1. What Is a Non-Profit Business Plan?
2. Basic Format of a Business Plan
3. The Difference Between Business Planning and Strategic Planning
4. How to Write a Non-Profit Business Plan

What Is a Non-Profit Business Plan?

A non-profit business plan is a written method of answering, “Where is the non-profit going?” or “What are we attempting to achieve?” It also answers, “Who will get us there, by when, and how much will it cost?” The business plan takes into consideration the non-profit’s mission, the function of the board, and outside environmental components, as well as the local fundraising situation. Ideally, such a business plan additionally takes into account the potential for adjustments in basic assumptions concerning the non-profit’s operating environment. An instance of business planning is when non-profits have anticipated potential fluctuations in income and could also be ready to face the possibility of financial upheaval.

The business planning process can deal with how the non-profit will handle future risks, answering questions like, “What's the chance that we'll fail? And what's Plan B if we do?”

Basic Format of a Business Plan

The format might change relying on the audience and the lifecycle of the non-profit. Now, this plan may very well be for a start-up non-profit, a mature or declining non-profit, or perhaps a non-profit within the middle of a turnaround.

Here is a typical outline of a non-profit business plan:

  • Cover page
  • Table of contents
  • Executive summary
  • People: overview of the non-profit’s structure
  • Market opportunities/competitive analysis
  • Programs and services: overview of implementation
  • Contingencies
  • Financials

The Difference Between Business Planning and Strategic Planning

A marketing strategy explains the concerns of “who/what/where/when/how” such as:

  • “Who are the non-profit’s prospects?”
  • “What is the geographic area for the non-profit’s services?”
  • “What other non-profits are offering related services?”
  • “What services does our non-profit offer that can still be distinctive?”

This business plan is really the action plan that figures out the milestones and targets of the actions and also determines the potentials for both success and risks ahead, given the non-profit’s “competitive advantages” and its operational environment.

A strategic plan takes all that the business plan has acknowledged and gives answers regarding how the desired outcome can be achieved. For example, it looks at concerns like “How can this be accomplished with limited resources?" or "What are we going to prioritize?” Different questions for the strategic plan may include “What must occur in order to be successful?” and “How will we measure that success?”

To help explain, a non-profit’s business plan could bring to light the fact that they need to diversify their monetary resources. The strategic plan may then deal with how the non-profit will diversify its assets, perhaps by expanding their individual donor base, after which they may try to establish how that may occur. This could happen through establishing an annual donation marketing campaign. The strategic plan can also determine how that plan can be sustained, perhaps by figuring out the cost of staffing the campaign on a continuing basis.

How to Write a Non-Profit Business Plan

Starting up a non-profit is exciting, but you need thoughtful planning and execution to get it right. Non-profits have a lot of the same needs as traditional, for-profit businesses. This includes the need for a strong business plan.

Sooner or later, you’re going to realize that your non-profit needs a business plan. It could be that a trusted advisor or a possible board member has requested to see a business plan or has suggested that you write one. Maybe your organization just received a large donation and you need to strategize how to use those funds or a potential donor has asked to see a business plan before donating to a major project. Or, in the very best case, you simply want to better manage, prioritize, schedule tasks, review your performance, or improve your accountability.

Once you’ve finalized your business plan, you have a clear, living document that can be constantly referred to in order to help guide your organization's future. In actuality, you should refer back to it every month to continue optimizing your management and your plan.

If you need help with your non-profit business plan, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.