Writing a Business Plan
While it may be tempting to put off, creating a business plan is an essential part of starting your own business. Plans and proposals should be put in a clear format making it easy for potential investors to understand. Because every company has a different goal and product or service to offer, there are business plan templates readily available to help you get on the right track. Many of these templates can be adapted for any company. In general, a business plan writing guide will recommend that the following sections be incorporated into your plan.
The executive summary is the first section that business plans open with, but is often the last section to actually be written as it’s the most difficult to write. The executive summary is a summary of the overall plan that highlights the key points and gives the reader an idea of what lies ahead in the document. It should include areas such as the business opportunity, target market, marketing and sales strategy, competition, the summary of the financial plan, staff members and a summary of how the plan will be implemented. This section needs to be extremely clear, concise and engaging as you don’t want the reader to push your hard work aside.
The company description follows the executive summary and should cover all the details about the company itself. For example, if you are writing a business plan for an internet café, you would want to include the name of the company, where the café would be located, who the main team members involved are and why, how large the company is, who the target market for the internet cafe is, what type of business structure the café is, such as LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, what the internet café business mission and vision statements are, and what the business’s short-term objectives are.
Services and Products
This is the exciting part of the plan where you get to explain what new and improved services or products you are offering. On top of describing the product or service itself, include in the plan what is currently in the market in this area, what problems there are in this area and how your product is the solution. For example, in a business plan for a food truck, perhaps there are numerous other food trucks in the area, but they are all fast –food style and unhealthy so, you want to introduce fast food that serves only organic and fresh ingredients every day. This is where you can also list your price points and future products or services you anticipate.
The market analysis section will take time to write and research as a lot of effort and research need to go into it. Here is where you have the opportunity to describe what trends are showing up, what the growth rate in this sector looks like, what the current size of this industry is and who your target audience is. A cleaning business plan, for example, may include how this sector has been growing by 10% every year due to an increase in large businesses being built in the city.
Organization and Management
Marketing and sales are the part of the business plan where you explain how you will attract and retain clients. How are you reaching your target customers and what incentives do you offer that will keep them coming back? For a dry cleaner business plan, perhaps if they refer customers, they will get 10% off their next visit. In addition, you may want to explain what needs to be done in order for the business to be profitable. This is a great way of showing that you are conscious about what clear steps need to be taken to make a business successful.
Financial Projections & Appendix
The financial business plan section can be a tricky one to write as it is based on projections. Usually what is included is the short-term projection, which is a year broken down by month and should include start-up permits, equipment, and licenses that are required. This is followed by a three-year projection broken down by year and many often write a five-year projection, but this does not need to be included in the business plan.
The appendix is the last section and contains all the supporting documents and/or required material. This often includes resumes of those involved in the company, letters of reference, product pictures and credit histories. Keep in mind that your business plan is always in development and should be adjusted regularly as your business grows and changes.
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Your Guide to Writing a Business Plan
If you’re starting a new business, then you need an effective plan. Not only does this enable you to plan your company, but it also gives potential clients an insight into how your business works. A business plan is also vital if you want to attract investors or secure a loan from the bank. Drafting a business plan is a complex process, but it doesn’t have to be. This guide will ensure you create a definite plan to impress investors and clients.
When creating your business plan, there are some essential elements you must include. The Executive Summary provides a description of your business, and what you hope to achieve. People usually write at least one page, but leave their Executive Summary until last.
You’ll also need to detail what your business offers and define your target audience. This makes it easier for people to see whether your company has a chance of succeeding. The opportunity section is also an excellent way for you to see what competitors offer and how you can create a USP to stand out from the competition.
Appealing to Investors
Every business that wants growth and prosperity must ensure they promote themselves to potential investors. Business plans aren’t just about what the business is, but who is part of it too. Detail your current team members and explain what they bring to the company. Investors want to know they’re making a wise investment.
Your current finances and financial forecast are also essential aspects of your business plan. Look at your products, how much you’re selling them for and what kind of profit margin you expect to gain. It’s also vital you detail your outgoings and look at how various economic situations could affect your finances.
Writing a Winning Executive Summary
There are problems in every market, and a successful business solves that problem. If you can show how you’ll be able to offer solutions in your business plan, you’ll appeal to investors. Choose your target audience based on research and ensure you show your research. There are many ways to conduct market research including defining SOMs, SAMs and TAMs.
TAM stands for Total Available Market and comprises everyone you want your product to reach. Your Segmented Addressable Market (SAM) is a specific portion of the market you’ll target. This is important because it shows you’re able to direct your product at the right people and not just everyone. Your SOM (Share of the Market) is what you feel you’ll gain with your product.
How to Determine Pricing
Pricing your product is one of the most challenging things you’ll have to do. There are many things to consider, such as how much it’s worth and making sure you don’t charge unrealistically. Many new businesses believe undercharging is the best way to go, but doing this can undermine your company’s authority and cause fewer people to be interested in investing.
Market-based pricing involves looking at your competitors and evaluating their prices. Which company has the most customers? How does their pricing match others? These are all vital aspects you should consider. Remember, customers expect quality and a fair price, so make sure you combine the two.
Investors and banks want to know that you’ve considered what the future will hold for your company. When you write your business plan, be sure to take into account how you see the company growing, what you’ll do to ensure it thrives and that you understand the potential risks. Banks and investors want to know that you can build a business and are aware of the obstacles you’ll have to overcome.
Starting your own business doesn’t have to be difficult. If you ensure you produce a robust business plan, it can be an exciting process. Your business is part of your future, so start by outlining your goals and look forward to seeing results.
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How to write a nonprofit business plan
While a nonprofit business plan is similar to that of a for-profit company, it has a few important differences, including the need for a fundraising section.
Ready to start your business?
updated November 21, 2023 · 3min read
Nonprofit business plan elements
Fundraising section is essential, keep it real.
While nonprofit organizations are purpose-driven rather than profit-driven, they have a great deal in common with their for-profit counterparts.
"We may be governed by a different part of the tax code and exempt from some—but not all—taxes, but we are businesses, too," says Rick Cohen, chief operating officer at the National Council of Nonprofits.
Like other types of businesses, successful nonprofits outline their goals and how they will achieve them in a written document known as a business plan.
A nonprofit's business plan is similar to that used by a for-profit entity but has key differences. Here's what you need to know about how to write a nonprofit business plan.
For-profit business plans detail what a company does, how it does it, who does it, and how it pays for it. A nonprofit business plan outlines that as well but approaches parts of the process differently.
The biggest difference is that nonprofit organizations focus on the problem they want to solve and how to fund programs and activities that help do that.
