Strategic Planning: SWOT Analysis Toolkit

December 21, 2008

Posted in Strategic Planning.

One of the most hardest parts of strategic planning is getting started. It’s such a nebulous concept. What’s the deliverable? Who should be involved? Where do we start? Last year, we looked at strategic planning process and one of the first phases included a SWOT analysis.

What is a SWOT?

SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a preliminary strategic planning method/tool that we will use to identify our strategic issues/objectives. It’s not very hard to get started.

How do we start?

Notice the “we” part of that title? This is a group exercise, part of the journey; none of the strategic planning exercises are meant to be individual efforts.

First, let’s put together a basic SWOT template.

Internal External
Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats

Internal vs. External

The internal part of the SWOT is all about your organization. Your strengths and weaknesses. The external are outside factors: opportunities and threats from the rest of the world.

Sample SWOT

Here are some of the items from our organization’s SWOT (this is kind of a bare your soul to the world moment… weird).

Internal External
Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats
  • Great summer camp property on a lake
  • Strong summer camp programs
  • Dedicated, passionate staff and volunteers
  • Valuable services provided
  • Long history and deep roots
  • Resiliency – survival despite adverse conditions
  • Declining financial support
  • Poor fundraising history
  • Poor and aging facilities
  • Volunteer, staff burnout
  • Inefficient or nonexistent business systems
  • Small volunteer base
  • Untapped fundraising constituencies
  • Using alternate facilities
  • Developing partnerships with other programs
  • Emerging volunteer sources
  • Competitively priced
  • 100 year anniversary pending
  • Cash flow / external debts
  • Competitor programming
  • Certain programs losing funding sources
  • Economy reduces funds for programs, philanthropy
  • Hard to measure impact of certain programs

What a SWOT is Good For

The SWOT is helpful for identifying strategic issues: the major issues facing your organization, major opportunities, heading off threats, etc. These issues form the core of the final strategic plan.

Get Started!

The next step for you is to actually get started. Pull together your team, bring in volunteers, and invite some donors. As with the entire strategic planning process the SWOT is about self-discovery, facing reality, and building consensus. Our group produced individual SWOTs and then brought them together as a group, consolidating them and noting the issues that appeared most frequently. This helped us build a single SWOT for the organization, one that we can look to throughout our planning.


  1. Mike Loomis — December 30, 2008

    Great stuff. With the economic rollercoaster – 2009 is certainly a great time for nonprofits to face issues affecting them.

    Mike Loomis
    Vaughn Street

  2. Lynn — May 05, 2011

    Thank you very much. This has been helpfull for my nonprofit class project and would be helpfull for me if I start up a nonprofit.

  3. musa — February 21, 2012

    thank you

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