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The Power of a SWOT Analysis for Nonprofits



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Running a nonprofit organization can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be challenging. A nonprofit's success or failure hinges on its ability to bring its mission to life, engage the community and, most importantly, steward its resources effectively and efficiently. With so much on the line, it's no wonder that as a nonprofit leader, you spend countless hours strategizing and planning to ensure your organization stays on track.  

One of the most valuable tools in your arsenal is the SWOT Analysis, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. In this post, we'll explore what a SWOT Analysis is, why it is important for nonprofits, and how to conduct one effectively.  

We will also give you a link to download a FREE SWOT Analysis Matrix template!

Understanding the SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a structured framework that enables nonprofits to assess their internal and external factors. It involves identifying and analyzing four key elements:


These are the internal factors that give a nonprofit a competitive advantage or unique capabilities.  

Strengths might include a dedicated and passionate team, strong community partnerships, valuable expertise, or effective fundraising strategies. Recognizing and leveraging these strengths allows nonprofits to build upon their advantages and stand out.


These are the internal factors that place a nonprofit at a disadvantage or hinder its progress.  

Some examples of weaknesses are limited resources, inadequate technology infrastructure, a lack of skilled personnel, or ineffective marketing strategies. Identifying weaknesses helps you address areas of improvement, allocate resources more efficiently, and develop strategies to overcome obstacles.


These are the external factors that present favorable conditions for growth and advancement.  

Some examples of opportunities are emerging trends, untapped donor segments, potential collaborations, or changes in government policies that align with the nonprofit's mission. Recognizing opportunities allows nonprofits to seize the moment, expand their reach, and create new avenues for impact.


These are the external factors that pose challenges or risks to a nonprofit's success. Threats might include competition from similar organizations, shifts in donor preferences, economic downturns, or changes in regulations that affect the nonprofit's operations. Identifying threats helps nonprofits anticipate challenges, develop contingency plans, and proactively adapt to external circumstances.

The Benefits of Conducting a SWOT Analysis

Engaging in a SWOT Analysis offers several benefits for nonprofits:

Enhanced Strategic Planning: By gaining a comprehensive understanding of your nonprofit's internal and external landscape, you can develop more robust strategic plans. You can align the strengths with opportunities, address weaknesses, and mitigate threats, leading to more focused and effective strategies.

Improved Decision Making--A SWOT Analysis provides valuable insights to make informed decisions. It enables you to prioritize initiatives, allocate resources wisely, and identify areas where investment can yield the highest impact.

Increased Organizational Awareness--Through a SWOT Analysis, you can gain a deeper understanding of your nonprofit's unique characteristics and positioning in the nonprofit sector. This self-awareness helps you articulate the value proposition of your organization and differentiate it in a crowded landscape.

Identification of Growth Opportunities--By recognizing opportunities, you can diversify your nonprofit's revenue streams, expand programs, and engage new audiences and donors. A SWOT analysis acts as a roadmap for growth and helps you identify untapped potential within your organization.

When should you use a SWOT Analysis?

SWOT Analysis can be a quick brainstorming activity or part of a more formal strategic planning process. You will only sometimes need an in-depth SWOT Analysis. It is most useful for extensive, general overviews of situations and scenarios related to your nonprofit.  

A SWOT Analysis is most helpful:

  • Before making any significant changes—such as a change in programming or changing donation software
  • When you launch a new program
  • When you want to check out the landscape and identify opportunities for growth and improvement for your nonprofit
  • When you want to dive deep and get a complete overview of your nonprofit's performance 

SWOT Matrix

The most popular and straightforward way to conduct a SWOT Analysis is using a SWOT Matrix, a simple and easy-to-use visual representation of your nonprofit's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The matrix is made of four separate squares that create one larger square.  

A SWOT Matrix is ideal for thinking through and collecting information and documenting the questions and decisions you come to.e to. The SWOT Matrix is a great tool to reference as you advance through your work, and it is fantastic for visualizing any patterns that arise.  


Next Steps

Once you have identified your nonprofit organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, analyze them and create actions and philosophies. Write everything down and organize feedback into categories – themes will emerge. This helps develop a plan for addressing your organization's weaknesses, capitalizing on your strengths, and seizing opportunities for growth and impact.  


Action Plan

The final step of conducting a SWOT Analysis is to develop and implement action plans based on your findings. You should use your SWOT Analysis to inform your strategic planning process and align your goals, strategies, and tactics with your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You should also assign roles, responsibilities, timelines, and indicators to monitor and evaluate your action plans. You should also communicate your SWOT Analysis and action plans to your stakeholders and solicit their feedback and support.

A SWOT Analysis is a valuable tool that equips you as a nonprofit leader with the knowledge and insights needed to navigate the complex nonprofit landscape. By identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you can make informed decisions, enhance strategic planning, and achieve your nonprofit's mission with greater impact.  

Embrace the power of a SWOT Analysis! Understanding where your nonprofit is now can be the most powerful and impactful way to determine where you want to go next.  

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