A recent Oracle study about The Chemistry of High Performance identifies five characteristics of high-performance organizations. One of these elements, strategic action orientation, describes high performing companies as “having clear values around who they are, what they stand for, and how they will operate. They focus on market success and customer success and invest in employee success—because they recognize that all three are inextricably linked.” The ability to act on opportunities as they present themselves while simultaneously taking the long view requires strategic foresight into the surrounding market and competition.
Oracle’s findings resonate with us. We at Brighter Strategies see strategic planning and agility as a cornerstone of the high-impact organization. One often-neglected component of strategic planning for nonprofits is the competitive analysis.
Competitive analysis for social impact
By definition, competitive analysis is an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of current and potential competitors. Organizations conduct this analysis to identify opportunities and threats related to their competition.
“Social impact can no longer be pursued without knowledge of competitors and what they offer,” authors Peter Frumkin and Suzi Sosa claim in their Nonprofit Quarterly article, Competitive Positioning: Why Knowing Your Competition Is Essential to Social Impact Success. “Organizations must understand the competitive environment as a first step in building, positioning, and growing in the turbulent waters of social innovation and impact.”
Frumkin and Sosa outline three main objectives of competitive analysis for the nonprofit:
- Determine the risk associated with conditions in the current market and the likelihood of success
- Uncover important insights into the quality and viability of an organization’s innovations
- Develop an organizational strategy that maximizes impact
How to complete a competitive analysis
The first step in a competitive analysis is to identify your competitors. Likely you know who your main competitors are. However, asking clients or customers who they believe your competitors to be is illuminating. Additionally, basic industry research will round out your list of competing nonprofits.
Next, determine your specific goals. Perhaps you want a basic understanding of your competitors’ major strengths and weaknesses. Or maybe you want to gain in-depth knowledge of how your competitors respond to one or a few organizational priorities like marketing strategy. Use the following sources to gather data:
- Competitor websites
- Social media
- Press releases
- Annual reports
- Public financials
- Industry blogs
- Customer reviews
Finally, synthesize and summarize the information into categories based on the goals you wish to achieve. These could include financial information, customer profiles, program descriptions, and mission statements.
Below is a sample analysis chart identifying and comparing six characteristics of six competitors.
Source: Competitive Positioning: Why Knowing Your Competition Is Essential to Success, Nonprofit Quarterly
Check out these free resources from Venngage for more information on how to conduct a competitive analysis, including sample templates.
Competitive analysis and SPOT analysis
The competitive analysis is unique from the SPOT analysis, which identifies strengths, problems, opportunities, and threats relative to your own business. However, the two go hand-in-hand during strategic planning.
Take your SPOT and competitive analysis and compare them. What strengths does your organization share with competitors? What weaknesses? Are these similarities small or large? What are clients saying about your services versus your competitors’? Finally, which of the opportunities and threats you’ve identified about your agency also apply to competitors and which are unique to you?
The insights you’ll gain from this comparative review will reveal:
- Your unique value proposition in the marketplace
- Threats and opportunities that are common within your industry
- Threats and opportunities that are unique to you (and where you should focus improvement and investment efforts)
Start planning today
A competitive analysis tells you who your primary competitors are and sheds light on their strategic thinking. It allows you to think like your competitors by identifying their strengths and weaknesses and predicting how they may strategize and react to market opportunities and threats.
We believe that to achieve strong results, you need a detailed plan of action. Competitive analysis is one critical component of such a plan for your nonprofit. Learn how partnering with us equips your organization with a map forward.