"Nonprofits have the added burden and opportunity of impact in their business plan," says Sara Gibson, co-founder and CEO of 20 Degrees, a consulting firm serving nonprofits. "The sector doesn't measure worth in profit—it is measured in lives and in change created. That has to be part of the plan."
Typical nonprofit business plans feature many of the following elements:
- Executive summary
- Mission and goals
- Community impact
- Products, services, and programs
- Organizational structure and staffing
- Market and competitive analysis
- Fundraising and development
- Financial plan
For-profit businesses might be funded initially by owners or outside investors, but the ultimate goal is usually self-sufficiency through sales. Many nonprofit organizations aren't structured or created to generate income to support their community services, so fundraising is key.
"It is critical for the sustainability of nonprofits that they are constantly being connected with grants and funders who will provide the financial resources needed for these nonprofits to continue offering quality and valuable assistance to the communities they serve," says Fernando Urbina, director of outreach for ImmigrationHelp.org.
Mikko Sperber, managing partner and founder of Fundamental Strategy, recommends taking on a for-profit business mindset when writing the fundraising section of the nonprofit business plan.
"If you build your plan to have a budget surplus at the end of your year, you then have the capital to reinvest in growing your organization and furthering your mission," he says.
The organization's communication and marketing strategy feeds fundraising goals, so be thoughtful about that piece when writing a nonprofit business plan.
"If no one knows who you are, then no one will be donating to your cause," says Mike McKnight, director of operations at Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome.
When outlining your business plan, be realistic about fundraising and other revenue streams, then match your budget to your fundraising goal, not the other way around. "In worst-case scenarios, fundraising numbers are plugged into a budget after the programmatic expenses are figured to just offset them without a realistic plan," Sperber says.
Matching your budget to your fundraising goal is especially important because of the organization's impact on the community served, says Cohen, whose organization offers nonprofit business plan resources on its website.
"The worst thing a nonprofit can do is get to a place where people are counting on their services, but then need to close their doors, leaving those people in the lurch," he says.
To ensure your organization's business plan properly supports your mission, consider consulting with professionals such as nonprofit advisers and attorneys specializing in this sector.
Keep your nonprofit business plan handy, too. It's your organizational blueprint, but you'll also need to update it as circumstances or market conditions change.
by Sandra Beckwith
Sandra Beckwith has been writing for traditional and online publications since she sold her first magazine article wh...
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A nonprofit business plan ensures your organization’s fundraising and activities align with your core mission.
Every nonprofit needs a mission statement that demonstrates how the organization will support a social cause and provide a public benefit. A nonprofit business plan fleshes out this mission statement in greater detail. These plans include many of the same elements as a for-profit business plan, with a focus on fundraising, creating a board of directors, raising awareness, and staying compliant with IRS regulations. A nonprofit business plan can be instrumental in getting your organization off the ground successfully.
Start with your mission statement
The mission statement is foundational for your nonprofit organization. The IRS will review your mission statement in determining whether to grant you tax-exempt status. This statement also helps you recruit volunteers and staff, fundraise, and plan activities for the year.
[Read more: Writing a Mission Statement: A Step-by-Step Guide ]
Therefore, you should start your business plan with a clear mission statement in the executive summary. The executive summary can also cover, at a high level, the goals, vision, and unique strengths of your nonprofit organization. Keep this section brief, since you will be going into greater detail in later sections.
Identify a board of directors
Many business plans include a section identifying the people behind the operation: your key leaders, volunteers, and full-time employees. For nonprofits, it’s also important to identify your board of directors. The board of directors is ultimately responsible for hiring and managing the CEO of your nonprofit.
“Board members are the fiduciaries who steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure the nonprofit has adequate resources to advance its mission,” wrote the Council of Nonprofits.
As such, identify members of your board in your business plan to give potential donors confidence in the management of your nonprofit.
Be as realistic as possible about the impact you can make with the funding you hope to gain.
Describe your organization’s activities
In this section, provide more information about what your nonprofit does on a day-to-day basis. What products, training, education, or other services do you provide? What does your organization do to benefit the constituents identified in your mission statement? Here’s an example from the American Red Cross, courtesy of DonorBox :
“The American Red Cross carries out their mission to prevent and relieve suffering with five key services: disaster relief, supporting America’s military families, lifesaving blood, health and safety services, and international service.”
This section should be detailed and get into the operational weeds of how your business delivers on its mission statement. Explain the strategies your team will take to service clients, including outreach and marketing, inventory and equipment needs, a hiring plan, and other key elements.
Write a fundraising plan
This part is the most important element of your business plan. In addition to providing required financial statements (e.g., the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement), identify potential sources of funding for your nonprofit. These may include individual donors, corporate donors, grants, or in-kind support. If you are planning to host a fundraising event, put together a budget for that event and demonstrate the anticipated impact that event will have on your budget.
Create an impact plan
An impact plan ties everything together. It demonstrates how your fundraising and day-to-day activities will further your mission. For potential donors, it can make a very convincing case for why they should invest in your nonprofit.
“This section turns your purpose and motivation into concrete accomplishments your nonprofit wants to make and sets specific goals and objectives,” wrote DonorBox . “These define the real bottom line of your nonprofit, so they’re the key to unlocking support. Funders want to know for whom, in what way, and exactly how you’ll measure your impact.”
Be as realistic as possible about the impact you can make with the funding you hope to gain. Revisit your business plan as your organization grows to make sure the goals you’ve set both align with your mission and continue to be within reach.
[Read more: 8 Signs It's Time to Update Your Business Plan ]
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How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan in 12 Steps (+ Free Template!)
The first step in starting a nonprofit is figuring out how to bring your vision into reality. If there’s any tool that can really help you hit the ground running, it’s a nonprofit business plan!
With a plan in place, you not only have a clear direction for growth, but you can also access valuable funding opportunities.
Here, we’ll explore:
- Why a business plan is so important
- The components of a business plan
- How to write a business plan for a nonprofit specifically
We also have a few great examples, as well as a free nonprofit business plan template.
Let’s get planning!
What Is a Nonprofit Business Plan?
A nonprofit business plan is the roadmap to your organization’s future. It lays out where your nonprofit currently stands in terms of organizational structure, finances and programs. Most importantly, it highlights your goals and how you aim to achieve them!
These goals should be reachable within the next 3-5 years—and flexible! Your nonprofit business plan is a living document, and should be regularly updated as priorities shift. The point of your plan is to remind you and your supporters what your organization is all about.
This document can be as short as one page if you’re just starting out, or much longer as your organization grows. As long as you have all the core elements of a business plan (which we’ll get into below!), you’re golden.
