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Journalism - Strategic Communication

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Modified Situation Analysis for Nonprofits

A situation analysis of a nonprofit organizations is tied to its mission, vision and values statements.  It usually covers an analysis of service, market (including geographics, demographics and pschographics, competition, current financial situation, and macroenvironment) including demand trends, economic conditions, state of technology, politics, laws and regulations.

Nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) status are required to file Form 990, Return of Organizations Exempt from Income Tax, with the IRS. The form includes financial statements and background information on the nonprofit, including salaries of key employees (i.e. director, head, officers).


  • Basics
    • Mission Statement
    • What is the stated Vision?
    • Why was the organization founded?
    • Core values?
    • Core competencies?  Are they known for something?
    • Financials
  • Strategy
    • What field does the client believe they are in?
    • What category?
    • Who/what is the competition?
    • What do they perceive are their competitive advantages?
      • When you review information from the Competitive and Consumer sections, do you agree?
    • Ask for proprietary research studies
    • Ask for current & past advertising and promotional efforts
      • What were they designed to achieve?

Most organizations, charities, associations and other nonprofits have a website.  On that website, they should have information about them:  their mission, vision, history.  Financial information can be found on tax forms.  Charities and Nonprofits must file 990 forms with the Internal Revenue Service.  ProPublica' Nonprofit Explorer offers free searching for nonprofits, including IRS 990 files.  Much information about competition, past advertising and promotional efforts will come from the client interviews.

2. Category

  • Identify economic trends
  • What is the health of the category?  Growing?  Not?
  • What type of category is it?  Mature, emerging?  How might this impact your efforts?
  • How is the product/service typically marketed within the category?
    • What are the usual marketing tactics?
      • Does everyone in the category market alike?
  • What external factors might impact the category?

Categories may not be static.  Identifying others in the same category space can assist you in analyzing the health and maturity of the category.  Make sure to analyze political, economic, s, and technological impacts on the category.

3. Consumer (participants, supporters, influencers)

  • Begin with relevant trends
    • Societal, lifestyle
  • What groups of peole are you trying to engage?
    • Who do these people care about?
    • What is important to them?
    • Are they engaged with your organization?
    • What is their current level of interest in you and your issues?
    • What would make them more engaged and interested?
    • Profile them (demographics, psychograpics, attitudes, behavior)
      • Generations Related to Nonprofits (based on Kivi Leroux Miller's Content Marketing for Nonprofits)
        • Matures, or Silent Generation (68 or older), relate to "duty"
        • Baby Boomers (49-67), relate to "identity"
        • Generation X (33-48), relate to "entrepreneurial"
        • Generation Y (22-32), relate to "community"
  • Prospects?
    • Profile them (demographics, psychograpics, attitudes, behavior)
    • Barriers?
  • How does the decision process work?
  • What can you identify about the engagement?
    • High or low involvement?
    • Primarily a rational or emotional decision?
  • Key motivations?
  • Unmet needs?

Organizations should have customer, donor, member lists.  They may have access to customer demographics which would help you profile their customer base. Surveys and focus groups will help gather information about engagement and motivations.  Analyze their social media efforts if this information and analytical tools are available.

4. Competition

  • Who else is providing similar resources and information?
  • Who is providing information or urging actions that are in conflict with your approach?
  • What are they selling?  Dissect competitive strategies
    • Identify competitive brand positioning
  • Try to summarize what the competition is doing and why
    • What can you learn from the competition?
  • Think about how your client's brand is positioned in relation to the competition
  • How does your budget compare?

Who are the organization's competitors?  Identification of the organization's business or service category is essential to identifying the competition.  Once again, competition is not static.  It can change over time based on current climate and context so conducting a PEST analysis can help determine changes in category, consumers and competition.

Climate/Context: PEST Analysis

Evaluate the climate in which the nonprofit/organization/association does business. 

  • Political and regulatory environment - government policies and regulations that affect the market
  • Economic environment - business cycles, inflation rate, interest rates and other issues of economic nature
  • Social/cultural environment - trends and fashion
  • Technological environment - new ways of satisfying needs, the impact of technology on the demand for existing products