Every voluntary and community organisation can benefit from a written business plan which sets out the direction and planned performance of an organisation.
Business plans are developed within the wider context provided
by the strategic plan. It usually details the steps required to
achieve the organisation's mission or strategy.
Business plans tend to adopt much shorter timeframes than
strategic plans, typically medium-term covering 1-3 years. It is
the stage in the planning process where an organisation starts to
turn options and choices about the future into reality, creating a
robust framework from which the organisation will deliver its
One way of achieving this is to develop some realistic
objectives and targets, capture the strategy in some kind of
written document and think about the resources required to deliver
the plan. Plans should not be lengthy or complicated but succinct
and easy to understand. They should always contain sufficient
information proportionate to what is required, for example a
proposal to potential funder.
The skills and tools needed to develop a business plan are very
similar to that required to create a strategic plan. Check out our
strategic planning to find out more.
What are business plans for?
Business plans are far more than written documents, which, in
certain situations, can support a grant application to a potential
funder. Good quality business plans can:
- Help organisations to define their objectives and targets in
- Encourage them to gather fresh knowledge about their service
- Provide a detailed blueprint for developing projects and
activities, and the means to monitor progress
- Provide valuable written information about your work and
objectives for new staff, volunteers and trustees, and for external
- Help to promote your activities with certain groups in the
community - e.g. local councillors and individual local
authorities, assembly members and local business people
Business plan format
There is no ideal format for a business plan for a voluntary or
community organisation. The following outline plan can be tailored
to suit its purpose. In this instance the outline plan is for
raising funds and has a strong emphasis on finance and cash flow.
You may wish to leave out certain sections that are not applicable
to your organisation.
Suggested headings for a business plan submitted to a potential
- Background to organisation
- An overview of the proposed scheme or project
- Why the scheme is needed
- Why your organisation?
- Project aims and description
- Level of funding and resources required
- Staffing and management structure
- Monitoring and evaluation
Outline for a business plan
Presentation of business plan
The general rules of presenting a business plan are:
- A business plan should be easy and interesting to read, so
avoid excessive detail or length
- Ensure the plan meets the needs of its users and key
- One person should write the plan to ensure consistency of
- Although the executive summary is at the beginning of the plan,
it should be written last
- Do not leave any apparent questions unanswered or state any