Why Your Nonprofit Needs a Business Plan
While some people might argue that a nonprofit business plan isn’t strictly necessary, it’s well worth your time to make!
Here are 5 benefits of writing a business plan:
Secure funding and grants
Did you know that businesses with a plan are far more likely to get funding than those that don’t have a plan? It’s true!
When donors, investors, foundations, granting bodies and volunteers see you have a clear plan, they’re more likely to trust you with their time and money. Plus, as you achieve the goals laid out in your plan, that trust will only grow.
Solidify your mission
In order to sell your mission, you have to know what it is. That might sound simple, but when you have big dreams and ideas, it’s easy to get lost in all of the possibilities!
Writing your business plan pushes you to express your mission in the most straightforward way possible. As the years go on and new opportunities and ideas arise, your business plan will guide you back to your original mission.
From there, you can figure out if you’ve lost the plot—or if it’s time to change the mission itself!
Set goals and milestones
The first step in achieving your goals is knowing exactly what they are. By highlighting your goals for the next 3-5 years—and naming their key milestones!—you can consistently check if you’re on track.
Nonprofit work is tough, and there will be points along the way where you wonder if you’re actually making a difference. With a nonprofit business plan in place, you can actually see how much you’ve achieved over the years.
Attract a board and volunteers
Getting volunteers and filling nonprofit board positions is essential to building out your organization’s team. Like we said before, a business plan builds trust and shows that your organization is legitimate. In fact, some boards of directors actually require a business plan in order for an organization to run!
An unfortunate truth is that many volunteers get taken advantage of . With a business plan in place, you can show that you’re coming from a place of professionalism.
Research and find opportunities
Writing a business plan requires some research!
Along the way, you’ll likely dig into information like:
- Who your ideal donor might be
- Where to find potential partners
- What your competitors are up to
- Which mentorships or grants are available for your organization
- What is the best business model for a nonprofit like yours
With this information in place, not only will you have a better nonprofit business model created—you’ll also have a more stable organization!
Free Nonprofit Business Plan Template
If you’re feeling uncertain about building a business plan from scratch, we’ve got you covered!
Here is a quick and simple free nonprofit business plan template.
Basic Format and Parts of a Business Plan
Now that you know what a business plan can do for your organization, let’s talk about what it actually contains!
Here are some key elements of a business plan:
First of all, you want to make sure your business plan follows best practices for formatting. After all, it’ll be available to your team, donors, board of directors, funding bodies and more!
Your nonprofit business plan should:
- Be consistent formatted
- Have standard margins
- Use a good sized font
- Keep the document to-the-point
- Include a page break after each section
- Be proofread
Curious about what each section of the document should look like?
Here are the essential parts of a business plan:
- Executive Summary: This is your nonprofit’s story—it’ll include your goals, as well as your mission, vision and values.
- Products, programs and services: This is where you show exactly what it is you’re doing. Highlight the programs and services you offer, and how they will benefit your community.
- Operations: This section describes your team, partnerships and all activities and requirements your day-to-day operations will include.
- Marketing : Your marketing plan will cover your market, market analyses and specific plans for how you will carry out your business plan with the public.
- Finances: This section covers an overview of your financial operations. It will include documents like your financial projections, fundraising plan , grants and more
- Appendix: Any additional useful information will be attached here.
We’ll get into these sections in more detail below!
How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan in 12 Steps
Feeling ready to put your plan into action? Here’s how to write a business plan for a nonprofit in 12 simple steps!
1. Research the market
Take a look at what’s going on in your corner of the nonprofit sector. After all, you’re not the first organization to write a business plan!
- How your competitors’ business plans are structured
- What your beneficiaries are asking for
- Potential partners you’d like to reach
- Your target donors
- What information granting bodies and loan providers require
All of this information will show you what parts of your business plan should be given extra care. Sending out donor surveys, contacting financial institutions and connecting with your beneficiaries are a few tips to get your research going.
If you’re just getting started out, this can help guide you in naming your nonprofit something relevant, eye-catching and unique!
2. Write to your audience
Your business plan will be available for a whole bunch of people, including:
- Granting bodies
- Loan providers
- Prospective and current board members
Each of these audiences will be coming from different backgrounds, and looking at your business plan for different reasons. If you keep your nonprofit business plan accessible (minimal acronyms and industry jargon), you’ll be more likely to reach everyone.
If you’d like, it’s always possible to create a one page business plan AND a more detailed one. Then, you can provide the one that feels most useful to each audience!
3. Write your mission statement
Your mission statement defines how your organization aims to make a difference in the world. In one sentence, lay out why your nonprofit exists.
Here are a few examples of nonprofit mission statements:
- Watts of Love is a global solar lighting nonprofit bringing people the power to raise themselves out of the darkness of poverty.
- CoachArt creates a transformative arts and athletics community for families impacted by childhood chronic illness.
- The Trevor Project fights to end suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people.
In a single sentence, each of these nonprofits defines exactly what it is their organization is doing, and who their work reaches. Offering this information at a glance is how you immediately hook your readers!
4. Describe your nonprofit
Now that your mission is laid out, show a little bit more about who you are and how you aim to carry out your mission. Expanding your mission statement to include your vision and values is a great way to kick this off!
Use this section to highlight:
- Your ideal vision for your community
- The guiding philosophy and values of your organization
- The purpose you were established to achieve
Don’t worry too much about the specifics here—we’ll get into those below! This description is simply meant to demonstrate the heart of your organization.
5. Outline management and organization
When you put together your business plan, you’ll want to describe the structure of your organization in the Operations section.
This will include information like:
- Team members (staff, board of directors , etc.)
- The specific type of nonprofit you’re running
If you’re already established, make a section for how you got started! This includes your origin story, your growth and the impressive nonprofit talent you’ve brought on over the years.
6. Describe programs, products and services
This information will have its own section in your nonprofit business plan—and for good reason!
It gives readers vital information about how you operate, including:
- The specifics of the work you do
- How that work helps your beneficiaries
- The resources that support the work (partnerships, facilities, volunteers, etc!)
- If you have a membership base or a subscription business model
Above all, highlight what needs your nonprofit meets and how it plans to continue meeting those needs. Really get into the details here! Emphasize the work of each and every program, and if you’re already established, note the real impact you’ve made.
Try including pictures and graphic design elements so people can feel your impact even if they’re simply skimming.
7. Create an Executive Summary
Your Executive Summary will sit right at the top of your business plan—in many ways, it’s the shining star of the document! This section serves as a concise and compelling telling of your nonprofit’s story. If it can capture your readers’ attention, they’re more likely to read through the rest of the plan.
