For the purposes of the Empowered Volunteer, SWOT analysis is NOT going to require someone with an MBA or other high level training. Good people who want to improve their group are all that are needed for success.
From Wikipedia we can get an idea of what SWOT is:
SWOT analysis (alternatively SWOT Matrix) is a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. A SWOT analysis can be carried out for a product, place, industry or person. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving that objective.
Volunteer groups Strengths can be assessed. What makes this group attractive? Be sure to include all things in the initial list or information gathering. Include perspectives from all stakeholders!
Volunteer groups Weaknesses can also be assessed. A weakness can be relative, that is for some it may be less a weakness than for others. Ensure you do all sides and all stakeholders.
Volunteer groups Opportunities can be assessed as well. This is likely to be a running list that is continually updated. It can tax some people’s creativity to come up with opportunities. Others can rattle off a list. Get the list created before worrying about an analysis or if the individual entries are worthy. List reduction can be done later, after initial conception. Also, never lose the initial list. Future empowered volunteers or group leaders who usually rotate yearly may be able to work an opportunity that the previously engaged volunteers could not.
Volunteer groups Threats are usually the easiest to list. Simply ask those who don’t want to join your group “why”? The value of listing threats for volunteer groups is only as good as the data gathered. It will become apparent when you start the list that there are some threats which hold more merit than others. In other words, some threats are a bigger issue than others or they apply to more potential volunteers than others. List them all, sort later.
If you do a search for SWOT you will find many templates and help, some for free. If you find one that is to your liking, it can be used in most cases. Just keep in mind that a business SWOT is much more in-depth that the one you will be creating.
For this part of the Empowered Volunteer recruiting effort employing SWOT, you will need to be a bit more creative than just setting up target populations and prospecting times. If you have someone in your group who has a business degree or even an MBA or MSM (Masters of Science in Management) they will very likely be potential help in the gathering of data and its analysis. However, most of the data gathering is common sense and the analysis is mostly a matter of sorting and tabulating the individual groupings in a meaningful way. Simply count the various groupings and line them up, more or less.
Using college classes to complete a SWOT. If you have ready access to a professors class who is able and willing to take this project from start to finish and provide an analysis, I would suggest you engage them. They gain the experience and you get an outside view with potentially less internal contamination from the internal members. If they have the ability and are willing to do other types of assessments it would not hurt. The more relative data the better.
When I was doing my graduate studies in management we often had to search far and wide for businesses who would let us study them. Each class required another business for our study and even though we were often in groups of 5 or so, that added up to a bunch of competition in the area for businesses friendly to being studied. Many business leaders did not see the value from their side while being very careful what business data they would be willing to provide. But for graduate studies in management, real businesses were required. You had to get into a group who found a business willing to be studied to pass the class. Thus some nearby college classes may be looking for a group to study.
It you decide to work the data gathering internally consider gaining a broader perspective by expanding your potential population. For instance, if you are a Masonic lodge and you want to get some data through interviews and from follow ups for instance, consider expanding your data collection to more than one physical lodge. Perhaps several lodges in an area, called a district in many states. Keep track of the groups sources in case a trend develops in one group but not the others, naturally.
In most instances the bigger your population combined with the more focused your questions will provide the most accurate path for action. You are looking for valid data rather than a small sampling of the senior leadership and supporting group, for instance. If the whole population is polled in some way, even online then a small sample will have less chance of skewing the results.
Beware of the often found die hard past leaders who will profess in loud and passionate terms all the possible paths to increasing memberships or other corrections have been tried before and found to be insufficient to the task. These negative elements seems to be found in most groups and they are more often than not very vocal. If they can lead your team of information gatherers down a destructive path they will. It seems to be their nature. It is best if the volunteer group leader deal with such individuals rather than the empowered volunteer.
It is necessary for this part of the process to just gather the facts and data. Don’t try too much analysis until the complete study is gathered. Initial trends by the members who attend frequently nearly always will diverge somewhat from those that attend the functions more sporadically.
Gather the data anonymously from your group members if at all possible, so that honesty is more likely. Segregate the information into large population groups only, and be very careful to keep those who view the raw data analysis to a small select and trusted group. This is in case some unlikely negative trend emerges that indicates an issue which is potentially divisive. Have a care that what you unearth in the data can be disseminated indiscriminately if and when the leadership decides to do so.
An example would be the discovery in one of the groups in the area where the population data was gathered shows an individual who’s nature has turned off many prospective volunteers as well as recent members who have backed off their attendance, through the offenders heavy handed ways let’s say. This is not the kind of data you want the entire group to automatically view! It is something that leadership within the individual section should address. It certainly should not be passed around the entire district or other population areas! Praise in public, reproach in private. This is elementary leadership for most junior members of a group, yet often senior leadership completely ignores this maxim.
Unintended consequences often can be detected during this part of the process. Perhaps a particular church actively discourages its members from joining your group. Your group has no political or religious interests and simply supports fund raising. In well directed questions you learn that one of your main fund raising activities involves Halloween hay rides and other themed activities on this particular time of the year. It turns out that the local Christian church doesn’t support that holiday, something many Christians of other denominations fail to realize. So it’s members don’t volunteer rather than face conflict on Sundays by joining. This would be very good information for your group to know.
Keep in mind as well you are searching for reliable and accurate data for each of the SWOT areas. This becomes a bit more confusing when some individual characteristics of a group might be viewed by some in the study positively while others see the very same thing as negative. An example that is currently being addressed by Freemasons world wide is the value of the initiation ritual requiring the new member to memorize the groups rules through Bible stories, in a very formal manner usually entailing the new member to recite the rules in front of the rest of the assembled membership. This public speaking often is seen as a scary thing for new members. Older members place value on the fact that if the member is not committed then they should join a group where only money is required for membership! This is seen by many Masons as a kind of quality control or at the least a way of gauging the new members seriousness. Opponents see it as a huge time constraint holding good and proper prospects from even attempting to petition for membership.
Most groups will find they have some issues that can be viewed by more than one section of SWOT. This is common when a SWOT analysis is done on a business as well, where this type of analysis was first created and used. Each aspect of an issue should be collected and then evaluate from each angle for merit and application to the group. For instance some churches direct their membership to avoid some volunteer groups based on their individual perceptions of that group. Seldom would this be a positive aspect for an empowered volunteer, but it would be very good information to know! If you are one of the groups involved and the church which holds this position for your group is one of the main churches in your small town, you really have a major issue rather than the lesser issue if this were in a large metropolitan area.
The purpose of the data gathering is to sort things into a SWOT analysis that can focus the empowered volunteer and his supporting leadership in a direction which positions them for increased membership. If other issues arise out of a SWOT analysis they can be directed to a committee appointed for deeper investigation and action if needed. If too many issues are detected then the empowered volunteer should hold off on most of his or her efforts until the group is better positioned to receive new members.