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Archive for the ‘ Business Planning ’ Category


Sunday, January 15th, 2017

An Introduction to Business Planning: a one-pager

A business plan describes what you do, how you do it, who’s responsible, and what it costs – that’s it. If you only have time to jot your answers onto a post-it-note, then let’s start there. If you have time to dig a little deeper, we’ve got you covered.

A well thought out business plan will accomplish a few tasks for you. They present your vision to potential funders. You may also use the plan to attract partners, help to develop your place in the market, appeal to possible employees, and so on. When beginning to research and gather information for your business plan, include these topic areas:

Business Case: Discuss your proposed industry, your product/services, legal entity and business structure, and how you will have sustained success.

Market Strategy: Describe your market segment and explain why your business has a place within it. Tell us about your customers – who are they, where are they, and why they will spend money with you. Who’s your competition and why are you better.

Financials and Budget Narrative: This is where you include a three-year realistic profit and loss statement and balance sheet. Your budget narrative explains how you arrived at your calculations.

Your document should be a manageable read, about 20 pages with an appendix that could include additional documents like leadership vitae’s, workplan, and cashflow. If you still have gas in the tank, you can break our three major sections into greater detail by including: Executive Summary, Business Description, Marketing Plan, Competitive Analysis, and Management/Operations Plan.

If you are unsure as to how much detail to include in your plan, you can think of it this way; it depends on the nature of your business. If you have a simple concept, you may be able to express it in very few words. On the other hand, if you’re proposing a new kind of business or even a new industry, it may require quite a bit of explanation to get the message across. Happy planning!

The Making of a Nonprofit: Business Planning

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
Create your own .org

Create your own .org

Failing to write a comprehensive business plan is perhaps the most common mistake made by those in the beginning stages of forming a nonprofit. While you are not in the business to make a personal profit; you are in the business of making a profit. Most potential board members, donors, and community partners want to see just how you intend to do that.

Your business planning process will also be the very best guide for you to satisfy the questions you must answer when applying to the IRS for tax exempt status. Adequately filling out IRS Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption, requires you to think through and prepare a few of the following items: Organization Name, Organization Website, Organizational Structure, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Charitable Purpose, Narrative Description of Organization Activities, List of Officers/Directors/Trustees and Five Highest Paid Employee’s with Proposed Compensation, Titles and Mailing Addresses, Financial Compensation and Conflict of Interest Policy, Narrative and Strategy of Fundraising Activities, and Three Year Financial Projection.

Prepare for your Form 1023

Prepare for your Form 1023

If your IRS application for exemption is approved, you are now open for public inspection. Your business planning materials and your business plan provides you with the audit trail required.

A typical nonprofit business planning process will address all of the critical questions asked by interested parties. The table of contents should include these seven sections:

Executive Summary: This is a synopsis of your business plan and financial snap shot.

Organizational Structure: Describe how your nonprofit is organized, including the staff and board of directors.

Products, Programs or Services: What programs or products are you offering? Include processes, the benefits of your services, future growth plans, and list anything new, on trend, or answering to a community need.

Marketing Plan: In this section describe who you are trying to reach and how you intend to reach them. List the constituencies you serve. Explain your competition and your potential partners. How will you promote your services and through what materials?

Operational Plan: Where will you be located and how will you deliver services? Explain in detail how you will evaluate your program and its services.

Spend 30 - 40 hours on your Business Plan

Spend 30 – 40 hours on your Business Plan

Management and Organizational Team: Who is on your management team? Provide information about key management staff and their expertise. List the members of your board. Detail their expertise. List financial sponsors. Include an organizational chart. Explain lines of responsibility. Provide an assessment of current and future staffing needs, including how you will use volunteers.

Financial Plan: Determine your current and/or projected financial status, thoroughly explaining sources of income. You will include an income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, and a minimum three-year financial projection.

Smart planning ensures your success

Smart planning ensures your success

If done well, your business plan will not only guide you to answer the IRS Form 1023 questions, it will also act as a document to present to potential major donors and grant-makers. It will help you to recruit board members and community collaborators. If you will need a bridge loan or line of credit, this document will prepare you to meet with a financial institution.

Starting and sustaining a nonprofit is in many ways much more difficult than starting a new business. Dedicate yourself to the business planning stage first, and you’ll find your journey will be a bit lighter.

Seven Business Plan Tactics for Social Entrepreneurs

Monday, January 25th, 2016

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 indexhistory 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!

business-planA 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?

business-2-e1408638106457While 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.