What is a Stakeholder Analysis?
In a stakeholder analysis you identify the people, groups, and/or organizations who have some “stake” (that is interest or connection) in your organization or program, and then consider what their relationship is to your organization/programs. Building relationships is key for nonprofits – relationships help you gain supporters, participants, volunteers, and funders. Therefore, thinking about the connections you have, and considering their influence on your program and their perspectives, is important too.
In terms of program evaluation, getting key stakeholders’ buy-in and input is key. One way program evaluators promote the use of evaluation findings is to include stakeholders whenever possible. When people help create something, they feel more ownership over it. Doing a stakeholder analysis will help you get a bird’s eye view of who your stakeholders are, but also help identify ways you can bring them into the process.
What is a stakeholder?
As mentioned above – stakeholders are the people, groups, and/or organizations that are connected to your program or organization. This includes staff members at all levels, volunteers, funders, participants, etc. This is most likely a long list of people and groups. A stakeholder analysis is here to help you organize stakeholders and their perspectives. You’ll find that there are stakeholders that you’ll need to think about more than others. For example, if you’re running an afterschool program, then schools, parents, and students may be very important stakeholders. You’ll also find that some stakeholders want or need more input in the evaluation process, while others will just want to know your findings. It’s important to figure this out so you can plan accordingly.
When to conduct a stakeholder analysis?
If you haven’t already, you should do a stakeholder analysis. It may be especially helpful to do a stakeholder analysis when you start a new endeavor: launch a new program, or start planning an evaluation. It’s also a good idea to regularly review your stakeholder analysis and update it.
Think of this as a tool to help you identify ways to strengthen your relationships. By thoughtfully reviewing your stakeholders and their perspectives, you’ll be better prepared to engage with them in a meaningful way.
How to conduct a stakeholder analysis?
There are a lot of ways to do a stakeholder analysis. I’ll share three activities that together will help you look at your stakeholders in a holistic way. When you’re working on a stakeholder analysis, it will be helpful to include others in the process. You can ask others in your organization, or use this as an opportunity to engage stakeholders. Doing this is a group will help make sure you’re not thinking in a silo. Also, you do not have to go through these activities in one sitting. It’s better to take some breaks in-between. This will allow you to look at your work with fresh eyes.
List your stakeholders
Brainstorm a list of as many stakeholders as possible. This will be easy at first. But you will want to stretch yourself. Brainstorming in a group is best because your one idea may help others generate more. If you’re not working in a group, ask others close to your program to review the list you come up with.
Remember that some stakeholders will not be individuals, but groups or organizations. It may be difficult to differentiate stakeholder groups from one another. For example, you may wonder if you should list parents and the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) as separate stakeholders. Going through the rest of the activities may help clarify whether groups are different than one another. For instance, if the parents and PTA members have different interest or priorities it might be best to list them as separate groups.
Consider your stakeholder’s perspectives by asking yourself the following questions about each stakeholder or stakeholder group:
How are they connected to your program? (e.g. They are parents of students)
Why are they interested in your program?
(e.g. They want their child to do better in school)
What outcomes are most important to them?
(e.g. improved math grades)
How do we communicate or engage with this stakeholder? Is this enough?
(e.g. flyers, when they pick up their child, etc.)
How will they be involved in the evaluation?
(e.g. they will want to know our findings)
If this is a group, do you have specific representatives to engage?
Write your answers down using a table like the one in the picture above. Writing your thoughts down will help you find more clarity. Additionally, it will be easier to share and discuss your ideas with others.
If you think of other questions that will help you understand your stakeholder’s perspectives, feel free to include them.
As you go further down into your evaluation journey you’ll want to collect some data around your stakeholder’s perspectives. This can be as easy as starting to have informal conversations with stakeholders about what’s important to them, or doing more formal data collection (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Do what you can with the resources you have, there is no need to stretch yourself too thin.
Before you move on to the next activity, consider where stakeholders overlap:
Who cares about similar outcomes?
Who’s interested in the program because of similar reasons?
Who will be engaged in your evaluation in similar ways?
Determine Power + Interest
Organize your stakeholders based on the power they have to influence your program and their interest.
As you’ll see in the picture above, you’ll want to create a 4x4 matrix. On the horizontal axis is interest, on the vertical axis is power. Ask yourself the following questions about each stakeholder:
To what extent does this stakeholder have the power to influence your decisions?
