How to write a business plan for a charity

Updated April 12, 2017

Business plans are not only for profit-making companies. The staff functions of non-profit organisations -- such as marketing, finance and internal operations -- are similar to those of for-profit companies. Charities need to go through the same rigorous planning process as any other business. Solid planning compels management to work through problems in advance. Potential funds-providers, directors and other, well-established non-profit organisations will want to read the business plan for a charity that interests them.

Conduct a thorough needs assessment -- a systematic study of the current situation in your area of interest and how the situation can be improved -- and incorporate its findings into your mission statement. A good mission statement is a clear, brief statement of an organisation's purpose. Take care in composing it because you will be using it often.

Describe the charity in succinct terms. Tell the reader what your organisation does, who it assists, where it is located and why its work is important to your community or even to the world, depending on the scope of your endeavours. Include information about your organisation's incorporation status and whether it is a tax-exempt. Describe your paid and volunteer staff positions and the responsibilities of key members.

Tell your readers about your marketing plan. Who will provide your financial support? Will you seek small donations from many people or will other organisations make contributions? Will there be a combination of the two? Can your charity qualify for regular support from federal, state or local government agencies? How will your organisation reach potential donors? Which organisations compete with yours? How will you deliver your services?

Organise your organisation's financial information in one section. Discuss the current financial situation. Include the current balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flows. List your underlying assumptions for future operations and construct financial projections covering at least three years.

Introduce the members of your management team and directors with biographical summaries. Include their business or professional experience, how their talents and abilities will contribute to the success of your charity and provide information about their academic backgrounds. Mention outside team members such as attorneys, accountants and consultants with special, relevant qualifications.

Take the most important points from the preceding sections and form them into an Executive Summary. It should appear first in the business plan, but it should be written last. Give special attention to this section because often it is the only section an outsider will read. If the Executive Summary impresses the reader, the entire business plan has a good chance of being read.

Things You'll Need

  • Financials -- income statement, cash flow statement
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About the Author

Charles Crawford, a former commercial banker, has been a business writer in New York since 1990. He has produced marketing materials for an executive outplacement firm, written the quarterly newsletter of a medical nonprofit organization and created financing proposals/business plans. Crawford holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Science in international affairs from Florida State University.