by Meg Gammage-Tucker
SWOT analysis is the methodology by which individuals working on behalf of an organization evaluate the environmental activities and situations that are and can be affecting an organization’s programs and priorities. The acronym SWOT stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats”.
Strengths and weaknesses are internal questions for the organization.
1. Strengths: “what do we do well and what can we build upon?”
2. Weaknesses: “what do we need to do better and how and what do we need to improve?”
Opportunities and threats are external questions for the organization.
1. Opportunities: “what changes are taking place in our environment that could help us achieve our mission and/or improve our programs/services?”
2. Threats: “what changes are taking place in our environment that we need to guard against and/or that could reduce or negatively impact our effectiveness?”
SWOT analyses can be done in a short format (i.e., by means of a one-time discussion or “retreat”) or as part of a larger process of in-depth program evaluation. And SWOT’s can include all members of an organization or be limited to specific sub-groups—depending on the extensiveness of the process desired. (My general recommendation is the more participation you have, the better the buy-in and use of the plan will be.)
The most important thing to know about SWOT is, however, is that you if you are going to do strategic planning, you must do a SWOT analysis. A strategic plan without a good assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, challenges, abilities, and opportunities cannot, for all intents and purposes, be a good strategic plan. How can you improve if you do not know what to improve upon? How can you grow if you do not understand what options are available to you? And, most importantly, how can you authentically assure your clients and supporters that you are doing your best to meet the needs of your community and fulfill your mission, if you don’t know what the current issues and needs are?
So if you are planning on strategic planning, do take the time undertake a SWOT. It is worth the time and effort.