Build your dream business for $1/month
Start your free trial, then enjoy 3 months of Shopify for $1/month when you sign up for a monthly Basic or Starter plan.
- Sign up for a free trial
- Select a monthly Basic or Starter plan
- $1/month pricing will be applied at checkout
- Add products, launch your store, and start selling!
- Start free trial
Start selling with Shopify today
Try Shopify for free, and explore all the tools and services you need to start, run, and grow your business.
- How to Start a Business in Texas- 8 Easy Steps
- How To Write the Perfect Business Plan in 9 Steps (2023)
- Trimming It Down- How to Create a Lean Business Plan
- 4 Major Advantages of a Sole Proprietorship
- 6 Types of Corporations- A Comparison of Business Structures
- Moving From Etsy to Shopify- An Ecommerce Migration Story
- Business Valuation- Learn the Value of Your Business
- Domain History - How To Check the History of a Domain Name
- How to Buy a Domain Name- Domain Registration Guide
- How to Form a Single-Member LLC
How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan in 11 Steps
- by Alexandra Sheehan
- Starting Up
- Dec 15, 2021
- 13 minute read
While businesses exist primarily to make a profit, nonprofits instead serve the public good for charitable, religious, educational, or other public service reasons. Starting a business as a nonprofit organization is an excellent way to impact positive change for a cause you care about. Plus, nonprofits are exempt from federal and state taxes on any income earned, unlike for-profit corporations. So there are also financial benefits.
If you’re just getting started with your nonprofit idea, one of the first things you’ll want to document is your nonprofit business plan. Below, we’ll take you through your nonprofit business plan, section by section, using this business plan template and guide as a base.
How to write a nonprofit business plan
Create an executive summary
Write an organization description
Conduct market analysis
Outline management and organization
Describe programs, products, and services
Document customer segmentation
Create a marketing plan
Create a logistics and operations plan
Write an impact plan
Outline the financial plan
Make a positive change with your nonprofit organization
1. Create an executive summary
The first section of your nonprofit business plan is your executive summary . The executive summary should describe your organization and the contents of your nonprofit business plan. This section should be no more than a page, briefly covering the following:
- Concept . What does your nonprofit organization do?
- Goals and vision . What does your nonprofit want to do?
- Product description and differentiation . What do you sell, and why is it different?
- Target market . Who do you sell to and raise money from? Who do you serve?
- Marketing strategy . How do you plan on reaching your audience?
- Current and projected financial state . What do you currently earn through fundraising? What do you foresee earning through fundraising?
- The ask . How much money are you asking for?
- The team . Who’s involved in the organization?
- The document . What can your audience expect from the following sections of your nonprofit business plan? Which highlights should they be excited about?
2. Write an organization description
The second section of your nonprofit business plan is the description of your organization. While the executive summary sets the stage for the business plan document, the organization description is a summary focused on your organization and what it does and aspires to do. Use this section to identify the industry or niche your organization operates in.
Here, you’ll want to identify the structure of your organization. A nonprofit is a tax-exempt, non-business entity that invests excess funds back into the mission. For nonprofits, you’ll typically register as a 501(c)(3) but you’ll also need to choose your business structure from the following list:
- Unincorporated association . This is the S corporation for nonprofits—you don’t need to file any paperwork. Many nonprofits start out as unincorporated associations.
- Trust . The first structure for nonprofits, this mandates all the organization’s assets be given to charitable use.
- Corporation . This structure offers the most protection from liabilities but also comes with some extra paperwork and fees.
- Limited liability company (LLC) . LLCs offer both tax benefits and limited fees, but not as much protection as a corporation. All members of the LLC must be 501(c)(3) organizations. See our state specific guides for California LLC , Texas LLC and Florida LLC .
Learn more: Sole Proprietorship vs. LLC: Which is the Better Option for Your Ecommerce Business?
The organization description should also include the following elements:
Mission and vision statement
Your mission and vision statement serve as the foundation for why your nonprofit exists, and this “why” influences your decision making. It’s also an effective tool for connecting with your audience and reaching your organization’s full potential.
Outdoor brand Cotopaxi also has a nonprofit arm— the Cotopaxi Foundation . The brand and nonprofit each have their own mission statements, published boldly on the company’s website:
The blurb below from Keiko Conservation’s website could also be repurposed into a mission or vision statement:
Keep your mission statement on the shorter side (one to two sentences) and use your vision statement to expand on the ideas.
