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Tag Archives: SWOT analysis

Certain project planning tools should be part of every competitive grant proposal writer’s repertoire. Among such tools are: SWOT analysis, PESTLE analysis, RASCI charts, Gantt charts, Red Team reviews, meta-analysis, and logic models. This post discusses SWOT analysis.


Definition of SWOT Analysis


SWOT stands for Strength (S), Weakness (W), Opportunity (O), and Threat. SWOT analysis looks at identified factors in the present context or milieu of a project and interprets them either as S, W, O, or T.


S and W are of internal origin. Strengths are internal factors favorable to attaining an organization’s objective. Among possible strengths are: organizational culture, expertise, unique qualities, and resources. Weaknesses are internal factors unfavorable to attaining an organization’s objective. Among possible weaknesses also are: organizational culture, expertise, unique qualities, and resources.


By contrast, O and T are of external origin. Opportunities are external factors favorable to attaining an organization’s objective. Among possible opportunities are: an organization’s market sector/segment, third parties, and all of the PESTLE factors. Threats are external factors unfavorable to attaining an organization’s objective. Among possible threats are: the organization’s market sector/segment, third parties, and all of the PESTLE factors.


In general, S and O are helpful. Similarly, in general, W and T are harmful. Organizations control S and W to a degree. By contrast, they exert no control over O and T. What participants in a SWOT analysis may regard as an S in one context they may also regard as a W in another context – e.g., staff retention incentives – and what participants may regard as an O in one context they may also regard as a T in another context – e.g., community activism.


Steps in Doing a SWOT Analysis


SWOT analysis is a tool for strategic definition, for reaching a consensus about the internal and external contexts of a project. It is an iterative process, not a one-time analysis. It also entails subjective decisions throughout its process.


The SWOT process starts from an already defined objective. Next it defines the factors involved. Next it yields an analysis. The analysis may reset the objective requiring reframing of the objective and triggering the iteration of another cycle of analysis. The defined objective and the SWOT analysis act on each other. They are interdependent, and thus dynamic, not static.


It is often useful for participants to start with analysis of S and W then move on to analysis of O and T. Results of SWOT can be plotted on a performance matrix. Those W factors that are keys to organizational success, but also show a low performance level are the factors that subsequent strategy should target. The O and T factors can be rated on a scale ranking their probability and their impact on the organization.


Among the uses of SWOT analysis in writing grant proposals are:

  1. Needs Assessment – summarizing of findings of the analysis as a baseline of needs
  2. Program Design – formulating one or more project objectives
  3. Program Design – selecting strategies and focuses of effort in an action plan
  4. Evaluation – using focus groups to monitor/review status of factors in the SWOT analysis
  5. Evaluation – performing a content analysis of the SWOT findings


Precautions in Doing a SWOT Analysis


Among some of the precautions to take in doing a SWOT analysis are:

  1. Using consistent methods and asking consistent questions
  2. Providing consistent facilitation
  3. Ensuring inclusive participant types
  4. Providing a neutral ground venue or multiple venue types
  5. Ensuring the accurate capture of insights
  6. Obtaining consistent participation of stakeholders
  7. Building a consensus about findings for the elements of SWOT
  8. Ensuring appropriate skill in facilitation and in building consensus
  9. Reducing risks of oversimplification and dominance of vested interests (e.g., denial of W out of deference to power)
  10. Planning actions that impact S and W
  11. Ensuring that it is repeated over time


Subsequent posts will discuss other project development tools such as Gantt charts, RASCI charts, PESTLE analysis, Red Team reviews, meta-analysis, and logic models.


Strategic plans are helpful tools for positioning grant seekers to win grants from public and private sources. Among their typical components are: vision, mission, values, objectives, strategies, goals, and programs.


This post examines each component in turn. Later posts will examine the potential roles of strategic plans in winning competitive grants.



A vision sets the direction for an organization. It captures what an organization aspires to become in terms of where it sees itself three, four, or more years into the future. It forecasts what it will do, who will do it, how it will do it, for whom it will do it, when it will do it, how often it will do it, where it will do it, how well it will do it, and how it will let the world know what it has done and is doing.



A mission states what an organization does and why it does what it does. It captures the organization’s unique attributes, its core functions, its key constituents, and its primary beneficiaries. A mission also articulates what products or services an organization creates, how it creates them, and for whom it creates them. It is realistic, operational, and practical.



Values represent the core principles that guide an organization in doing what it does. As such, they govern the activities of all members of an organization. Values guide how an organization operates and how it conducts itself in creating and sustaining its relationships with its internal and external stakeholders.



Objectives are the quantifiable, time-bound, specific, measureable, assessable, and realistic indicators of an organization’s progress toward achieving its goals. They reflect and advance the organization’s mission. Objectives encompass the means of monitoring and evaluating outputs or outcomes or both. Measuring objectives is often frequent and formative as well as cyclical and summative.



Strategies state how an organization expects to accomplish its objectives, to advance its mission, and to realize its vision. They guide its selection and sequencing of activities. Organizations may adopt strategies after performing a SWOT analysis so that they are better able to build on strengths, resolve weaknesses, exploit opportunities, and avoid threats.



Goals are the measureable, assessable, and realistic indicators of what an organization expects to achieve by using it strategies to pursue its objectives. They are often more abstract than objectives, but should always be quantifiable, time-bound, and achievable. Any aspect of an organization may be the focus of a goal. Ordinarily, an organization’s goals are less numerous, more abstract, and longer-term than are its objectives.



Programs are an organization’s specific action plans and instruments dedicated to enacting its key strategies for accomplishing its objectives and ultimately achieving its goals. Programs identify who, with whom, what, with what, how, how well, where, when, and how often. They also indicate budget items and unit costs, sources and duration of funding, milestones and deadlines, and performance targets and performance measures. If they are framed as a logic model, each program will specify its goals, objectives, inputs, outputs, outcomes, and impacts.

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