Your Executive Summary should include:
- Your mission, vision and values
- Your goals (and their timelines!)
- Your organization’s history
- Your primary programs, products and services
- Your financing plan
- How you intend on using your funding
This section will summarize the basics of everything else in your plan. While it comes first part of your plan, we suggest writing it last! That way, you’ll already have the information on hand.
You can also edit your Executive Summary depending on your audience. For example, if you’re sending your nonprofit business plan to a loan provider, you can really focus on where the money will be going. If you’re trying to recruit a new board member, you might want to highlight goals and impact, instead.
8. Write a marketing plan
Having a nonprofit marketing plan is essential to making sure your mission reaches people—and that’s especially true for your business plan.
If your nonprofit is already up and running, detail the work you’re currently doing, as well as the specific results you’ve seen so far. If you’re new, you’ll mostly be working with projections—so make sure your data is sound!
No matter what, your Marketing Plan section should market research such as:
- Beneficiary information
- Information on your target audience/donor base
- Information on your competitors
- Names of potential partners
Data is your friend here! Make note of market analyses and tests you’ve run. Be sure to also document any outreach and campaigns you’ve previously done, as well as your outcomes.
Finally, be sure to list all past and future marketing strategies you’re planning for. This can include promotion, advertising, online marketing plans and more.
9. Create a logistics and operations plan
The Operations section of your business plan will take the organizational information you’ve gathered so far and expand the details! Highlight what the day-to-day will look like for your nonprofit, and how your funds and resources will make it possible.
Be sure to make note of:
- The titles and responsibilities of your core team
- The partners and suppliers you work with
- Insurance you will need
- Necessary licenses or certifications you’ll maintain
- The cost of services and programs
This is the what and how of your business plan. Lean into those details, and show exactly how you’ll accomplish those goals you’ve been talking about!
10. Write an Impact Plan
Your Impact Plan is a deep dive into your organization’s goals. It grounds your dreams in reality, which brings both idealists and more practically-minded folks into your corner!
Where your Executive Summary lays out your ambitions on a broader level, this plan:
- Clarifies your goals in detail
- Highlights specific objectives and their timelines
- Breaks down how you will achieve them
- Shows how you will measure your success
Your Impact Plan will have quite a few goals in it, so be sure to emphasize which ones are the most impactful on your cause. After all, social impact is just as important as financial impact!
11. Outline the Financial Plan
One of the main reasons people want to know how to write a nonprofit business plan is because of how essential it is to receiving funding. Loan providers, donors and granting bodies will want to see your numbers—and that’s where your Financial Plan comes in.
This plan should clearly lay out where your money is coming from and where it will go. If you’re just getting started, check out what similar nonprofits are doing in order to get realistic numbers. Even if you’re starting a nonprofit on a tight budget , every bit of financial information counts!
First, map out your projected (or actual) nonprofit revenue streams , such as:
- Expected membership contributions
- Significant donations
- In-kind support
- Fundraising plan
Then, do the same with your expenses:
- Startup costs
- Typical bills
- Web hosting
- Membership management software
- Costs of programs
If your nonprofit is already up and running, include your past accounting information. Otherwise, keep working with those grounded projections!
To make sure you have all of your information set, include documents like:
- Income statement
- Cash flow statement
- Balance sheet
This information comes together to show that your nonprofit can stay above water financially. Highlighting that you can comfortably cover your operational costs is essential. Plus, building this plan might help your team find funding gaps or opportunities!
12. Include an Appendix
Your appendix is for any extra pieces of useful information for your readers.
This could be documents such as:
- Academic papers about your beneficiaries
- Publications on your nonprofit’s previous success
- Board member bios
- Organizational flow chart
- Your IRS status letter
Make sure your additions contribute to your nonprofit’s story!
Examples of Business Plans for Nonprofits
Here are two great examples of nonprofit business plans. Notice how they’re different depending on the size of the organization!
Nonprofit Recording Co-op Business Plan
This sample nonprofit business plan shows what a basic plan could look like for a hobbyists’ co-op. If your nonprofit is on the smaller, more local side, this is a great reference!
What we like:
- Details on running a basic membership model
- Emphasis on what it means to specifically be a sustainable cooperative
- A list of early milestones, such as hitting their 100th member
- Clarification that all recordings will be legal
Nonprofit Youth Services Business Plan
This sample nonprofit business plan is for a much larger organization. Instead of focusing on the details of a membership model, it gets deeper into programs and services provided.
What we like
- The mission is broken down by values
- A detailed look at what each program provides
- A thorough sales plan
- Key assumptions are included for the financial plan
How to Create a Nonprofit Business Plan With Confidence
We hope this sheds some light on how creating a nonprofit business plan can help your organization moving forward! Remember: you know what you want for your organization. A business plan is simply a tool for making those dreams a reality.
Is a membership program part of your business plan? Check out WildApricot ’s award-winning membership management software!
With our 60-day free trial , you’ll have all the time you need to fall in love with what we have to offer.
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Business Planning for Nonprofits
Business planning is a way of systematically answering questions such as, “What problem(s) are we trying to solve?” or “What are we trying to achieve?” and also, “Who will get us there, by when, and how much money and other resources will it take?”
The business planning process takes into account the nonprofit’s mission and vision, the role of the board, and external environmental factors, such as the climate for fundraising.
Ideally, the business planning process also critically examines basic assumptions about the nonprofit’s operating environment. What if the sources of income that exist today change in the future? Is the nonprofit too reliant on one foundation for revenue? What happens if there’s an economic downturn?
A business plan can help the nonprofit and its board be prepared for future risks. What is the likelihood that the planned activities will continue as usual, and that revenue will continue at current levels – and what is Plan B if they don't?
Narrative of a business plan
You can think of a business plan as a narrative or story explaining how the nonprofit will operate given its activities, its sources of revenue, its expenses, and the inevitable changes in its internal and external environments over time. Ideally, your plan will tell the story in a way that will make sense to someone not intimately familiar with the nonprofit’s operations.
According to Propel Nonprofits , business plans usually should have four components that identify revenue sources/mix; operations costs; program costs; and capital structure.
A business plan outlines the expected income sources to support the charitable nonprofit's activities. What types of revenue will the nonprofit rely on to keep its engine running – how much will be earned, how much from government grants or contracts, how much will be contributed? Within each of those broad categories, how much diversification exists, and should they be further diversified? Are there certain factors that need to be in place in order for today’s income streams to continue flowing?
The plan should address the everyday costs needed to operate the organization, as well as costs of specific programs and activities.