Your value proposition tells people why they should choose to support your nonprofit over other ones. It essentially outlines your unique selling proposition , or competitive advantage for what sets you apart from the competition.
Short- and long-term goals
Your nonprofit business plan should also include measurable short- and long-term goals. Cotopaxi, for example, makes no secret of both its socially driven and business-minded goals through the Cotopaxi Foundation:
The Empowerment Plan hires single parents from shelters, training them to make coats. It also shares relevant metrics to show its impact. These metrics would also work as excellent measurable goals to include in its nonprofit business plan. Perhaps it would aim to double those numbers in the next year, projecting 180 new jobs, 550 impacted children, and 100,000 distributed coats.
You’ll also want to highlight the people behind your organization. This information shows you have enough people to make the nonprofit a success. Nonprofits typically have a few different “teams,” including a board of directors, paid staff, and maybe even volunteers. There may also be key donors who are worth noting here, as well as key people who you plan to help through your organization.
Re:new is a community of refugee artisans and students, volunteers, staff, and board members. It raises money by selling handcrafted products made by refugees from around the world. On its website, Re:new shares information about some of the people behind the organization, including board members, artisans, and paid staff.
For the nonprofit business plan, Re:new would also outline how those board members are chosen and what their involvement is, salaries and roles for paid staff members, and payment information for the artisans. Remember to note this information in your nonprofit business plan as well.
3. Conduct market analysis
The market analysis section of your nonprofit business plan demonstrates that you’ve done research to determine there is a need for your services and people who will potentially support your mission. Here, you’re essentially determining how big your potential market is.
There are a few key ways to get information about your market:
- Check government census data.
- Conduct a competitive analysis .
- Research industry trends and trajectory.
- Make educated guesses based on your experience and research.
You may also consider doing a SWOT analysis to identify your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
4. Outline management and organization
Every organization needs people to run it. When it comes to nonprofits, this typically involves the following groups of people:
- Board of directors . Nonprofits typically have a board of directors or leadership team. Give Merit, for example, would include its leadership team in this section.
- Staff . These people are your paid employees. Include roles, responsibilities, salaries, etc.
- Volunteers . You may or may not have specific people in mind for these volunteer roles. Some nonprofits have different tiers of volunteers—maybe lead volunteers or volunteer coordinators. Make note of these individuals, if relevant.
- Donors/customers . If you have any significant or notable donors who plan to make sizable contributions, include them in this section of your nonprofit business plan.
- Recipients . These are the people who you’re planning to help. This may not always be a person (as is the case with environmentally driven nonprofits, for example). Sometimes this is a group of people and sometimes this is a specific person.
Sometimes these groups overlap. The Empowerment Plan, for example, actually hires the people it helps—one of the organization’s main pillars.
5. Describe programs, products, and services
Your programs, products, and services section sums up what your organization offers. These offerings include everything for customers, donors, volunteers, and recipients. A farmers market, for example, may sell tables to its vendors, give branded tote bags to donors, sell handmade goods to shoppers, and create programs to feed underprivileged families.
Merit sells products as a brand on its website and then donates a proceeds of its sales to its nonprofit, Give Merit. So Merit would note all of these things in this section of its nonprofit business plan.
Likewise, Re:new sells products made by the artisans it works with. The organization also sells wholesale to retailers, so it would be important to note this here in the business plan as well.
6. Document customer segmentation
You can pull from your management and organization section for your customer segmentation, as some of these groups represent your customers as well. For example, your volunteers are one key customer segment and your donors are another. Within each of these segments, you’ll want to drill down further into smaller segments so you can build targeted campaigns to recruit volunteers and/or donors when needed.
When documenting your customer segments in your nonprofit business plan, note the following information:
- Where they live
- Level of education
- How they spend their free time
- Where they work
- How much they earn
- What technology they use
- Their values, beliefs, and opinions
- Common behavior patterns
Check out these resources to learn more about customer segmentation:
- What is a Target Market & How Do I Find Mine? (Examples Included)
- Customer Segments to Build to Drive Revenue
- Drive Growth with Customer Segmentation
7. Create a marketing plan
Your marketing plan outlines how you plan to spread the word about your nonprofit organization. Marketing may include attracting donors, volunteers, and/or customers, depending how your nonprofit operates.
The four main components of this section of your nonprofit business plan are:
- Price . How much do your products cost, and why have you made that decision? If you don’t sell products, you might outline different tiers of donorship.
- Product . What are you selling and how do you differentiate it in the market? Again, if you don’t plan to sell products, outline what you plan to provide to both donors and recipients.
