Business Planning
(For nonprofits, for-profits and hybrid organizations)

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

Also see
Related Library Topics

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Library's Business Planning Blog
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Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Project Management Blog
Library's Strategic Planning Blog
Library's Supervision Blog

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.

Also read:

Who Needs a Business Plan? (You Do)

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.

  1. Business summary -- Describes the organization, business venture or product (service), summarizing its purpose, management, operations, marketing and finances.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 manual.
Preparation for Planning a Business Venture

More Basics on Business Planning

What 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
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

Business Plan Writing Center The Business Planning Resource Center
Small Business Administration resources

Sample For-Profit Business Plans

sample business plans
Sample Business Plans
Business Plan Archive
Business Plan : Examples and Best Practices

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

What 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.
Social Enterprise World Forum

Sample Nonprofit Business Plans

Nonprofit Business Planning
numerous sample nonprofit business plans
How to Create Jobs, Save the Planet and Make Money for Your Nonprofit
Sample Nonprofit Business Plans
Business Plan Archive

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?

Entrepreneurship -- Are You Really Ready to Start a New Organization, Product or Service?

Planning -- Basic Skills

Creativity & Innovation
Decision Making
Planning (General)
Problem Solving

Project Planning
Be Nimble, Be Quick; Be Disruptive, Too

Market Research -- Inbound Marketing

Planning Your Research
Market Research


Understanding Strategy and Strategic Thinking

Product Planning

Product Management

Sales and Services Planning

Customer Service
Quality Management

Advertising (Planning) -- Outbound Marketing

Advertising (Planning Your)
Advertising Planning

Staffing Analysis and Management Planning

Job Specification
Staffing (Planning)

Financial Analysis and Management

Finances (For-Profit)
Finances (Nonprofit)

Feasibility Analysis

Feasibility Testing -- Do Just Enough
Feasibility Testing -- A Lost Art
Feasibility Testing -- Top 10 tips

Writing the Business Plan Document

Short is Beautiful
Executive Summary Says It All
Create Your Business Plan

Funding - Getting

Fundraising (For-Profit)
Fundraising (Nonprofit)
Loans (Getting)
Why Business Plans Don't Get Funded

Implementing the Business Plan Document

Implementation: Turning Your Business Plan Into A Business

Also see
How Do We Ensure Implementation of Our New Plan?

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For the Category of Business Planning:

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Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

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