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What the tool is

A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities threats (SWOT) analysis is a way of assessing where your organisation is doing well and where they can improve - from an internal and an external perspective.

Why you should use it

Understanding your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses (often called ‘internal analysis’), will help you to:

  • build on your strengths
  • improve or stop the things that you don’t do so well.

Thinking about external opportunities and threats (often called ‘environmental or external analysis’) will help you to understand:

  • things you are already working on that need to be changed or improved
  • opportunities that need to be considered for future action
  • threats that you’ll need to manage.

When you should use it

Use this when you are sure of your organisation's mission.

This can be used to help understand your landscape and operations every year.

How to use the tool

Think about the direction of your organisation and the mission to achieve.

Then draw a SWOT diagram as a visual way to view the different areas.

Strengths: What do we do well and have working for the benefit of our organisation?

Weaknesses: What areas do we need to improve on?

Opportunities: What changes in our operating landscape and conditions can we use to help our organisation?

Threats: What changes in our operating landscape and conditions could stop us from achieving our mission?

Steps to help you use the tool

Go through each box and work through the positive and negatives and come up with a list of issues or ideas.

Depending on how much time you have, you could:

  • Jot down ideas yourself
  • Bring people together in a workshop to get a broader range of views
  • Interview people. If you are interviewing people as part of your strategy process, you can include some broad questions, for example to understand strengths and weaknesses:
    • In terms of [organisation]’s current work, what do you think they do well? Is there anything [organisation] has done that has impressed you or you feel has been particularly impactful?
    • In terms of [organisation]’s current work, what do you think could be done differently?
    • From your knowledge of what [organisation] does, is there anything you think they should stop doing? Why?
  • And to understand opportunities and threats
    • What changes do you see that may impact [organisation]’s work in the future?
    • What do you see as [organisation]’s biggest challenges as an organisation?

Questions to help your organisation explore

When considering internal strengths and weaknesses, consider things like:

  • Your relationships with people: How satisfied are the people you work with and for? How motivated and willing to learn are your staff and volunteers? How are your existing partnerships working?
  • Skills and knowledge: How do the systems/ways of working you use help? How is the service you provide working? What kind of leadership exists and how does that impact the organisation? How effective are staff and volunteers working to best further your organisation's mission?
  • Your resources (such as property and other capital assets, income, existing partnerships, management of costs and risk). How sustainable is your organisation?

When thinking about external opportunities and threats, consider to changes to things like:

  • demographics, family structure, attitudes and values, political opinion
  • government policy, economy, technology and communications

Reflecting on your list

  • Take a look at your list and figure out what's really important
  • Consider what you could do help further the positive points and improve on the challenges

What to do next

For a deeper understanding of external opportunities and threats try the PESTLE tool.

You’ll now have a range of ideas about what you might do. You’ll also have more ideas if you’ve used other tools like PEST or Other Players.

The next stage of the strategy process is to make good decisions. There are a number of tools to help.

Last reviewed: 04 July 2022

Help us improve this content

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 04 July 2022

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