- Promotion . How will you get your cause in front of your ideal customer? How will you connect with recipients?
- Place . Where will you sell your products or share information about your organization? Will this be online, in person, or both?
Learn more: Press Kits: How to Create A Hype Media Kit (2021)
You may also make note of which channels you plan to leverage, including email, social media , content marketing, and paid ads. EllieFunDay had an influencer program when it was still in operation, for example.
Here are some more resources to help put together the marketing section of your nonprofit business plan:
- How to Build a Marketing Plan That Actually Works
- 7 Inspiring Marketing Plan Examples (and How You Can Implement Them)
- Driving Growth: 11 Best Marketing Strategies Any Small Business Can Execute
Learn more: Meet the Entrepreneurial Women of Social Change
8. Create a logistics and operations plan
The logistics and operations section of your nonprofit business plan outlines how you plan to raise money and execute your mission. This includes a few key sections:
- Suppliers . This could refer to the suppliers for products you sell, as well as donors who contribute financially. You might also include fundraising organizers. One Tree Planted , for example, allows volunteers to run their own independent fundraisers .
- Production . If you’re selling products to raise money for your nonprofit, this part outlines whether you manufacture yourself, purchase wholesale, or use a dropshipping company.
- Facilities . Where will your organization operate? You might outline where headquarters is, as well as any sites or locations. This may also include storage and warehousing facilities.
- Equipment . List which tools and technology you need for your nonprofit. Remember to include everything from phones and computers to vehicles and machinery.
- Shipping and fulfillment . If you need to ship any packages, determine how you’ll do this. You may ship yourself or work with a third-party fulfillment partner.
Inventory. Determine how much stock you’ll keep on hand (if any) and where you’ll store it, as well as how you’ll approach inventory management .
9. Write an impact plan
The impact plan is an important part of your nonprofit business plan because it outlines the change you’ll inspire in regards to your mission. Many companies with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) publish their own impact plans as well. Though these impact plans aren’t part of a nonprofit business plan, they serve as great reference points for drafting this section of your plan.
LSTN Sound Co. is a headphone and speaker brand that also aims to help individuals who have hearing disabilities. The brand publishes an annual impact report outlining the contributions it has made to the cause—highlighting how choosing to be a LSTN customer is also a decision to support the cause.
Similarly, sustainable clothing and shoe brand Allbirds uses its annual sustainability report to show how the company has followed through on its own environmentally conscious CSR initiatives.
10. Outline the financial plan
Every nonprofit organization needs a financial plan. This includes how you’ll collect funds, as well as how those funds will be distributed. The financial plan typically includes the following financial statements :
- Income statement
- Balance sheet
- Cash flow statement
As far as potential sources of funding, you may consider the following for your nonprofit business plan:
- Self-funding . If you have the means, you may support your nonprofit organization financially yourself. You can do this personally or through a business—like how ecommerce brand Merit donates 20% of all purchases to its organization Give Merit , which funds college scholarships for underserved youth.
- Donors . You may seek financial support from organizations, businesses, and individuals. You may also use crowdfunding sites to raise funds and build buzz for your cause.
- Investors . The downside here is that you have to pay the money back, which isn’t ideal for nonprofits in particular.
- Loans . Loans also require repayment. Check with your lender to see if it offers lower interest rates or other benefits to nonprofits. Non-profits with a Shopify store can leverage simple loans based on sales history, which may be a more hassle-free option.
- Credit cards . Credit cards typically come with high interest rates and lower limits, so be wary about the terms before you fund your organization this way.
Use this spreadsheet template , which includes everything you’ll need to create an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement, including some sample numbers. You can edit it to reflect projections for your specific organization.
Make a positive change with your nonprofit business plan
Starting a nonprofit organization is an excellent way to make a difference for a cause you’re passionate about. The best way to kickstart your nonprofit organization is with a well-formulated business plan. Your nonprofit business plan will help you secure funding and build excitement for your organization.
Ready to create your first business? Start your free trial of Shopify—no credit card required.
Nonprofit business plan faq, what should be in a nonprofit business plan.
- Executive summary
- Organization description
- Market analysis
- Management and organization
- Programs, products, and services
- Customer segmentation
- Marketing plan
- Logistics and operations plan
- Impact plan
- Financial plan
What are the 4 types of nonprofit organizations?
- Unincorporated association
- Limited liability company (LLC)
How do you start a nonprofit with no money?
Do nonprofit organization owners make money, join 446,005 entrepreneurs who already have a head start..
