How to perform a SWOT analysis

Doing a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis for a charity or non-profit is an essential first step to effective strategic planning and fundraising. It gives a quick scan of the environment.

Here’s a quick summary of the steps and also a downloadable form that you can share with your board of directors.

STEP 1: Get input from multiple perspectives including multiple levels of the organization and even clients and users of your services.

STEP 2: Consider these external factors that will affect your organization:

  • Social trends – such as the birth rate or numbers of older people in the population.
  • Technology – what implications do new technologies have for your organisation and your area of work?
  • Economic trends – what are the local, regional, national and even international trends and situations that can affect your organization? For example, interest rate changes may affect your organisation’s investment income.
  • Political and legal matters  – politics, both local and national, influence the environment in which charities and voluntary organisations of all sizes operate.
  • People’s views – what do the users of your services and products think of your organization?

STEP 3: List all your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

STEP 4: Review the opportunities and threats and rank them and rank them to determine greatest impact. The highest priority opportunities would be those that advance your mission and goals. Those could be growth, profit, sustainability, reputation, awareness or countless other metrics. Threats should be prioritized in terms of the size of the threat and the likelihood of the threat becoming a reality.

STEP 5: Identify strengths that can be leverages to create opportunities and/or combat threats, and weaknesses that must be addressed to avoid disaster.

Take into account your organization’s:

  • Services/activities
  • Buildings
  • Clients/users
  • Staff and volunteers
  • Management (board, CEO etc)
  • Organization and structure
  • Communications
  • Revenue
  • Costs

Here’s a downloadable SWOT analysis process and form that you can use for your organization’s SWOT analysis.

Finding the best allies for your charitable cause

As fundraisers and marketing people for non-profits and charities, we need to continually reach out to find new supporters for our causes, while at the same time practicing the best possible stewardship for the donors and volunteers we currently have.

Recognizing that it takes a lot more money and energy to find a new donor than to take care of an existing one, there is always donor attrition and we need to grow our donor base even just to stand still.

One of the most effective and inexpensive ways to find new supporters is to reach out to strategic allies or partners who will help spread the word for you.

Let’s face it — we don’t have the time or energy to reach out to all the potential partners who are on our list and who might be helpful in our mission. We need to be strategic about who we choose to invest our time and energy in.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talked about “The Law of the Few” and said, “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.” According to Gladwell, economists call this the “80/20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the ‘work’ will be done by 20 percent of the participants.” These people are described in the following 3 ways: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen.

Connectors are the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. A connector is essentially the social equivalent of a computer network hub. They often know people across a wide array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and they make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles. They are people who “link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together.” They are “a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [… for] making friends and acquaintances”. Gladwell characterizes these individuals as having social networks of over one hundred people. Gladwell attributes the social success of Connectors to the fact that “their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.”

Mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information.” They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others. One person wrote, “A Maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his own.” Mavens start “word-of-mouth epidemics” due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate. “Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know.”

Salesmen are “persuaders”, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They tend to have an indefinable trait that goes beyond what they say, which makes others want to agree with them.

As you think about how you’re going to find new supporters for your cause, it’s useful to remember Gladwell’s Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. Think hard about who you can approach and what their roles in your organization can be. Should they be a board member, an honourary spokesperson, an event host or your capital campaign chair? There are lots of possibilities for getting the right people involved in your mission and harnessing the power of word-of-mouth marketing.