Use SWOT Analysis to get a Quick Snapshot of Your Nonprofit

SWOT Analysis is a great tool for what might be called “quick & dirty strategic planning”.  When I worked at the Washington-Centerville Public Library in Centerville, Ohio (a world class library—check them out at, our management team meetings often began with this step.  I highly recommend SWOT analysis for small nonprofit boards as a tool to stay focused and on mission. 

SWOT analysis can be a quick brainstorming activity, or part of a more formal strategic planning process.  The acronym stands for: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

Here’s a  SWOT Grid handout you can download and use.  Set a time limit—maybe 5 or 10 minutes—and ask everyone to brainstorm quickly for each of the categories as it relates to your organization.  Nothing is off-limits, and there are no wrong answers.  When time is up, discuss.  You could also use a flip chart and ask everyone to contribute to a master SWOT grid.

Once your SWOT lists have been compiled, take a step back and analyze the results.  How are threats likely to impact organizationally and programmatically? Did anyone identify new or unexpected threats?  Identify unnoticed weaknesses?  Can strengths be brought to bear on threats or opportunities?  Will weaknesses compound threats?  You get the picture. From here, you can develop goals, priorities, and action steps to advance your organization.

You can perform SWOT analysis from an organizational—big picture—perspective or you can use it to analyze parts of your organization—programs, operations, etc., and get into the nitty-gritty detail.  But either way, use it, and use it often!

On another note, we had a great program yesterday, “Annual Filings: What Nonprofit Boards & Staff Need to Know” presented at Grace Episcopal Church in New Bedford.  We are very grateful to Grace Church for allowing us to use Rodman Hall.  As a new nonprofit, we don’t have a permanent home yet, and Rodman Hall was a pleasant, comfortable space for our program. Thank you to all at Grace Church for helping to make our program a success! Check our Programming Schedule page for the handouts.

Our next program will be Board Meeting Basics.  Watch for details!

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