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Developing a Strategic Business Plan for Your Nonprofit Organization

Nonprofit organizations today find themselves caught between several major considerations that dramatically affect their overall mission. Failure to respect and deal with any of these issues can result in the failure of the organization. The first consideration is determining what their community needs (their market) and how they can address that need (their product or service). Second, they must respect everything that is required to be a successful organization. Lastly, they must figure out how to communicate these things to their community and to potential funding sources.

For the last consideration, it is important for the nonprofit staff to establish a formal business plan for the organization.

What Will a Business Plan Do for a Nonprofit?

Developing a business plan will allow your organization’s staff to focus their thoughts, ideas, and vision into a firm, documented plan of action. This serves as a “road map,” showing where your organization is going, how you plan to arrive there, and facilitating the communication of these plans to employees, volunteers, donors, and the community at large.

The plan can assist in attracting new board members to the organization by demonstrating the organization’s practice of strategic planning. Strategic planning includes measures enabling you to measure the progress of the organization towards the achievement of its strategic goals and explains clearly to volunteers what they are donating their time towards.

Lastly, and perhaps the most crucial, is the facilitation of fundraising. Donors today insist upon a return on their investment into a nonprofit organization as much as they would from an investment into a major corporation. A comprehensive strategic plan includes details of what will be done with the funds raised and subsequently what the community will receive for the donors investment.

Excuses against Having a Strategic Business Plan

As with commercial business operations, individuals and organizations frequently resist the idea of developing a strategic business plan. The reasons nonprofit organizations resist strategic business plans closely parallels the reasons commercial business operations do as well.

  • We don’t have time to make one

    Many staff members are so focused on day-to-day operations that they do not feel they have time to participate in the development of a strategic plan. Often times this lack of time is actually a lack of focus and procedural measures, two primary tasks addressed in your typical strategic plan. This indicates a desperate need for the development of a strategic plan.

  • We are very successful without one
    The demand for services from many nonprofits is so high that it masks the previously mentioned lack of focus and procedural measures. Though the organization may seem successful, a strategic plan can assist the organization in focusing its operations and plans for the future.

  • We never used our last strategic plan

    Another indicator of an unfocused, disorganized nonprofit. Strategic plans, once developed, must be utilized by the organization in a dedicated manner. To accomplish this, the staff must fully understand the plan and be invested in its success. We already know what to do Some organizations feel they do not need a strategic plan since they already know what to do to accomplish their intent. Strategic plans go beyond this, allowing the organization to effectively communicate with the community at large and in particular with potential supporters and donors to the organization. Without a strategic plan, the organization may struggle with this communication.

What to Do

First, do not accept any excuses. Having a strategic business plan is crucial and it is important to have as many members of the organization participating in its development. Board members, staff, employees and volunteers should all assist in this project. By their participation, the plan becomes in part theirs and the potential success of the plan is dramatically improved.

Involvement of the Board of Directors or other leadership committee is a given. The Board is responsible for managing the organization at its highest level. Preparing the organization’s mission statement and carrying out the solicitation of grant funds are but two major roles where members of the Board of Directors may be involved. As such, the Board should be intimately involved in creating the strategic business plan since they are ultimately responsible for leading the organization in its achievement of its goals and objectives. Since doing so requires adequate funding and other resources, the Board is naturally involved in their acquisition as well.

Major Components of a Strategic Business Plan

There are three fundamental components of a strategic business plan that direct the organization’s activities. They are the vision of the organization, the goals of the organization, and the objectives to be used in fulfilling the vision and achieving the goals of the organization.

  • Vision

    The organization’s vision is the condition the organization hopes to accomplish. It is usually an extension of the mission statement, though equally it should be able to stand alone. It serves as the basis for the development of the organization’s goals.

  • Goals

    Goals are the action targets describing what the organization must do to build its vision. Most organizations begin by describing all the goals they feel are necessary to achieve their ultimate vision, then reduce this list to those that the organization can accomplish in the next one to three years with the available funding, resources, and knowledge of their organization.

  • Objectives

    Achieving each goal will require specific actions. Making a list of these actions allows the organization to determine exactly what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and (frequently) the order in which it needs to be done.

Developing Your Strategic Business Plan

Each organization must determine the best way to develop its strategic business plan. However, the process should always include a few basic steps. Review the previous strategic business plan. If the organization had a previous business plan, it should be reviewed to determine what goals are still needed, why they were not accomplished, and what has changed in the organization and in its community.

  • Review the mission statement

    The mission statement should be reviewed periodically to determine if it is still appropriate to the needs of the community being served. This is particularly true if the organization has identified additional community groups in need of services or if the organization is considering expanding into additional services.

  • Determine the funding need of the organization

    With changes in mission, goals or objectives, the funding needs of the organization may change as well. Examine the current funding available to determine if it is sufficient to meet these new demands. This is perhaps the most important step, so be realistic with your expected funding needs. With the new economic conditions organizations are contending with, being too optimistic can be discouraging for the organization’s staff, employees, and volunteers.

  • Establish new objectives

    With the changes in goals and/or mission, new objectives are necessary. Each objective must describe specific tasks, an expected time frame, and identify who is responsible for the task.

  • Submit the revised goals and objectives

    All parties involved in the organization should be informed of the new goals and objectives for their review and endorsement. If they feel they cannot or will not, it may be necessary to rework them until the objecting party finds them acceptable.

  • Preparing the financial plan and budget

    The last step necessary is establishing a financial plan and budget based upon the final goals and objectives. The plan and budget should be as realistic as possible. To test its stability, try reducing the expected revenues by various amounts to identify the minimum amount with which your organization can still accomplish its goals.

Submitting the Plan

Once the plan is developed to everyone’s satisfaction, it should be submitted to the Board of Directors. Everyone in the organization must dedicate their actions towards the achievement of the organization’s new goals and objectives in order for the plan to be successful.

How We Can Help

Our company specializes in technical writing and can take your rough draft materials (goals, objectives, and projected budget) and develop them into a persuasive and inspirational organization plan. Our writers are dedicated professionals who feel that their success and image is dependent upon the success and image of their clients. As such, they work tremendously hard to produce top-notch materials on every assignment. Accessing their talents requires only your order and basic materials.

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