(For nonprofits, for-profits and hybrid organizations)
- © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC and Rolfe Larson, Rolfe Larson Associates.
- To do nonprofit business planning, see the book Venture Forth! Essential Guide to Starting a Moneymaking Business in Your Nonprofit Organization .
- Also visit the Library's blog on Business Planning.
Sections of This Topic Include
Why Do a Business Plan?
Typical Content of a Business Plan
Preparation for Planning -- Any Business Venture (nonprofit, for-profit, hybrid)
More Basics About Business Planning
For-Profit Business Planning (very similar to nonprofit business planning)
Nonprofit Business Planning (very similar to for-profit business planning)
Resources for Each Typical Aspect of Business Planning
Related Library Topics
Also See the Library's Blogs Related to this Topic
In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to this topic. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.
Why Do a Business Plan?
Uses and Benefits of a Business Plan
A business plan is often prepared when:
- Starting a new organization, business venture, or product (service) or
- Expanding, acquiring or improving any of the above.
There are numerous benefits of doing a business plan, including:
- To identify an problems in your plans before you implement those plans.
- To get the commitment and participation of those who will implement the plans, which leads to better results.
- To establish a roadmap to compare results as the venture proceeds from paper to reality.
- To achieve greater profitability in your organization, products and services -- all with less work.
- To obtain financing from investors and funders.
- To minimize your risk of failure.
- To update your plans and operations in a changing world.
- To clarify and synchronize your goals and strategies.
For these reasons, the planning process often is as useful as the business plan document itself.
Types of Content of a Business Plan
Business plans appear in many different formats, depending on the audience for the plan and complexity of the business. However, most business plans address the following five topic areas in one form or another.
- Business summary -- Describes the organization, business venture or product (service), summarizing its purpose, management, operations, marketing and finances.
- Market opportunity -- Concisely describes what unmet need it will (or does) fill, presents evidence that this need is genuine, and that the beneficiaries (or a third party) will pay for the costs to meet this need. Describes credible market research on target customers (including perceived benefits and willingness to pay), competitors and pricing.
- People -- Arguably the most important part of the plan, it describes who will be responsible for developing, marketing and operating this venture, and why their backgrounds and skills make them the right people to make this successful. Ideally, each person in the management team (and key program and technical folks) are indicated by NAME.
- Implementation -- This is the how-to section of the plan, where the action steps are clearly described, usually in four areas: start-up, marketing, operations and financial. Marketing builds on market research presented, e.g., in a Market Opportunity section of the plan, including your competitive niche (how you will be better than your competitors in ways that matter to your target customers). Financial plan includes, e.g., costs to launch, operate, market and finance the business, along with conservative estimates of revenue, typically for three years; a break-even analysis is often included in this section.
- Contingencies -- This section outlines the most likely things that could go wrong with implementing this plan, and how management is prepared to respond to those problems if they emerge.
In many cases, an organization will already have in its possession some of the information needed for preparing a business plan. For example, in the case of nonprofits, grant proposals often contain some of this information.
Preparation for Planning a Business Venture (nonprofit or for-profit)
Before you start a major venture, there are several considerations
about yourself that you should address. This manual guides you
through those considerations. Then the manual guides you through
the major considerations you'll have to address when you complete
your business plan. The manual includes numerous links to other
free resources as the reader goes through each section of the
Preparation for Planning a Business Venture
More Basics on Business Planning
Do We Need -- Strategic or Business Plan?
Business Planning Doesn't End With Your Plan: Part 1 of 2
Business Planning Doesn't End with Your Plan: Part 2 of 2
Make a Business Plan and Reduce Chances of Incurring Debt
Case Against Business Planning
5 Page Business Plan: Wave of the Future?
Halloween Special: Five Business Plan Tricks
Top 10 Reasons a Business Plan Fails to Help a Company Obtain Funding
The Four Cornerstones of Every Business Plan
How to Write a Great Business Plan
Keeping Your Business Plan Flexible
Business Plan : Examples and Best Practices
Plans for Business-to-Business Ventures
Structure Your Business Plan
Do Just Enough Business Planning
How to Write a Business Plan for a Marketing Firm
Interns help write your business plan
Porter’s Five Competitive Forces (Part I)
Porter’s Five Competitive Forces (Part 2)
What Gandhi taught us about business planning
Are you an Innovator, an Entrepreneur, or a Manager?
