Creating a nonprofit business plan is an important step for any organization whether you’re about to launch or are well established in your community.
A nonprofit business plan is slightly different to the commercial sector. It’s a strategic plan that outlines the key elements of your organization, including:
- Financial projections
- Strategies for achieving those goals
- Volunteer recruiting
- Record keeping
- Leadership team building
- Board recruiting
- Government funding and donor support
- Long-term term direction of your organization
Why bother if you’re already established?
Regularly outlining the goals and objectives of the organization, as well as the strategies and action plan for achieving them is good practice. It’s like taking your nonprofit into the mechanic to get a check up.
In this article I will go over the fundamental steps to creating an effective nonprofit business plan.
Step 1: Outline the goals and objectives of your organization
- Define the purpose of your organization in one ‘power paragraph!’ Try outlining this core mission in twenty-five words. Clear understanding of this serves as the foundation for all the other elements of your plan. It’s a hard task, but is a great exercise to try.
- Be as specific as possible. This will help you stay focused on your goals and avoid getting sidetracked by other priorities.
- Your mission statement should provide a clear and concise description of your organization’s purpose and its unique value proposition. Try to articulate your organization’s long-term goals and aspirations in high definition.
- These statements will serve as the guiding principles for your business plan and will help to ensure that all of your activities align with your organization’s overall purpose and direction.
Step 2: Conduct Research
Market research is an important step in the planning process. It constructs an understanding of the needs your target audience have and the competition you will face. This information will be crucial in determining the feasibility of your organization’s goals and objectives.
How you undertake this depends greatly on what stage your nonprofit is in. If you’re just starting, then market research could be:
- Research the competition. What other organizations are serving the same audience and how are they doing it? How can your organization differentiate itself from the competition?
- Detailed analysis of the needs your mission seeks to help. This will help you better understand where you can help and how you effectively assist the community.
- Identifying your target audience. Who are the people you are trying to serve? What are their needs and challenges?
- If your organization is already established then feedback from donors and those your mission reaches will inform this stage. Gathering data is of vital importance and in this effort you may also wish to use data management tools available through your donor database.
Analysis of your environment.
- This will involve researching your own current situation, including strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- This SWOT analysis will help you identify the key challenges and opportunities facing your organization, and will serve as the foundation for your business plan.
- When you identify the risks you will face, those who read the plan will feel like you’re including a degree of realism. A business plan which only speaks of clear pathways to success will be less effective than those which speak of challenges which your hard work, team, and supporters seek to overcome through the duration of the plan.
New ideas: innovative strategies that can be used to achieve your organizational goals.
Identify the key areas where your organization can make the greatest impact and brainstorm ideas to address those areas. This may include identifying new sources of funding, developing new programs and services, or expanding your organization’s reach and impact.
1. Detail a budget outline.
In order to create a detailed budget and financial plan, you’ll need to take the following steps:
- Identify your income sources including potential grants, donations, and other funding sources.
- Determine your expenses including any costs associated with your project or organization.
- How much money do you expect to make and spend over a specific period of time? This will help you understand your financial position and determine if you have enough money to cover your expenses.
- Develop a fundraising plan to help you generate additional income. This could include a regimented plan to apply for grants, organize fundraising events, or reach out to potential donors.
- Diversify your fundraising plan by including a variety of income sources. This will help ensure that your organization is not reliant on a single source of funding and can weather any potential setbacks or changes in funding availability.
Sidenote: Monitor your budget and financial plan regularly to ensure that you are staying on track and making progress towards your goals. Make any necessary adjustments to your written plans to keep your finances on track.
2. Identify potential partners and collaborators.
3. Develop a strong and experienced board of directors.
There are several potential partners and collaborators for a nonprofit organization. Some possible partners could include other nonprofit organizations that serve similar or complementary missions, businesses that align with the nonprofit’s goals and values, government agencies that support the nonprofit’s work, and foundations or philanthropic organizations that provide funding for similar causes.
4. Build a board of directors.
- It’s important to have a strong and experienced group of individuals who can provide guidance and support for the organization.
