on track and ensure the assessment leads to long term success and growth for your organization.
Wrapping Up: The Next Steps
A nonprofit SWOT analysis is an effective measure for decision-making and planning for any nonprofit organization. Take the resources and information gained in this article and use it to facilitate an effective SWOT analysis at your own nonprofit organization today!
With the right tools, nonprofits can quickly scale fundraising and programming and take back their time. But, what makes something the “best” tool? And how do you justify an additional expense in a resource-constrained organization? Download this guide to learn more.