Value Chain Your Way To Profitability
Case Study: Value Chain Improves Profitability
Business Plan in A Weekend?
Why Complaints Are Gifts
20-Minute Business Model?
List of Business Plan Competitions
For-Profit Business Planning
Overviews of For-Profit Business Planning
Business Plan for Small Business
Business Plan FAQ
An Introduction to Business Plans
5 Most Common Mistakes When Writing a Business Plan
Critical Steps to Writing a Business Plan
Keeping Your Business Plan Flexible
Ten Common Startup Mistakes
General Resources Specific to For-Profit Business Planning
Sample For-Profit Business Plans
Nonprofit Business Planning
How to Translate For-Profit Plans to Nonprofit Plans, If Needed
For-profit and nonprofit business plans have many similarities. For that reason, nonprofit personnel would benefit from reading the links in the section above, "For-Profit Business Planning". Some of the terms are different, but in most cases they can readily be translated into words more commonly used in the nonprofit sector. For example, "balance sheet" is what nonprofit call a "statement of financial position", "profit and loss statement" (or income statement) is essentially the same as a "statement of financial activities", and so on.
Overviews of Nonprofit Business Planning
is a Business Plan and Why Do I Need One for My Nonprofit?
Nonprofit Business Plan Tips
Business Planning for Nonprofits: The Organizational and Leadership Benefits
Business Planning for Nonprofits: What It Is and Why It Matters
What plans should be included in a comprehensive organizational plan?
General Resources Specific to Nonprofit Business Planning
Also Learn About Nonprofit Earned-Income Ventures
Nonprofit earned-income ventures involve developing nonprofit business plans. These activities are often described in the broader context of social entrepreneurship. See
Social Enterprise (Social Entrepreneurship)
Online, Free, Forum for Those Interested in Social Enterprise
Here is a free, online forum with 1,000s of participants, including experts, practitioners, researchers, etc.
Sample Nonprofit Business Plans
Resources for Each Typical Aspect of Business Planning
Before reviewing the resources in the following sections about specific aspects of business planning, the reader should first get a basic understanding of the business planning process by reviewing the above sections in this topic in the Library.
Are You Really Ready for Starting a New Organization, Product or Service?
Planning -- Basic Skills
Market Research -- Inbound Marketing
Sales and Services Planning
Advertising (Planning) -- Outbound Marketing
Staffing Analysis and Management Planning
Financial Analysis and Management
Writing the Business Plan Document
Funding - Getting
Implementing the Business Plan Document
For the Category of Business Planning:
To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may
want to review some related topics, available from the link below.
Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.
Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.
For-Profit-Specific Business Planning
The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.
Nonprofit-Specific Business Planning
If you are starting a nonprofit organization, then you would be better to get a book on nonprofit strategic planning, than a book on business planning. Nonprofit business plan books are better focused on a particular program or service, than on the entire organization. A strategic planning book is better for focusing on an entire organization.
- Field Guide to Nonprofit Program Design, Marketing and Evaluation
- by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Nonprofit business planning often is focused on a specific program, rather than on the overall organization. (Planning focused on the overall organization is usually strategic planning.) There are few books, if any, that explain how to carefully plan, organize and develop a nonprofit program. Also, too many books completely separate the highly integrated activities of planning, marketing and evaluating programs. This book integrates all three into a comprehensive, straightforward approach that anyone can follow in order to provide high-quality programs with strong appeal to funders. Includes many online forms that can be downloaded.
- Venture Forth! The Essential Guide to Starting a Money-Making Business in Your Nonprofit Organization
- by Rolfe Larson, published by Fieldstone Alliance. Provide step-by-step guidelines to identify and implement the best ideas to generate more revenue to further your nonprofit mission. Ideas can come from current or new services -- many nonprofits are already providing critical services from which they could generate more revenue. The movement of social entrepreneurship, including earned-income generation, is becoming a must for every nonprofit to consider. Many funders greatly appreciate nonprofits generating more income -- this book shows you how!
- Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation
- by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. If you intend your nonprofit business planning to cover the entire organization, then you probably need strategic planning as much as, if not more than, business planning. This book provides step-by-step guidelines to customize and facilitate planners to implement the best strategic planning process to suit the particular nature and needs of their nonprofit. This is one of the few books, if any, that explains how to actually facilitate planning. Includes many online forms that can be downloaded and used by planners.