January 15, 2016

Market Mapping and Landscape Analysis

Identifying all the key players in a field, sector or geography and classifying them by relevant characteristics (type, revenue, etc.)

Market mapping and landscape analysis involves identifying the key players in a field, sector or geography and classifying them by relevant characteristics (e.g., type of organization, target beneficiary). This helps nonprofits understand the broader context in which they are operating, and design their strategy accordingly to maximize their impact.

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How it's used

Market mapping and landscape analysis can be used for a variety of purposes to help nonprofits chart their broader strategy and make critical decisions. It can be used to "get smart" on a new field or geography, discover important trends shaping a sector, or identify peers and collaborators. It allows organizations to identify which topics, approaches or beneficiaries are well served by existing organizations, as well as any white space where no organization is currently active.

Market mapping is especially useful for organizations considering significant expansion or shifts in focus, or those conducting a rigorous strategic planning process. It is also a key part of setting up a collective impact collaboration.


Nonprofit managers can follow four general steps to implement market mapping and landscape analysis:

  1. Crystallize objectives: The first step in conducting market mapping and landscape analysis is to identify the goals of the analysis and determine the key questions the analysis will help answer.
  2. Define scope:With goals set, organizations should determine the scope of the analysis—what types of organizations and actors should be included, and which excluded? Key dimensions to consider include:
    • Function (e.g. funder, regulator, intermediary, service provider)
    • Approach (e.g. research, advocacy, knowledge dissemination, service provision)
    • Organization type (e.g. nonprofit, government, university, for-profit)
    • Topic (e.g. refugee resettlement, teenage pregnancy prevention, air pollution)
    • Beneficiary (e.g. diabetes patients, preschoolers, Latinas)
    • Geography (e.g. specific school districts, neighborhoods, cities, states)
    In most cases, nonprofits will zero in on a narrow set of characteristics within a broad category ( e.g. organizations across the country implementing a very specific evidence-based intervention) , or a broad set of within a narrow category (e.g. organizations of all types serving middle school students in a single school district, or. Some landscapes can and should include individual thought leaders or decision makers as well as organizations.
  3. Decide on the critical information to gather: Identify the key data points to collect about each organization or actor. Many of these will be the dimensions identified above (e.g. geographic focus), but there will likely be others as well (e.g. links among organizations, size and number of beneficiaries served, outcomes data, etc.)
  4. Conduct targeted research: With goals and scope set, staff can conduct targeted research to map the selected field. Research methods may include brainstorming a list of organizations with key stakeholders, reviewing online of databases and existing literature, conducting surveys, and interviewing peers and other field stakeholders.
  5. Synthesize and draw out implications: Synthesize researched information to provide a clear landscape of the field or sub-field. From here, work with key stakeholders and senior leadership to discern insights and implications for the organization's strategy and work.



Related topics


Additional resources

How to Conduct and Prepare a Competitive Analysis
This short, practical guide is written for a for-profit company but the ideas and lessons contained within it are easily transferred to a nonprofit organization.

The Strong Field Framework: A Guide and Toolkit for Funders and Nonprofits Committed to Large-Scale Impact
This toolkit provides an introduction to the Strong Field Framework, which can be utilized by practitioners to assess a field and to propose recommendations for field-building activities. 


Examples and case studies

Financing and Sustaining Out-of-School Time Programs in Rural Communities
This article highlights the use of domain and field mapping of funding sources for rural out-of-school time programs.

Assessing California's Multiple Pathways Field: Preparing Youth for Success in College and Career
The James Irvine Foundation commissioned a landscape analysis of the "multiple pathways" approach to high school education in California–a blend of rigorous academics and real-world experience that seeks to engage youth and help them graduate high school prepared for success in college and career.

Landscape analysis of Community-Based Organizations: Maniema, North Kivu, Orientale and South Kivu Provinces of Democratic Republic of Congo
The first 18 pages of this report provide an excellent example of the insights and next steps an organization can learn from a landscape analysis. The introduction and methods sections also reveal how one can go about implementing a landscape analysis. The remaining pages provide examples of the insights produced by an in-depth landscape analysis.

 Note: This page was originally featured in the Nonprofit Management Tools and Trends report (2015)

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