Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SWOT’ing Your Nonprofit

Why would you want to SWOT your nonprofit? Because it will help you understand your place in the nonprofit world.
Cloudlancer Writing Services offers writing services to for-profit as well as nonprofit businesses. For-profits absolutely understand the concept of SWOT, since they generally have to submit business plans to lenders. Nonprofits on the other hand, tend to view themselves as somehow above the normal tools used to evaluate a business. I firmly and emphatically disagree with that viewpoint.   
SWOT, or SLOT, used in the context of business planning, is defined as a Strength, Weakness (or alternatively, Liabilities), Opportunity and Threat analysis. Many nonprofits do not include one in their initial strategic plan, but every single nonprofit (and for-profit as well) should produce one on a yearly basis. You may not ever have to submit one to a funder, but at a minimum,  a properly constructed SWOT will keep your organization moving forward and prepared to succeed.
Many businesses, both for-profit and nonprofit, at least give a nod to the Strength and Opportunity components. The Weakness and Threat areas are often minimized or totally ignored in the company planning.
An honest assessment of your organization’s business health and mission success using a SWOT analysis can help you understand why you are not moving forward as quickly as you want to, why your funding requests are ALWAYS turned down, or even what to do to manage explosive growth. 
For example, perhaps your mission statement and mission execution don’t match, confusing funders trying to understand how their funds will be used.  Perhaps there are far too many nonprofits in your area addressing the same mission. Perhaps they are more established, better organized and have greater name recognition. There is only so much money available from funders, and if you don’t stand out, you may not get any of that funding.
Perhaps your nonprofit has always been the only one addressing a specific mission. Success breeds imitators. Are there suddenly several organizations all competing for the same dollars? Annual SWOT reviews should reveal that as a Threat. Did you recently lose a key employee in the fundraising department? Evaluate the impact to your organization by revising your SWOT report. Has your mission evolved out of its original focus area? It’s time to re-assess your presentation to prospective funders by revising your SWOT to deal with current reality.
Your organization may subliminally recognize that something has changed. Putting it down on paper forces you to recognize and deal with problems before they become crises, and allows you to be proactive, instead of reactive to changing circumstances.
If you have questions on preparing your SWOT analysis, give us a shout, and we’ll be happy to help.

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