The plan may include details about the need for the organization's services (a needs assessment), the likelihood that certain funding will be available (a feasibility study), or changes to the organization's technology or staffing that will be needed in the future.
Another aspect of a business plan could be a "competitive analysis" describing what other entities may be providing similar services in the nonprofit's service and mission areas. What are their sources of revenue and staffing structures? How do their services and capacities differ from those of your nonprofit?
Finally, the business plan should name important assumptions, such as the organization's reserve policies. Do your nonprofit’s policies require it to have at least six months of operating cash on hand? Do you have different types of cash reserves that require different levels of board approval to release?
The idea is to identify the known, and take into consideration the unknown, realities of the nonprofit's operations, and propose how the nonprofit will continue to be financially healthy. If the underlying assumptions or current conditions change, then having a plan can be useful to help identify adjustments that must be made to respond to changes in the nonprofit's operating environment.
Basic format of a business plan
The format may vary depending on the audience. A business plan prepared for a bank to support a loan application may be different than a business plan that board members use as the basis for budgeting. Here is a typical outline of the format for a business plan:
- Table of contents
- Executive summary - Name the problem the nonprofit is trying to solve: its mission, and how it accomplishes its mission.
- People: overview of the nonprofit’s board, staffing, and volunteer structure and who makes what happen
- Market opportunities/competitive analysis
- Programs and services: overview of implementation
- Contingencies: what could change?
- Financial health: what is the current status, and what are the sources of revenue to operate programs and advance the mission over time?
- Assumptions and proposed changes: What needs to be in place for this nonprofit to continue on sound financial footing?
More About Business Planning
Budgeting for Nonprofits
Contact your state association of nonprofits for support and resources related to business planning, strategic planning, and other fundamentals of nonprofit leadership.
- Components of transforming nonprofit business models (Propel Nonprofits)
- The matrix map: a powerful tool for nonprofit sustainability (Nonprofit Quarterly)
- The Nonprofit Business Plan: A Leader's Guide to Creating a Successful Business Model (David La Piana, Heather Gowdy, Lester Olmstead-Rose, and Brent Copen, Turner Publishing)
- Nonprofit Earned Income: Critical Business Model Considerations for Nonprofits (Nonprofit Financial Commons)
- Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability (Jan Masaoka, Steve Zimmerman, and Jeanne Bell)
Disclaimer: Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be nor should be construed as legal, accounting, tax, investment, or financial advice. Please consult a professional (attorney, accountant, tax advisor) for the latest and most accurate information. The National Council of Nonprofits makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.
How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan
13 min. read
Updated October 27, 2023
Believe it or not, creating a business plan for a nonprofit organization is not that different from planning for a traditional business.
Nonprofits sometimes shy away from using the words “business planning,” preferring to use terms like “strategic plan” or “operating plan.” But, the fact is that preparing a plan for a for-profit business and a nonprofit organization are actually pretty similar processes. Both types of organizations need to create forecasts for revenue and plan how they’re going to spend the money they bring in. They also need to manage their cash and ensure that they can stay solvent to accomplish their goals.
In this guide, I’ll explain how to create a plan for your organization that will impress your board of directors, facilitate fundraising, and ensures that you deliver on your mission.
- Why does a nonprofit need a business plan?
Good business planning is about setting goals, getting everyone on the same page, tracking performance metrics, and improving over time. Even when your goal isn’t to increase profits, you still need to be able to run a fiscally healthy organization.
Business planning creates an opportunity to examine the heart of your mission , the financing you’ll need to bring that mission to fruition, and your plan to sustain your operations into the future.
Nonprofits are also responsible for meeting regularly with a board of directors and reporting on your organization’s finances is a critical part of that meeting. As part of your regular financial review with the board, you can compare your actual results to your financial forecast in your business plan. Are you meeting fundraising goals and keeping spending on track? Is the financial position of the organization where you wanted it to be?
In addition to internal use, a solid business plan can help you court major donors who will be interested in having a deeper understanding of how your organization works and your fiscal health and accountability. And you’ll definitely need a formal business plan if you intend to seek outside funding for capital expenses—it’s required by lenders.
Creating a business plan for your organization is a great way to get your management team or board to connect over your vision, goals, and trajectory. Even just going through the planning process with your colleagues will help you take a step back and get some high-level perspective .
- A nonprofit business plan outline
Keep in mind that developing a business plan is an ongoing process. It isn’t about just writing a physical document that is static, but a continually evolving strategy and action plan as your organization progresses over time. It’s essential that you run regular plan review meetings to track your progress against your plan. For most nonprofits, this will coincide with regular reports and meetings with the board of directors.
A nonprofit business plan will include many of the same sections of a standard business plan outline . If you’d like to start simple, you can download our free business plan template as a Word document, and adjust it according to the nonprofit plan outline below.
The executive summary of a nonprofit business plan is typically the first section of the plan to be read, but the last to be written. That’s because this section is a general overview of everything else in the business plan – the overall snapshot of what your vision is for the organization.
Write it as though you might share with a prospective donor, or someone unfamiliar with your organization: avoid internal jargon or acronyms, and write it so that someone who has never heard of you would understand what you’re doing.
Your executive summary should provide a very brief overview of your organization’s mission. It should describe who you serve, how you provide the services that you offer, and how you fundraise.
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If you are putting together a plan to share with potential donors, you should include an overview of what you are asking for and how you intend to use the funds raised.
Start this section of your nonprofit plan by describing the problem that you are solving for your clients or your community at large. Then say how your organization solves the problem.
A great way to present your opportunity is with a positioning statement . Here’s a formula you can use to define your positioning:
For [target market description] who [target market need], [this product] [how it meets the need]. Unlike [key competition], it [most important distinguishing feature].
And here’s an example of a positioning statement using the formula:
For children, ages five to 12 (target market) who are struggling with reading (their need), Tutors Changing Lives (your organization or program name) helps them get up to grade-level reading through a once a week class (your solution).
Unlike the school district’s general after-school homework lab (your state-funded competition), our program specifically helps children learn to read within six months (how you’re different).
Your organization is special or you wouldn’t spend so much time devoted to it. Layout some of the nuts and bolts about what makes it great in this opening section of your business plan. Your nonprofit probably changes lives, changes your community, or maybe even changes the world. Explain how it does this.
This is where you really go into detail about the programs you’re offering. You’ll want to describe how many people you serve and how you serve them.
In a for-profit business plan, this section would be used to define your target market . For nonprofit organizations, it’s basically the same thing but framed as who you’re serving with your organization. Who benefits from your services?