The more power a stakeholder has, the higher up they will be on your matrix.
Power in this situation is stakeholders’ influence over your program. There may be some stakeholders that may not be considered powerful in the more traditional sense, but have a big influence over your work. For example, you may work with a group that has been historically marginalized. At first glance, some may think that your participants stakeholder group has low power. However, because they are the group you are serving this is most likely not the case, since you may put a lot of weight on their perspective.
How interested in our work and decisions is this stakeholder?
The more interest a stakeholder has, the further down to the right they will be on your matrix.
This will allow you to classify stakeholders into four general categories:
You will focus most of your attention on these stakeholders. Encourage them to stay involved to promote buy-in. You can do this by consulting them for important decisions. For instance, if you are selecting evaluation questions, you will want to get their input and ensure they understand the reasoning behind your selection.
You’ll want to share information with these stakeholders and get their input on topics that are of interest to them. When possible, you’ll want to include them in decision-making, again, to promote buy-in. However, consider their time commitments to unsure that you are not stretching them too thin.
These stakeholders are already interested in your work and this interest could be leveraged to further your mission. Even though they don’t have “power” you can include them as thought partners.
You will want to focus less of your attention on this group. When relevant you’ll want to update them on your work and inform them of key decisions.
Once you have organized your stakeholders you will want to review where all your stakeholders are. Consider the following questions:
Are there stakeholders you would like to move into another category? What might you do to move this stakeholder to a more appropriate category?
(E.g. Are there any stakeholders who are in the satisfy category who you would like to be key players? Or vice versa?)
Is the number of Key Players manageable?
Remember this is the group you will need to focus most of your attention on. If you have too many Key Players, you risk spreading yourself too thin.
How are you engaging or communicating with each category?
Is the way you are communicating with each stakeholder appropriate for the category they are in?
Identify Program Closeness
Identify how close stakeholders are to your program. The closer a stakeholder is the more important they are to your program’s implementation. They will also have more internal knowledge about your program.
Use a diagram like the one in the picture above to place your stakeholders closer or further away from your program.
Once you’ve mapped your stakeholders you will be able to get a better sense about how to communicate and include them.
Those closer to your program might be great thought partners. Their buy-in will most likely be important to implementing decisions, so including them in the decision-making process is important. For example, your staff (who should be close to the program) will most likely have to participate in some data collection procedures. They may need to give adequate time for data collectors to collect data, or even do some of the data collection themselves. Including them in data collection decisions will help identify potential logistical hurdles and facilitate the process.
Conversely, those further away from your program may need more scaffolding around decision making. For example, funders may be “key players” but not close to your program. They might work with a lot of programs and may need to be reminded about aspects of your program. While their input and buy-in is important, they will need to talk to those closer to the program to fully understand logistics related to decisions.
Now what? How is this connected to evaluation?
Doing a stakeholder analysis will allow you to think about your stakeholders’ perspectives and how you might engage them. As mentioned above, evaluators like to engage stakeholders in the evaluation process to promote buy-in. You can do the same. For example, you can ask “key players” and those close to your program for input on your evaluation questions or help building a theory of change.
Remember, when you consult any group of stakeholders you will want to manage expectations. Think of the last time someone asked you for advice and then they decided to go in a different direction. It could be a little alienating, and your aim is to develop positive relationships with your stakeholders. You can manage your stakeholders’ expectations by being clear about your decision-making process from the start. For instance, you may want to clarify that you’ll be asking many other groups of stakeholders for input, and that you’ll take everyone’s opinion into consideration before making a decision.
This post provides more background information the Power + Interest Activity. The activity is known as Mendelow's matrix
This blog post also goes into more detail on the Power + Interest Activity.
Provides worksheets and instructions that will help you describe your organization's system. This includes a worksheet on page 5 to identify stakeholder's closeness to your program. On page 6, they also have a stakeholder interview guide if you want more guidance on how to ask your stakeholders about their perspectives.
Monica J. Hargraves and Jane C. Buckly, Editors. (2015) Workbook For the Systems Evaluation Protocol. Cornell Office for Research on Evaluation, Ithaca, NY.
A web-based program that allows you to easily create a pathway model and identify stakeholder's closeness to your program. Once you identify each stakeholder's closeness you can use this to create an digital copy.