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How to write a business plan for your charity

This guide sets out the areas that charities should cover in a business plan.

A business plan describes your organisation and its activities, or a specific project. It sets out your goals, plans, finances, and the risks you face.

Your plan should also show that you understand your market, and that the work you do has both a social and financial return.

You may need a business plan if you’re:

  • trying to secure funding
  • setting up a new organisation
  • starting to trade in an existing organisation.

Before you get started

Read this article on what you need to think about before you start working on your business plan.

Business plan template

If you’re an NCVO member you can download a business plan template, with more detailed guidance on what to include in each section.

1

Executive summary

Start by summarising the key points of your business plan. Remember that some people may only read this section, so make it a clear, concise overview of who you are, what you want to do, and how you plan to do it.

2

About your organisation

Give details of who your organisation is and what you do. This may include:

  • your vision, mission, values and aims
  • your history
  • the current state of your organisation (eg turnover, number of staff)
  • your legal status
  • your products and services.
3

Market

Your business plan should show that you have a clear and detailed understanding of your market. Use this section to describe:

  • your stakeholders, including your beneficiaries, customers and donors
  • any market research or testing you’ve done
  • your marketing strategy and plan, and how you intend to reach your customers
  • any market analyses that you’ve done (eg a PESTEL analysis or a competitor analysis).
4

Operational plan

Give an overview of the day-to-day operations of your organisation. This may include descriptions of:

  • the resources you need to run your business
  • the people and organisations you work with (eg partners and suppliers)
  • your premises and the equipment you use
  • your process for taking payments from customers
  • any legal requirements that your organisation needs to meet (eg if you prepare food, you’ll need appropriate licenses and certifications)
  • any insurance you have or will need.
5

People

Describe the people who are crucial to your organisation and any staff changes you plan as part of your business plan. This may include:

  • biographies of your management team
  • biographies of your trustees
  • an overview of any planned changes to your management structure.

Also use this section to describe any skills gaps in your team, and how you plan to fill them.

6

Impact

As a charity, your business plan needs to show not only a financial return, but also a social one.

This social return is your impact – the difference you make for the people and communities you work with.

Use this section to give a clear and concise description of your impact.

Back this up with details of how you measure, learn from and communicate your impact, including:

  • the change you want to make
  • what you plan to measure
  • how you’ll measure it
  • how you’ll use what you learn
  • how you’ll tell people about it.
7

Finances

Give a summary of your finances, including:

  • costs and expenditure
  • main sources of income
  • pricing strategies (if you’re trading products and services).

This is also where you include your financial forecasts.

These are one of the most important parts of your business plan – however good your idea, product and team, unrealistic forecasts will let your plan down.

The key elements of your forecasts are:

  • cash flow forecast
  • costs table.

NCVO members can download a template cash flow forecast and costs table in the tools and resources section.

8

Risk

Set out the risks you face across everything you do. These could include:

  • governance risks
  • external risks
  • regulatory or compliance risks
  • financial risks
  • operational risks.

Explain the likelihood of each risk, how you plan to manage it, and the impact it could have on your organisation.

You could include a full risk register in an appendix. NCVO members can download a risk register template in the tools and resources section.

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Page last edited Feb 15, 2017 History

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