Not all organizations have clients that they serve directly, so you might exclude this section if that’s the case. For example, an environmental preservation organization might have a goal of acquiring land to preserve natural habitats. The organization isn’t directly serving individual groups of people and is instead trying to benefit the environment as a whole.
Everyone has competition —nonprofits, too. You’re competing with other nonprofits for donor attention and support, and you’re competing with other organizations serving your target population. Even if your program is the only one in your area providing a specific service, you still have competition.
Think about what your prospective clients were doing about their problem (the one your organization is solving) before you came on this scene. If you’re running an after-school tutoring organization, you might be competing with after school sports programs for clients. Even though your organizations have fundamentally different missions.
For many nonprofit organizations, competing for funding is an important issue. You’ll want to use this section of your plan to explain who donors would choose your organization instead of similar organizations for their donations.
Future services and programs
If you’re running a regional nonprofit, do you want to be national in five years? If you’re currently serving children ages two to four, do you want to expand to ages five to 12? Use this section to talk about your long-term goals.
Just like a traditional business, you’ll benefit by laying out a long-term plan. Not only does it help guide your nonprofit, but it also provides a roadmap for the board as well as potential investors.
Promotion and outreach strategies
In a for-profit business plan, this section would be about marketing and sales strategies. For nonprofits, you’re going to talk about how you’re going to reach your target client population.
You’ll probably do some combination of:
- Advertising: print and direct mail, television, radio, and so on.
- Public relations: press releases, activities to promote brand awareness, and so on.
- Digital marketing: website, email, blog, social media, and so on.
Similar to the “target audience” section above, you may remove this section if you don’t promote your organization to clients and others who use your services.
Costs and fees
Instead of including a pricing section, a nonprofit business plan should include a costs or fees section.
Talk about how your program is funded, and whether the costs your clients pay are the same for everyone, or based on income level, or something else. If your clients pay less for your service than it costs to run the program, how will you make up the difference?
If you don’t charge for your services and programs, you can state that here or remove this section.
Fundraising is critical for most nonprofit organizations. This portion of your business plan will detail who your key fundraising sources are.
Similar to understanding who your target audience for your services is, you’ll also want to know who your target market is for fundraising. Who are your supporters? What kind of person donates to your organization? Creating a “donor persona” could be a useful exercise to help you reflect on this subject and streamline your fundraising approach.
You’ll also want to define different tiers of prospective donors and how you plan on connecting with them. You’re probably going to include information about your annual giving program (usually lower-tier donors) and your major gifts program (folks who give larger amounts).
If you’re a private school, for example, you might think of your main target market as alumni who graduated during a certain year, at a certain income level. If you’re building a bequest program to build your endowment, your target market might be a specific population with interest in your cause who is at retirement age.
Do some research. The key here is not to report your target donors as everyone in a 3,000-mile radius with a wallet. The more specific you can be about your prospective donors —their demographics, income level, and interests, the more targeted (and less costly) your outreach can be.
How will you reach your donors with your message? Use this section of your business plan to explain how you will market your organization to potential donors and generate revenue.
You might use a combination of direct mail, advertising, and fundraising events. Detail the key activities and programs that you’ll use to reach your donors and raise money.
Strategic alliances and partnerships
Use this section to talk about how you’ll work with other organizations. Maybe you need to use a room in the local public library to run your program for the first year. Maybe your organization provides mental health counselors in local schools, so you partner with your school district.
In some instances, you might also be relying on public health programs like Medicaid to fund your program costs. Mention all those strategic partnerships here, especially if your program would have trouble existing without the partnership.
Milestones and metrics
Without milestones and metrics for your nonprofit, it will be more difficult to execute on your mission. Milestones and metrics are guideposts along the way that are indicators that your program is working and that your organization is healthy.
They might include elements of your fundraising goals—like monthly or quarterly donation goals, or it might be more about your participation metrics. Since most nonprofits working with foundations for grants do complex reporting on some of these, don’t feel like you have to re-write every single goal and metric for your organization here. Think about your bigger goals, and if you need to, include more information in your business plan’s appendix.
If you’re revisiting your plan on a monthly basis, and we recommend that you do, the items here might speak directly to the questions you know your board will ask in your monthly trustee meeting. The point is to avoid surprises by having eyes on your organization’s performance. Having these goals, and being able to change course if you’re not meeting them, will help your organization avoid falling into a budget deficit.
Key assumptions and risks
Your nonprofit exists to serve a particular population or cause. Before you designed your key programs or services, you probably did some research to validate that there’s a need for what you’re offering.
But you probably are also taking some calculated risks. In this section, talk about the unknowns for your organization. If you name them, you can address them.
For example, if you think there’s a need for a children’s literacy program, maybe you surveyed teachers or parents in your area to verify the need. But because you haven’t launched the program yet, one of your unknowns might be whether the kids will actually show up.
Management team and company
Who is going to be involved and what are their duties? What do these individuals bring to the table?
Include both the management team of the day-to-day aspects of your nonprofit as well as board members and mention those who may overlap between the two roles. Highlight their qualifications: titles, degrees, relevant past accomplishments, and designated responsibilities should be included in this section. It adds a personal touch to mention team members who are especially qualified because they’re close to the cause or have special first-hand experience with or knowledge of the population you’re serving.
There are probably some amazing, dedicated people with stellar qualifications on your team—this is the place to feature them (and don’t forget to include yourself!).
The financial plan is essential to any organization that’s seeking funding, but also incredibly useful internally to keep track of what you’ve done so far financially and where you’d like to see the organization go in the future.
The financial section of your business plan should include a long-term budget and cash flow statement with a three to five-year forecast. This will allow you to see that the organization has its basic financial needs covered. Any nonprofit has its standard level of funding required to stay operational, so it’s essential to make sure your organization will consistently maintain at least that much in the coffers.
From that point, it’s all about future planning: If you exceed your fundraising goals, what will be done with the surplus? What will you do if you don’t meet your fundraising goals? Are you accounting for appropriate amounts going to payroll and administrative costs over time? Thinking through a forecast of your financial plan over the next several years will help ensure that your organization is sustainable.
Money management skills are just as important in a nonprofit as they are in a for-profit business. Knowing the financial details of your organization is incredibly important in a world where the public is ranking the credibility of charities based on what percentage of donations makes it to the programs and services. As a nonprofit, people are interested in the details of how money is being dispersed within organizations, with this information often being posted online on sites like Charity Navigator, so the public can make informed decisions about donating.
Potential contributors will do their research—so make sure you do too. No matter who your donors are, they will want to know they can trust your organization with their money. A robust financial plan is a solid foundation for reference that your nonprofit is on the right track.