Get free online marketing tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox.
No charge. Unsubscribe anytime.
Thanks for subscribing.
You’ll start receiving free tips and resources soon. In the meantime, start building your store with a free 3-day trial of Shopify.
Start your 3-day free trial today!
Try Shopify free for 3 days, no credit card required. By entering your email, you agree to receive marketing emails from Shopify.
The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Nonprofit Business Plan
Nonprofit business plans are dead — or are they?
For many nonprofit organizations, business plans represent outdated and cumbersome documents that get created “just for the sake of it” or because donators demand it.
However, a business plan can still be an invaluable tool for your nonprofit . Even a short nonprofit business plan pushes you to do research, crystallize your purpose, and polish your messaging.
Furthermore, without a nonprofit business plan, you’ll have a harder time obtaining loans and grants , attracting corporate donors, meeting qualified board members, and keeping your nonprofit on track.
Even excellent ideas can be totally useless if you cannot formulate, execute and implement a strategic plan to make your idea work.
So let’s dive into it…
What is a Nonprofit Business Plan?
Why do we need a nonprofit business plan, 10-step guide on writing a business plan for nonprofits.
- Do’s and Dont’s of Nonprofit Business Plans – Tips
Nonprofit Business Plan Template
Note: Steps 1, 2, and 3 are in preparation for writing your nonprofit business plan.
Step 1: Data Collection
Step 2: heart of the matter, step 3: outline, step 4: products, programs, and services, step 5: marketing plan, step 6: operational plan, step 7: impact plan, step 8: financial plan, step 9: executive summary, step 10: appendix.
Before even getting started with the writing collect financial, operating, and other relevant data. If your nonprofit is already in operation, this should at the very least include financial statements detailing operating expense reports and a spreadsheet that indicates funding sources.
If your nonprofit is new, compile materials related to any secured funding sources and operational funding projections, including anticipated costs.
You are a nonprofit after all! Your nonprofit business plan should start off with an articulation of the core values and your mission statement . Outline your vision, your guiding philosophy, and any other principles that provide the purpose behind the work. This will help you to refine and communicate your nonprofit message clearly.
The United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) mission statement is just shy of 300 words and states:
“UNICEF insists that the survival, protection, and development of children are universal development imperatives that are integral to human progress.”
Your nonprofit mission statement can also help establish your milestones, the problems your organization seeks to solve, who your organization serves, and its future goals.
Do’s and Dont’s of Nonprofit Business Plans – Tips
- Write clearly, using simple and easy-to-understand language.
- Get to the point, support it with facts, and then move on.
- Include relevant graphs and program descriptions.
- Include an executive summary.
- Provide sufficient financial information.
- Customize your business plan to different audiences.
- Stay authentic and show enthusiasm.
- Make the business plan too long.
- Use too much technical jargon.
- Overload the plan with text.
- Rush the process of writing, but don’t drag it either.
- Gush about the cause without providing a clear understanding of how you will help the cause through your activities.
- Keep your formatting consistent.
- Use standard 1-inch margins.
- Use a reasonable font size for the body, such as 12 points.
- For print, use a serif font like Times New Roman or Courier. For digital, use sans serifs like Verdana or Arial.
- Start a new page before each section.
- Don’t allow your plan to print and leave a single line on an otherwise blank page.
- Have several people read over the plan before it is printed to make sure it’s totally free of error.
To help you get started we’ve created a nonprofit business plan template. It will work as a framework regardless of your nonprofit’s area of focus. Click here to gain access to the document.
At Donorbox, we strive to make your nonprofit experience as productive as possible, whether through our donation software or through our advice and guides on the nonprofit blog .
Raviraj heads the sales and marketing team at Donorbox. His growth-hacking abilities have helped Donorbox boost fundraising efforts for thousands of nonprofit organizations.
Join us in serving the nonprofit world!
How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan [Updated for 2022]
Believe it or not, creating a business plan for a nonprofit organization is not that different from planning for a traditional business.
Nonprofits sometimes shy away from using the words “business planning,” preferring to use terms like “strategic plan” or “operating plan.” But, the fact is that preparing a plan for a for-profit business and a nonprofit organization are actually pretty similar processes. Both types of organizations need to create forecasts for revenue and plan how they’re going to spend the money they bring in. They also need to manage their cash and ensure that they can stay solvent to accomplish their goals.
In this guide, I’ll explain how to create a plan for your organization that will impress your board of directors, facilitate fundraising, and ensures that you deliver on your mission.
