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A PESTy Assessment Tool For Your Organization

Mary Ellen Clark

Mary Ellen Clark
Senior Vice President

Want to strengthen your nonprofit? Then you really should bring this PEST into your organization. We’re all familiar with the SWOT Analysis, and the PEST assessment framework can also be a valuable tool in organizational/environmental analysis that is the basis for important strategic planning for your nonprofit.

PEST stands for Political, Economic, Social and Technological. Nonprofits, just like their for-profit counterparts have been doing for years, should examine themselves in the context of these four areas and be aware of how these factors can affect performance and ultimately, meeting their missions.


Whether you receive government funds or not, you should be well-known to your local, state and federal politicians. In doing so, you are not committing to support a specific party or candidate; you are, however, gaining important support for your organization.

Those who represent us in policy-making need to hear from the organizations within their constituencies as much as you need their influence. It is our responsibility as leaders in philanthropy to participate and actively engage with our elected officials regarding critical issues. Our elected officials need our active involvement and expertise in helping them maneuver through the maze of policy options.

By including your local or regional political representative you educate and teach them about those you serve, current needs and trends. Do your politicians call you when they need insight or representation regarding a subject area, current issue or upcoming plans? By regular communication with your representatives, you become the content expert for their education and policy-setting.


Factors such as inflation, interest rates, economic growth, the unemployment rate and policies and the business cycle can all have an impact on your nonprofit. Economic trends are relevant too, because they help predict donor behavior. Trends in wealth, employment, tax, consumption and disposable income can affect all categories of funders: corporations, foundations and individuals.

Evaluating your local economic environment might include the following activities:

  • Engaging with local economic leaders and organizations such as local councils, businesses, colleges, etc.
  • Developing a deeper understanding of your local economy through chamber of commerce activities
  • Building and strengthening networks with existing businesses
  • Supporting the growth of key resilience-building sectors, such as food, construction and education
  • Broadening the reach and impact of your communications


Whether located in a large city or small town, nonprofits must be aware of the impact of social systems on its organization and the impact of its own activities on society. Society also has an impact on the success of fundraising. Shifts in demographics and social attitudes lead to changes in behavior. Trends in levels of civic participation, the formation of families, attitudes about work and leisure, levels of education and social mobility may all affect the environment in which a nonprofit operates. Differences in generational engagement and giving should also be examined.


The role of technology is increasing within nonprofits. Not only important for internal systems and support, technology is now a part of how nonprofits fundraise, collect and share information about impact, tell our stories and advocate. Nonprofits need to be tech-savvy. The internet, social media and other digital communications methods should be an integral part of informing potential and current volunteers and funders about what your nonprofit is doing, the progress made toward your mission and how your organization is impacting the community.

Don’t have a tech-savvy staffer? One or more volunteers may be happy to help train and/or mentor staff on social media. A volunteer who is very involved with your organization might even handle some social media for you, such as regularly updating your Facebook page or Twitter account. It is impossible to deny the pervasiveness of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and blogs. Social media has proven to be so influential that many industries and nonprofit organizations have implemented it in their communications and marketing strategies.

Social media is also a good stage for asking questions and opening up discussions with constituents. Research has shown that posing questions attracts more likes, comments and shares than posting a simple statement. Photos invite viewers to easily share information. Opening up the dialogue with followers will make them feel as though their voices and opinions are being heard. This contributes to strengthening your nonprofit’s relationship with volunteers and funders and helps grow your network of support.

If your supporters infrequently check your website for updates, then they probably only think of your cause sporadically. When they like your page on Facebook or follow you on Twitter, it provides a chance for your organization to appear on their feeds and give them regular reminders of your mission. Shareable content (like pictures) brings more exposure. The more shareable content you deliver on social media, the more people will see what your organization is doing and will be motivated to get behind it. It is easy to share content online, making social media a great place to create a higher profile for your organization and any campaigns you may be running.

When you include these areas in your planning and evaluation processes, you increase your sphere of influence, impact and ultimately your fundraising success.

To discuss how organizational assessments and strategic planning can help your nonprofit achieve fundraising success, contact me directly at or at 913-461-5940.

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