The Mersky, Jaffe & Associates’ Situation Analysis

Nonprofit Situation analysis imageIn this month’s companion article, Strategic Planning on a Continual Basis, we advocate setting up systems to evaluate your organization on a regular basis. This article will help you consider what you can look for in a SWOT analysis.

Those of you who have done any for-profit business training or have extensive business experience know the basic drill. Determine the strengths, weaknesses internal to the organization, opportunities and threats in the environment in which the enterprise functions. In fact, almost any board, I would guess, has someone who has performed a SWOT analysis in a different circumstance. Now the challenge is to find someone with the experience to commit the time and energy to complete the analysis. (A self-promotional plug — Mersky, Jaffe & Associates does facilitate SWOT analyses.)

Situation analysis overview: internal and external.
An internal analysis helps you plan for the future by giving you an accurate picture of how the organization operates right now. It can reveal trends, irregularities, limitations, and opportunities. To perform an internal analysis, gather information about the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, services, programs, activities, staffing, and finances. One way to do so is to get input from key constituents (e.g., clients, staff, donors, funders and volunteers).

An external analysis helps you understand how the organization is perceived and what societal factors may affect its future. External factors that influence your organization are the economic environment, demographic trends, social factors, technology changes, competition, politics, regulatory factors, and public opinion.

What Mersky, Jaffe & Associates has learned via situation analysis
While many parts of your organization are unique, there are some most common findings that continue to emerge.

Strengths: This one seems relatively intuitive. The most common strengths are staff, volunteer leadership, location and facilities.

Weaknesses include: an aging donor base, lack of mission focus, sub-par leadership – professional and/or volunteer as well as location.

Opportunities: are what you make of them, or so the saying goes. When analyzing the most recent cases we have managed, some of the potential uncovered by the analyses included: the possibility of combining an annual fund with a capital campaign, a change in the governance system to apply best practices in leadership development and board recruitment, and a location move, merger or strategic alliance.

Threats: when examined in a planning process, are useful in understanding the environment and hopefully, to avert unnecessary stumbling blocks. Recently, some of the common findings include: perceived economic/geo-political conditions, competition from comparable enterprises and the aforementioned aging communities.

Now, the only question is, where do you fit in—what would a SWOT analysis of your agency look like?