By Marcie L. Wagner, CFRE
Business Plan writing is time-consuming and tricky, yet crucial to ones success in presenting your nonprofit dream. Over the years, my core business has gradually moved from grant writing for startup nonprofits to writing business plans for the same. Frequently, I was approached to write grants for monies required to get started without a business plan present. It was a pleasant surprise to know that there really is no one better prepared to write a business plan for a social entrepreneur than a grant writer.
We are custom to finding the stats and facts to back up a solid idea which resolves some social ill. We are custom to crushing numbers and presenting them in a manner which makes sense and draws realistic support. We are custom to delicately balancing clinical information for a lay-person audience. And finally, we are custom to taking our clients dream and crafting a document which makes readers sit up and take notice. Here are my ten tactics for your successful business plan:
1. Find a Grant Writer with Business Plan Experience.
You want a writer who will collaborate with you and who has a history of writing business plans. Even better? If you find a grant writer who has a history of writing business plans, they will also have the knowledge and wherewithal to research funding opportunities and make the initial call to set up a meeting with potential investors.
2. Are You Sure You Are Solving a Problem?
Before you spend months or years bringing your idea to fruition – make certain your idea is actually solving a problem for your community. To do this you need to talk to community leaders about the “problem”. This will be time well spent given that they will certainly know and understand what the community needs not only for today, but for the future. If they agree with you and feel your idea is a much needed community resource, then you have made your first or another connection which can only help you move your idea forward.
3. Keep it Visual and Keep Their Attention!
A great way to simplify your business plan, both for yourself and your investors, is to make it more visual. Swap out long paragraphs for a graph or chart. People tend to get hung up on long, drawn out explanations, when a simple comparison table will do.
4. Be Flexible.
Business plans are a very important starting point and are meant to be followed; but don’t become unhinged when things don’t go as planned. People tend to get so hung up on what has been put on paper that they lose sight of what reality is telling them. I like to tell clients that a business plan is a living, breathing document – it will change.
5. Stay Realistic and Conservative.
Dream big, but keep those feet firmly planted in reality. It’s great to have a “stretch” goal for your financial future, but don’t publish it. Put your conservative financial strategy in the business plan – if you under predict and over perform everyone will be delighted.
6. Are Those Presenting the Plan Involved in Its Writing?
While you need an expert lead writer in business plan development, don’t take a backseat – instead, host planning meetings with those who will be pitching the plan to funders. Give those planning meeting outcomes to the writer. Your writer will then expertly turn your phrases into a document capable of drawing people in.
7. Keep the Basics, Sprinkle with Your Unique Flavor.
You will find a variety of business plan formats. Use a format which makes the most sense to you and takes into consideration what questions you need to answer for potential investors. Regardless of your chosen format, you should include these basic topics: Executive Summary, Organization Description, Products and Services, Market Analysis, Management/Key Employee, Governing Structure, Financial Strategy, and Plan Implementation.
Ms. Wagner has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 25 years. She is an expert in finding and securing funding for start-up organizations. You may visit her website and contact her at http:\\www.wagnerfundraising.com.