Why does a nonprofit need a business plan?
Good business planning is about setting goals, getting everyone on the same page, tracking performance metrics, and improving over time. Even when your goal isn’t to increase profits, you still need to be able to run a fiscally healthy organization.
Business planning creates an opportunity to examine the heart of your mission , the financing you’ll need to bring that mission to fruition, and your plan to sustain your operations into the future.
Nonprofits are also responsible for meeting regularly with a board of directors and reporting on your organization’s finances is a critical part of that meeting. As part of your regular financial review with the board, you can compare your actual results to your financial forecast in your business plan. Are you meeting fundraising goals and keeping spending on track? Is the financial position of the organization where you wanted it to be?
In addition to internal use, a solid business plan can help you court major donors who will be interested in having a deeper understanding of how your organization works and your fiscal health and accountability. And you’ll definitely need a formal business plan if you intend to seek outside funding for capital expenses—it’s required by lenders.
A nonprofit business plan outline
Keep in mind that developing a business plan is an ongoing process. It isn’t about just writing a physical document that is static, but a continually evolving strategy and action plan as your organization progresses over time. It’s essential that you run regular plan review meetings to track your progress against your plan. For most nonprofits, this will coincide with regular reports and meetings with the board of directors.
A nonprofit business plan will include many of the same sections of a standard business plan outline . If you’d like to start simple, you can download our free business plan template as a Word document, and adjust it according to the nonprofit plan outline below.
The executive summary of a nonprofit business plan is typically the first section of the plan to be read, but the last to be written. That’s because this section is a general overview of everything else in the business plan – the overall snapshot of what your vision is for the organization.
Write it as though you might share with a prospective donor, or someone unfamiliar with your organization: avoid internal jargon or acronyms, and write it so that someone who has never heard of you would understand what you’re doing.
Your executive summary should provide a very brief overview of your organization’s mission. It should describe who you serve, how you provide the services that you offer, and how you fundraise.
If you are putting together a plan to share with potential donors, you should include an overview of what you are asking for and how you intend to use the funds raised.
Start this section of your nonprofit plan by describing the problem that you are solving for your clients or your community at large. Then say how your organization solves the problem.
A great way to present your opportunity is with a positioning statement . Here’s a formula you can use to define your positioning:
For [target market description] who [target market need], [this product] [how it meets the need]. Unlike [key competition], it [most important distinguishing feature].
And here’s an example of a positioning statement using the formula:
For children, ages five to 12 (target market) who are struggling with reading (their need), Tutors Changing Lives (your organization or program name) helps them get up to grade-level reading through a once a week class (your solution).
Unlike the school district’s general after-school homework lab (your state-funded competition), our program specifically helps children learn to read within six months (how you’re different).
Your organization is special or you wouldn’t spend so much time devoted to it. Layout some of the nuts and bolts about what makes it great in this opening section of your business plan. Your nonprofit probably changes lives, changes your community, or maybe even changes the world. Explain how it does this.
This is where you really go into detail about the programs you’re offering. You’ll want to describe how many people you serve and how you serve them.
In a for-profit business plan, this section would be used to define your target market . For nonprofit organizations, it’s basically the same thing but framed as who you’re serving with your organization. Who benefits from your services?
Not all organizations have clients that they serve directly, so you might exclude this section if that’s the case. For example, an environmental preservation organization might have a goal of acquiring land to preserve natural habitats. The organization isn’t directly serving individual groups of people and is instead trying to benefit the environment as a whole.
Everyone has competition —nonprofits, too. You’re competing with other nonprofits for donor attention and support, and you’re competing with other organizations serving your target population. Even if your program is the only one in your area providing a specific service, you still have competition.
Think about what your prospective clients were doing about their problem (the one your organization is solving) before you came on this scene. If you’re running an after-school tutoring organization, you might be competing with after school sports programs for clients. Even though your organizations have fundamentally different missions.
For many nonprofit organizations, competing for funding is an important issue. You’ll want to use this section of your plan to explain who donors would choose your organization instead of similar organizations for their donations.
Future services and programs
If you’re running a regional nonprofit, do you want to be national in five years? If you’re currently serving children ages two to four, do you want to expand to ages five to 12? Use this section to talk about your long-term goals.
Just like a traditional business, you’ll benefit by laying out a long-term plan. Not only does it help guide your nonprofit, but it also provides a roadmap for the board as well as potential investors.
Promotion and outreach strategies
In a for-profit business plan, this section would be about marketing and sales strategies. For nonprofits, you’re going to talk about how you’re going to reach your target client population.
