Tag Archives: SWOT

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?

Do You Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

strong vs weak nonprofit perception imageOr more importantly, do you know your actual strengths and weaknesses vs. what is perceived
by those outside your organization? And, which is more important to your planning process – your “reality” or their perception?

In fact, it is never “either/or” but always “both/and.” A board member who perceives an administrative problem that isn’t there will be just as troubling as realizing that the new development director has no capacity to relate to donors.

Internal Organizational Assessment
Determining your organization’s perspective is relatively straightforward.

1. Create a list of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses for each facet of your agency.
2. Rank the strengths and weaknesses in priority order.
3. Provide your staff and leadership with a form and ask them to follow suit—assuring confidentiality.
4. Compile the information from all the sources.
5. Organize a meeting of your staff and leadership to analyze the findings.
6. Use the information to help you develop your strategic plan.

Too daunting? Try holding one-on-one meetings with your leadership and take good notes. Your listening abilities are essential throughout this process.

Asking Around Yet?
How do you learn about your competitive position—the community’s perceptions? Ask. Ask what the person thinks about the organization every time you make a call to thank someone for a donation. Every time you speak with a board member or donor. Every time you are face-to-face with volunteers, members, clients, vendors, prospects or people “on the street.” A few extra minutes – really only a few– will create the perception, if not the reality, that you care about the organization, the people involved at every level and what they think about your agency.

Is Asking Enough?
No. You must, must, must listen. If you have yet to learn this skill, make this a priority of both your short- and long-term goals. Make this a priority for everyone in the organization. This may be the most under-rated skill in nonprofit management—in life, even.

Your development staff should listen to donors. Your program committee should listen to event attendees as well as those who declined. Your board should listen to your findings. You get the idea.

Start Now
Pick up the phone and make one of those calls about which you have been procrastinating. You know, the thank you call to a donor or your colleague at the nonprofit that you might work with to further a project. Almost anyone who has or wants to have a connection with your organization will work for this purpose. After you state the purpose of your call and the initial subject is discussed, ask the person what he/she thinks of the organization and listen. Don’t think about how you are going to respond to the criticisms – you can always say something general like, “thank you so much, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I hope we can continue this dialogue soon.” Just listen and take notes.

What you do with the findings with respect to your strengths and weaknesses, well that could be a topic for another article, but how about considering reshaping your message or your strategic vision. For more ideas or help with any part of the process, click here to contact David Mersky or Michael Jaffe. We will be happy to provide you with a free telephone consultation.