- This could include leaders from various sectors such as business, education, healthcare, and social services, as well as individuals with expertise in areas such as finance, fundraising, and legal affairs.
- It’s also important to have diverse perspectives and backgrounds represented on the board to ensure that the nonprofit’s work is reflective of the community it serves.
5. Create a compelling and effective marketing and outreach plan.
- To create a compelling and effective marketing and outreach plan for a nonprofit organization you should start by defining your target audience and identifying the key messages that will resonate with them.
- Next, you should determine the most effective channels for reaching your audience, such as social media, email, or events, and develop a clear call-to-action that encourages them to take a specific action.
- You should also create engaging and visually appealing content that showcases the impact of your organization and its work, and track the results of your outreach efforts to continually improve and refine your plan.
- Get social. Research how social media and effective storytelling is used the world over to create engagement and drive donations.
6. Get SMART! — Create a plan for evaluating the effectiveness of your programs and activities.
- To evaluate the effectiveness of our nonprofit programs and activities, we will first establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for each program.
- We will then communicate in the business plan how you will collect data on the progress of these programs. Using methods such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups to gather feedback from participants and stakeholders.
- Indicate you will also track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as program attendance and success rates. This data will be analyzed to assess the extent to which our programs are achieving their goals, and any necessary adjustments will be made to improve their effectiveness. Regular evaluations will be conducted to ensure that our programs continue to meet their objectives and have a positive impact on our target population. Once more data management software will greatly assist in this process.
7. Identify potential challenges for your nonprofit and develop strategies for addressing them.
There are many potential challenges that a nonprofit organization may face. These can include difficulties in:
- Lack of public awareness
- Support for the organization’s cause
- Competition for donations or volunteers from other similar organizations
In order to address these challenges, a nonprofit can implement a variety of strategies. These can include developing a strong marketing and outreach campaign to increase public awareness, forming partnerships with other organizations to increase visibility and access to resources, and implementing effective fundraising strategies to secure the necessary financial support. Additionally, a nonprofit can focus on building and maintaining strong relationships with donors and volunteers in order to retain their support and engagement over time and the aim is to have each one of these addressed throughout the nonprofit business plan.
8. Develop a plan to build a strong and professional leadership team.
- Recruit diverse and talented individuals who share your organization’s values and goals.
- Provide ongoing training opportunities and support to help your team members develop their leadership skills overtime.
- Encourage open communication, collaboration, and teamwork among your team members.
- Identify the key leadership roles and responsibilities within your organization and then communicate it to your team.
- Hold regular meetings and check-ins to stay informed about your team’s progress and challenges.
- Foster a positive and inclusive work culture that values innovation and creativity.
- Recognize and reward the contributions of your team members, and provide opportunities for growth and development.
9. Create a plan for engaging and retaining volunteers.
- Conduct volunteer recruitment drives with online stories, on the ground leaflets and word of mouth, and clear application to apply on your website.
- Make sure volunteers feel valued and appreciated for their time and efforts by planning to thank them regularly and providing them with opportunities for personal and professional growth.
- Provide volunteers with clear expectations and guidelines for their roles and responsibilities. This will help them feel more confident and comfortable in their roles.
- Engage volunteers in the decision-making process and invite them to provide feedback and suggestions for improving the organization.
- Foster a positive and inclusive work environment that is conducive to collaboration and teamwork. This will help volunteers feel more connected to the organization and their fellow volunteers.
10. Develop a plan for managing and utilizing technology effectively.
This will include building a website. If you’re technologically inclined then there’s plenty of website building sites like WordPress and Squarespace each with their own price plans. You can also hire web designers on Fiverr for every budget.
11. Invest in data management software.
Making sense of your information in the digital age is the difference between success and failure in a lot of professional fields and the nonprofit sector is no different.
Here is a potential plan for effectively managing and utilizing data management software like Bloomerang. Data management is a pretty fundamental element of modern nonprofit management.
- Create a timeline for implementing and using your database. Including training for staff members who will be using the technology.
- Develop clear policies and procedures for using your donor database. Including guidelines for data entry, security, and access.
- Regularly review and assess the effectiveness of your database in achieving the organization’s goals, and make adjustments as needed.