- Business planning is ongoing
It’s important to remember that a business plan doesn’t have to be set in stone. It acts as a roadmap, something that you can come back to as a guide, then revise and edit to suit your purpose at a given time.
I recommend that you review your financial plan once a month to see if your organization is on track, and then revise your plan as necessary .
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The complete guide to writing a nonprofit business plan.
August 14, 2019
Leadership & Management
July 7, 2022
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Statistics from the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) show that there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations currently operating in the U.S. alone. Many of these organizations are hard at work helping people in need and addressing the great issues of our time. However, doing good work doesn’t necessarily translate into long-term success and financial stability. Other information has shown that around 12% of non-profits don’t make it past the 5-year mark, and this number expands to 17% at the 10-year mark.
12% of non-profits don’t make it past the 5-year mark and 17% at the 10-year mark
There are a variety of challenges behind these sobering statistics. In many cases, a nonprofit can be sunk before it starts due to a lack of a strong nonprofit business plan. Below is a complete guide to understanding why a nonprofit needs a business plan in place, and how to construct one, piece by piece.
The purpose of a nonprofit business plan
A business plan for a nonprofit is similar to that of a for-profit business plan, in that you want it to serve as a clear, complete roadmap for your organization. When your plan is complete, questions such as "what goals are we trying to accomplish?" or "what is the true purpose of our organization?" should be clear and simple to answer.
Your nonprofit business plan should provide answers to the following questions:
1. What activities do you plan to pursue in order to meet the organization’s high level goals?
2. What's your plan on getting revenue to fund these activities?
3. What are your operating costs and specifically how do these break down?
Note that there’s a difference between a business plan and a strategic plan, though there may be some overlap. A strategic plan is more conceptual, with different ideas you have in place to try and meet the organization’s greater vision (such as fighting homelessness or raising climate change awareness). A business plan serves as an action plan because it provides, in as much detail as possible, the specifics on how you’re going to execute your strategy.
- What is the Difference Between a Business Plan and a Strategic Plan?
- Business Planning for Nonprofits
Creating a nonprofit business plan
With this in mind, it’s important to discuss the individual sections of a nonprofit business plan. Having a proper plan in a recognizable format is essential for a variety of reasons. On your business’s end, it makes sure that as many issues or questions you may encounter are addressed up front. For outside entities, such as potential volunteers or donors, it shows that their time and energy will be managed well and put to good use. So, how do you go from conceptual to concrete?
Step 1: Write a mission statement
Having a mission statement is essential for any company, but even more so for nonprofits. Your markers of success are not just how the organization performs financially, but the impact it makes for your cause.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by creating a mission statement. A strong mission statement clarifies why your organization exists and determines the direction of activities.
At the head of their ethics page , NPR has a mission statement that clearly and concisely explains why they exist. From this you learn:
- The key point of their mission: creating a more informed public that understands new ideas and cultures
- Their mechanism of executing that vision: providing and reporting news/info that meets top journalistic standards
- Other essential details: their partnership with their membership statement
You should aim for the same level of clarity and brevity in your own mission statement.
The goal of a mission statement isn’t just about being able to showcase things externally, but also giving your internal team something to realign them if they get off track.
For example, if you're considering a new program or services, you can always check the idea against the mission statement. Does it align with your higher level goal and what your organization is ultimately trying to achieve? A mission statement is a compass to guide your team and keep the organization aligned and focused.
Step 2: Collect the data
You can’t prepare for the future without some data from the past and present. This can range from financial data if you’re already in operation to secured funding if you’re getting ready to start.
Data related to operations and finances (such as revenue, expenses, taxes, etc.) is crucial for budgeting and organizational decisions.
You'll also want to collect data about your target donor. Who are they in terms of their income, demographics, location, etc. and what is the best way to reach them? Every business needs to market, and answering these demographic questions are crucial to targeting the right audience in a marketing campaign. You'll also need data about marketing costs collected from your fundraising, marketing, and CRM software and tools. This data can be extremely important for demonstrating the effectiveness of a given fundraising campaign or the organization as a whole.
Then there is data that nonprofits collect from third-party sources as to how to effectively address their cause, such as shared data from other nonprofits and data from governments.
By properly collecting and interpreting the above data, you can build your nonprofit to not only make an impact, but also ensure the organization is financially sustainable.
Step 3: Create an outline
Before you begin writing your plan, it’s important to have an outline of the sections of your plan. Just like an academic essay, it’s easier to make sure all the points are addressed by taking inventory of high level topics first. If you create an outline and find you don’t have all the materials you need to fill it, you may need to go back to the data collection stage.
Writing an outline gives you something simple to read that can easily be circulated to your team for input. Maybe some of your partners will want to emphasize an area that you missed or an area that needs more substance.
Having an outline makes it easier for you to create an organized, well-flowing piece. Each section needs to be clear on its own, but you also don’t want to be overly repetitive.
As a side-note, one area where a lot of business novices stall in terms of getting their plans off the ground is not knowing what format to choose or start with. The good news is there are a lot of resources available online for you to draw templates for from your plan, or just inspire one of your own.
Using a business plan template
You may want to use a template as a starting point for your business plan. The major benefit here is that a lot of the outlining work that we mentioned is already done for you. However, you may not want to follow the template word for word. A nonprofit business plan may require additional sections or parts that aren’t included in a conventional business plan template.
The best way to go about this is to try and focus less on copying the template, and more about copying the spirit of the template. For example, if you see a template that you like, you can keep the outline, but you may want to change the color scheme and font to better reflect your brand. And of course, all your text should be unique.
When it comes to adding a new section to a business plan template, for the most part, you can use your judgment. We will get into specific sections in a bit, but generally, you just want to pair your new section with the existing section that makes the most sense. For example, if your non-profit has retail sales as a part of a financial plan, you can include that along with the products, services and programs section.
- Free Nonprofit Sample Business Plans - Bplans
- Non-Profit Business Plan Template - Growthink
- Sample Nonprofit Business Plans - Bridgespan
- Nonprofit Business Plan Template - Slidebean
- 23+ Non Profit Business Plan Templates - Template.net
Nonprofit business plan sections
The exact content is going to vary based on the size, purpose, and nature of your nonprofit. However, there are certain sections that every business plan will need to have for investors, donors, and lenders to take you seriously. Generally, your outline will be built around the following main sections:
1. Executive summary
Many people write this last, even though it comes first in a business plan. This is because the executive summary is designed to be a general summary of the business plan as a whole. Naturally, it may be easier to write this after the rest of the business plan has been completed.
