Monday, February 8, 2010

Writing a Nonprofit Business Plan

I'm doing something I ordinarily would not do -- writing a business plan without being compensated for my time. I'm doing it for several reasons: a) It's for a start-up nonprofit I really believe in, b) I'm a founding member, and c) I'm on the advisory board.

This makes the experience somewhat akin to writing my own plan for my own start-up. And it makes me realize from a new perspective how incredibly valuable the business planning process is. I've had clients tell me that the process was more useful to them than the actual final plan. Now I know why.

Sitting down with your management team and/or your board to hash out the questions of what your organization really hopes to accomplish and how you will accomplish it is actually quite hard for people/entrepreneurs/business owners. You believe you have this great idea. But can you explain it succinctly? What words are you actually going to write down to get the ideas across? What is the heart of your business? Can the whole team come together and form a consensus about this?

Focusing on answering these and other key questions is amazing and empowering. And interestingly, the more you answer, the more new questions arise. What will it really take to get this nonprofit off the ground? Can you convince others to fund your start-up? What can you say that will compel angels to part with their money and support your mission? What makes your organization so unique that it truly deserves to exist so that it can serve the community? Does it add to the public good?

We're not done with the process yet. I'll keep you posted on our progress. All I can say is that if you have not gone through the process of developing a formal business plan, you are missing a great opportunity to really think through your business and what you want to achieve with it.

In case you're curious, the nonprofit in question is Aging in Place in Darien.
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