THE ROLE OF THE BUSINESS PLAN: Benefits of Using a Business Plan

Part three of three

Dr. Jan Young

Dr. Jan Young

In our last two posts, we’ve shared with you the wisdom of Dr. Jan Young, executive director of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, about the development of business plans for non-profits. Here, we asked her to provide examples of how a business plan can impact an organization’s success.

Jan told us the story of an organization that “was limited in spite of successful outcomes serving individuals with significant needs in a challenging environment. Although they have a charismatic leader, diligent board and a clear focus on their mission, it was difficult to inspire donors to make the substantial investments necessary for growth.”

Seed MoneySo, the group decided to create a business plan. “After completing their plan and being able to explain their various programs and services with greater clarity, they were able to get some seed funds for an ambitious effort to expand their services,” she said. “After demonstrating their ability to implement the initial phases of their business plan, they have successfully attracted other funders and have been able to leverage investments made in their collaborative partnerships.”

Jan also shared how the absence of a business plan contributed to the demise of another organization, which had “lost sight of its mission, started chasing money even when grant conditions conflicted and created costs beyond what the grants and fundraising would cover. Funds were inappropriately allocated, they lost credibility with funders, deceived board members, and they no longer exist,” she said.

“Although there were obviously things other than the absence of a business plan that led to this outcome, a review of the plan with the budget may have alerted board members earlier about the obvious discrepancies between what they were being told and what was actually happening at the organization,” she said.

Jan, who received a doctorate of nursing science from the University of Tennessee, has enjoyed a distinguished career in education, health care, the military and philanthropy, and she offers a unique perspective on some of the challenges facing non-profits. “One of the nuns I worked with in the past used to say, ‘No margin, no mission,’” she said.

In other words, “Passion and sheer force of will is rarely sustainable over time. Finite resources are a reality. Sometimes we must make tough choices about a priority. If something has value only to one person or a small group but is not perceived to have equivalent value by others or even the people being served, that becomes a situation of service to self rather than service to others,” she said.

Jan recommends several resources, including the Alliance for NonProfit Excellence, the National Council of Nonprofits,  the Free Management Library, and BridgeSpan.

To learn more about the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, visit www.assisifoundation.org.

© 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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