BUSINESS PLANNING FOR NON-PROFITS – Learn the Basics

Part two of three

Dr. Jan Young

Dr. Jan Young

Previously, Dr. Jan Young explained how creating a business plan can help non-profit organizations assess their capacity, strategy and potential funding sources. Here she discusses the basics of creating a plan.

In her role as executive director of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Jan oversees philanthropic activities, management, community relations, and strategic direction, and has reviewed countless grant applications. She revealed that one component of a successful application is a budget that matches with an organization’s objectives and capacity. A well-developed business plan can help organizations achieve such cohesion.

According to Jan, a business plan should be the work of an organization’s executive team and board. It should include input from internal stakeholders across the organization. The plan may cover any period of time the organization chooses, but “it should be reviewed on an ongoing basis and revised as necessary. Most cover three to five years. The plan should be a dynamic tool that informs and guides their work and progress,” she said.

We know that the process of creating a business plan can feel overwhelming in light of all the responsibilities an organization faces each day. The amount of time it takes for a non-profit to create a plan depends on how long it takes to complete an assessment of the organization’s ability to deliver services and raise funds, its current and future role in the community, and its overall goals.

“The number of pages depends on the scope and complexity of the organization’s mission,” said Jan. “Keep it simple. One size does not fit all. There are actually one-page templates that some have found helpful, and a book written on one-page business plans for non-profits. The length is less important than the quality. And the quality is sometimes less important than the conscious, deliberate use of the plan.”

We also wanted to learn Jan’s thoughts on the role of the board when it comes to implementation. For example, does the board take on a different role when an organization is working from a business plan?

“The board is accountable for governance, counsel, and has a key fundraising role. When operating from a business plan (properly written), they can more easily help the executive director and staff revise strategies and make the decisions necessary to assure the mission can be supported,” said Jan. “Sometimes the discussions can become more objective in nature. While passion for the work is important, emotional support alone cannot sustain the organization’s staff to effectively accomplish the mission.”

Next, Dr. Jan Young discusses the benefits of using a business plan.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

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