- Stay up to date with new features and capabilities in the platform, and consider incorporating them into the organization’s use of the technology.
- Overall, the key to effectively managing and utilizing technology is to have a clear plan and to regularly review and assess its effectiveness in achieving the organization’s goals.
12. Create a plan for handling financial management and reporting.
To manage the finances for a nonprofit business plan, it’s important to establish a clear budget and regularly track expenses to ensure that the organization is operating within its means. It’s also crucial to maintain accurate financial records and create regular financial reports to provide transparency and accountability to donors and stakeholders. To create a plan for financial management and reporting, the following steps can be taken:
- Establish a budget which outlines the organization’s projected income and expenses.
- Track expenses regularly to ensure that the organization stays within its budget.
- Maintain accurate financial records, including receipts and invoices.
- Create regular financial reports, such as monthly or quarterly statements, to provide transparency and accountability.
- Meet with the organization’s board of directors regularly to review and discuss the financial reports and make any necessary adjustments to the budget.
13. Develop a plan for dealing with legal and compliance issues.
To ensure that your nonprofit organization meets all legal compliances and regulations, you should:
- Research the specific laws and regulations that apply to your organization and its activities.
- Include requirements related to tax exemptions, charitable solicitation, fundraising, governance, and financial reporting.
- Consult with an attorney who is experienced in nonprofit law to help you understand and comply with these requirements.
- Schedule to regularly review and update your policies and procedures to ensure that your organization remains in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
14. Identify potential sources of income, such as grants and corporate partnerships and outline how you will do this.
- Research potential grant opportunities from government agencies and private foundations that align with the nonprofit’s mission and goals. This can be done by searching online databases, such as Grants.gov and Foundation Center, and attending grant-related workshops and conferences.
- Reach out to corporations in the community and inquiring about potential partnership opportunities. This can include sponsorships for events, in-kind donations, and cause-related marketing campaigns.
- Develop a list of potential funding sources and carefully review their requirements and application processes. This will help the nonprofit determine which opportunities are the best fit and ensure that all necessary materials are prepared for a successful application.
- Create a calendar of deadlines for grant applications and corporate partnership inquiries, and set aside dedicated time to work on these opportunities. This will help the nonprofit stay organized and ensure that all opportunities are pursued in a timely manner.
- Follow up with potential funding sources after submitting applications or proposals. This can include thanking them for their consideration and providing any additional information they may require. It can also include reaching out to discuss potential opportunities for collaboration or additional funding in the future.
- Monitor the success of the nonprofit’s efforts to secure funding from grants and corporate partnerships, and adjust the plan as needed based on the results. This can include identifying any challenges and implementing strategies to overcome them, as well as celebrating successes and leveraging them to secure additional funding in the future.
15. Develop a plan for continuously improving and adapting to meet the changing needs of your target population over the course of your nonprofit business plan.
To continuously improve and adapt to the changing needs of our nonprofit’s target population, we can implement the following steps:
- Conduct regular needs assessments to identify gaps and areas for improvement in our services. This can involve surveying our target population and gathering feedback from staff and other stakeholders.
- Develop a plan to address identified gaps and prioritize actions based on the needs and priorities of our target population. This can involve implementing new programs and services, as well as making adjustments to existing ones.
- Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of our programs and services on an ongoing basis, using both qualitative and quantitative data. This can involve collecting feedback from our target population and staff, as well as tracking key performance indicators.
- Engage with our target population and other stakeholders to stay informed about their needs and priorities, and incorporate their feedback into our planning and decision-making processes.
- Collaborate with other organizations and stakeholders to share best practices and resources and identify opportunities for joint initiatives and partnerships.
- Regularly assess and address the needs of the target population, monitoring and evaluating the impact of your programs
- Staying engaged and informed to ensure that your nonprofit is meeting the changing needs of the target population and continuously improving services.
A nonprofit business plan can seem daunting but each part will keep your nonprofit in good shape for 2023.
Clearly defining your mission, fundraising strategies, and funding, while attracting and retaining talented employees, will make a lasting positive impact in this field. Good luck!