After reading your executive summary a person should ideally have a general idea of what the entire plan covers. Sometimes, a person may be interested in learning about your non-profit, but doesn’t have time to read a 20+ page document. In this case, the executive summary could be the difference between whether or not you land a major donor.
As a start, you want to cover the basic need your nonprofit services, why that need exists, and the way you plan to address that need. The goal here is to tell the story as clearly and and concisely as possible. If the person is sold and wants more details, they can read through the rest of your business plan.
This is the space where you can clarify exactly what your non-profit does. Think of it as explaining the way your nonprofit addresses that base need you laid out earlier. This can vary a lot based on what type of non-profit you’re running.
This page gives us some insight into the mechanisms Bucks County Historical Society uses to further their mission, which is “to educate and engage its many audiences in appreciating the past and to help people find stories and meanings relevant to their lives—both today and in the future.”
They accomplish this goal through putting together both permanent exhibits as well as regular events at their primary museum. However, in a non-profit business plan, you need to go further.
It’s important here not only to clearly explain who benefits from your services, but also the specific details how those services are provided. For example, saying you “help inner-city school children” isn’t specific enough. Are you providing education or material support? Your non-profit business plan readers need as much detail as possible using simple and clear language.
For a non-profit to succeed, it needs to have a steady stream of both donors and volunteers. Marketing plays a key role here as it does in a conventional business. This section should outline who your target audience is, and what you’ve already done/plan on doing to reach this audience. How you explain this is going to vary based on what stage your non-profit is in. We’ll split this section to make it more clear.
Nonprofits not in operation
Obviously, it’s difficult to market an idea effectively if you’re not in operation, but you still need to have a marketing plan in place. People who want to support your non-profit need to understand your marketing plan to attract donors. You need to profile all the data you have about your target market and outline how you plan to reach this audience.
Nonprofits already in operation
Marketing plans differ greatly for nonprofits already in operation. If your nonprofit is off the ground, you want to include data about your target market as well, along with other key details. Describe all your current marketing efforts, from events to general outreach, to conventional types of marketing like advertisements and email plans. Specific details are important. By the end of this, the reader should know:
- What type of marketing methods your organization prefers
- Why you’ve chosen these methods
- The track record of success using these methods
- What the costs and ROI of a marketing campaign
This is designed to serve as the “how” of your Products/Services/Programs section.
For example, if your goal is to provide school supplies for inner-city schoolchildren, you’ll need to explain how you will procure the supplies and distribute them to kids in need. Again, detail is essential. A reader should be able to understand not only how your non-profit operates on a daily basis, but also how it executes any task in the rest of the plan.
If your marketing plan says that you hold community events monthly to drum up interest. Who is in charge of the event? How are they run? How much do they cost? What personnel or volunteers are needed for each event? Where are the venues?
This is also a good place to cover additional certifications or insurance that your non-profit needs in order to execute these operations, and your current progress towards obtaining them.
Your operations section should also have a space dedicated to your team. The reason for this is, just like any other business plan, is that the strength of an organization lies in the people running it.
For example, let’s look at this profile from The Nature Conservancy . The main points of the biography are to showcase Chief Development Officer Jim Asp’s work history as it is relevant to his job. You’ll want to do something similar in your business plan’s team section.
Equally important is making sure that you cover any staff changes that you plan to implement in the near future in your business plan. The reason for this is that investors/partners may not want to sign on assuming that one leadership team is in place, only for it to change when the business reaches a certain stage.
The sections we’ve been talking about would also be in a traditional for profit business plan. We start to deviate a bit at this point. The impact section is designed to outline the social change you plan to make with your organization, and how your choices factor into those goals.
Remember the thoughts that go into that mission statement we mentioned before? This is your chance to show how you plan to address that mission with your actions, and how you plan to track your progress.
Let’s revisit the idea of helping inner-city school children by providing school supplies. What exactly is the metric you’re going to use to determine your success? For-profit businesses can have their finances as their primary KPI, but it’s not that easy for non-profits. Let’s say that your mission is to provide 1,000 schoolchildren in an underserved school district supplies for their classes. Your impact plan could cover two metrics:
- How many supplies are distributed
- Secondary impact (improved grades, classwork completed, etc).
The primary goal of this section is to transform that vision into concrete, measurable goals and objectives. A great acronym to help you create these are S.M.A.R.T. goals which stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
Vitamin Angels does a good job of showing how their action supports the mission. Their goal of providing vitamins to mothers and children in developing countries has a concrete impact when we look at the numbers of how many children they service as well as how many countries they deliver to. As a non-profit business plan, it’s a good idea to include statistics like these to show exactly how close you are to your planned goals.
Every non-profit needs funding to operate, and this all-important section details exactly how you plan to cover these financial needs. Your business plan can be strong in every other section, but if your financial planning is flimsy, it’s going to prove difficult to gather believers to your cause.
It's important to paint a complete, positive picture of your fundraising plans and ambitions. Generally, this entails the following parts:
- Current financial status, such as current assets, cash on hand, liabilities
- Projections based off of your existing financial data and forms
- Key financial documents, such as a balance sheet, income statements, and cash flow sheet
- Any grants or major contributions received
- Your plan for fundraising (this may overlap with your marketing section which is okay)
- Potential issues and hurdles to your funding plan
- Your plans to address those issues
- How you'll utilize surplus donations
- Startup costs (if your non-profit is not established yet)
In general, if you see something else that isn’t accounted for here, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and put the relevant information in. It’s better to have too much information than too little when it comes to finances, especially since there is usually a clear preference for transparent business culture.
- How to Make a Five-Year Budget Plan for a Nonprofit
- Financial Transparency - National Council of Nonprofits
Generally, this serves as a space to attach additional documents and elements that you may find useful for your business plan. This can include things like supplementary charts or a list of your board of directors.
This is also a good place to put text or technical information that you think may be relevant to your business plan, but might be long-winded or difficult to read. A lot of the flow and structure concerns you have for a plan don’t really apply with an appendix.
In summary, while a non-profit may have very different goals than your average business, the ways that they reach those goals do have a lot of similarities with for-profit businesses. The best way to ensure your success is to have a clear, concrete vision and path to different milestones along the way. A solid, in-depth business plan also gives you something to refer back to when you are struggling and not sure where to turn.
Alongside your business plan, you also want to use tools and resources that promote efficiency at all levels. For example, every non-profit needs a consistent stream of donations to survive, so consider using a program like GiveForms that creates simple, accessible forms for your donors to easily make donations. Accounting and budgeting for these in your plans can pay dividends later on.
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