Send in the SWOT Team! Strategic Planning Process: Gathering Data

Strategic Planning Process

  1. The first step of the strategic planning process is to gather data.
  2. The second step is to analyze the data.
  3. The third step is to create a plan from the results of the data.

Gathering data:

  1. Organizational issues
  2. SWOT analysis
  3. Strategic Planning Interviews
  4. Survey Program Recipients
  5. Positional Mapping

Brainstorm Organizational Issues

To kick off the data gathering process, I like to start by gathering a group of individuals from the organization (Board members, staff members, key volunteers) to brainstorm a list of issues and challenges that exist within the organization.  This can be done is an informal setting with someone recording the different ideas.

Questions to help spur the discussion and brainstorm:

  • What challenges is the organization currently facing?
  • What needs do we have (human resources, financial, facility, services)?
  • Are we appropriately staffed?
  • Do we have the right talent and experience on the Board?
  • Are we effectively outreaching into the community?
  • Are our program recipients happy with our services?
  • If we had more time, money and expertise, what would we improve about the organization?

Who should participate in the brainstorm: Strategic Planning Committee, Board members, staff, key volunteers

SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) Analysis

SWOT Analysis helps an organization focus on its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  It is an opportunity to separate out the brainstormed organizational issues into the four categories.  Identification of SWOTs is essential because subsequent steps in the process of planning for achievement of the selected objective may be derived from the SWOTs.

Strengths are the attributes of the nonprofit organization that are helpful to achieving the mission. Strengths answer the questions:

  • What do we do well?
  • What unique resources can we draw on?
  • What do others see as our strengths?

Examples of strengths: committed and talented staff, Board and volunteers, a facility that provides a quality educational experience in a unique location, great summer camp property on a lake, and strong summer camp programs.

Weaknesses are attributes of the nonprofit organization that limit ability to achieve the mission. Some of the strengths are also weaknesses.  Weaknesses answer the questions:

  • What could we improve?
  • Where do we have fewer resources than others?
  • What are others likely to see as weaknesses?

Examples of weaknesses: declining financial support, poor fundraising history, inadequate staffing resources, accessibility of the actual facility, volunteer and staff burnout, inefficient or nonexistent business systems, and need for better communication and marketing.

Opportunities are external and internal conditions helpful to achieving the mission. Opportunities answer the questions:

  • What good opportunities are open to us?
  • What trends could we take advantage of?
  • How can we turn our strengths into opportunities?

Examples of opportunities: expanding onsite programming and community outreach, untapped fundraising constituencies, 25-year anniversary pending, partnering with community groups and public entities, competitively priced, engaging volunteers to assist in more areas, developing branding and creating more revenue opportunities on-site through facility rental and food service offerings.

Threats are external and internal conditions that could do damage to the mission.  Threats answer the questions:

  • What trends could harm us?
  • What is our competition doing?
  • What threats do our weaknesses expose us to?

Examples of threats: financial solvency, cash flow, competitor programming, programs losing funding sources, economy reduces funds for programs, and hard to measure impact of certain programs.

Who should participate in the SWOT analysis: Staff, Board members, key volunteers.

I’ve attached a sample SWOT analysis worksheet that I use with my client: SWOT Analysis Worksheet

In the next post, I will continue talking about data gathering methods for strategic planning.

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