You’ll probably do some combination of:
- Advertising: print and direct mail, television, radio, and so on.
- Public relations: press releases, activities to promote brand awareness, and so on.
- Digital marketing: website, email, blog, social media, and so on.
Similar to the “target audience” section above, you may remove this section if you don’t promote your organization to clients and others who use your services.
Costs and fees
Instead of including a pricing section, a nonprofit business plan should include a costs or fees section.
Talk about how your program is funded, and whether the costs your clients pay are the same for everyone, or based on income level, or something else. If your clients pay less for your service than it costs to run the program, how will you make up the difference?
If you don’t charge for your services and programs, you can state that here or remove this section.
Fundraising is critical for most nonprofit organizations. This portion of your business plan will detail who your key fundraising sources are.
Similar to understanding who your target audience for your services is, you’ll also want to know who your target market is for fundraising. Who are your supporters? What kind of person donates to your organization? Creating a “donor persona” could be a useful exercise to help you reflect on this subject and streamline your fundraising approach.
You’ll also want to define different tiers of prospective donors and how you plan on connecting with them. You’re probably going to include information about your annual giving program (usually lower-tier donors) and your major gifts program (folks who give larger amounts).
If you’re a private school, for example, you might think of your main target market as alumni who graduated during a certain year, at a certain income level. If you’re building a bequest program to build your endowment, your target market might be a specific population with interest in your cause who is at retirement age.
Do some research. The key here is not to report your target donors as everyone in a 3,000-mile radius with a wallet. The more specific you can be about your prospective donors —their demographics, income level, and interests, the more targeted (and less costly) your outreach can be.
How will you reach your donors with your message? Use this section of your business plan to explain how you will market your organization to potential donors and generate revenue.
You might use a combination of direct mail, advertising, and fundraising events. Detail the key activities and programs that you’ll use to reach your donors and raise money.
Strategic alliances and partnerships
Use this section to talk about how you’ll work with other organizations. Maybe you need to use a room in the local public library to run your program for the first year. Maybe your organization provides mental health counselors in local schools, so you partner with your school district.
In some instances, you might also be relying on public health programs like Medicaid to fund your program costs. Mention all those strategic partnerships here, especially if your program would have trouble existing without the partnership.
Milestones and metrics
Without milestones and metrics for your nonprofit, it will be more difficult to execute on your mission. Milestones and metrics are guideposts along the way that are indicators that your program is working and that your organization is healthy.
They might include elements of your fundraising goals—like monthly or quarterly donation goals, or it might be more about your participation metrics. Since most nonprofits working with foundations for grants do complex reporting on some of these, don’t feel like you have to re-write every single goal and metric for your organization here. Think about your bigger goals, and if you need to, include more information in your business plan’s appendix.
If you’re revisiting your plan on a monthly basis, and we recommend that you do, the items here might speak directly to the questions you know your board will ask in your monthly trustee meeting. The point is to avoid surprises by having eyes on your organization’s performance. Having these goals, and being able to change course if you’re not meeting them, will help your organization avoid falling into a budget deficit.
Key assumptions and risks
Your nonprofit exists to serve a particular population or cause. Before you designed your key programs or services, you probably did some research to validate that there’s a need for what you’re offering.
But you probably are also taking some calculated risks. In this section, talk about the unknowns for your organization. If you name them, you can address them.
For example, if you think there’s a need for a children’s literacy program, maybe you surveyed teachers or parents in your area to verify the need. But because you haven’t launched the program yet, one of your unknowns might be whether the kids will actually show up.
Management team and company
Who is going to be involved and what are their duties? What do these individuals bring to the table?
Include both the management team of the day-to-day aspects of your nonprofit as well as board members and mention those who may overlap between the two roles. Highlight their qualifications: titles, degrees, relevant past accomplishments, and designated responsibilities should be included in this section. It adds a personal touch to mention team members who are especially qualified because they’re close to the cause or have special first-hand experience with or knowledge of the population you’re serving.
There are probably some amazing, dedicated people with stellar qualifications on your team—this is the place to feature them (and don’t forget to include yourself!).
The financial plan is essential to any organization that’s seeking funding, but also incredibly useful internally to keep track of what you’ve done so far financially and where you’d like to see the organization go in the future.
The financial section of your business plan should include a long-term budget and cash flow statement with a three to five-year forecast. This will allow you to see that the organization has its basic financial needs covered. Any nonprofit has its standard level of funding required to stay operational, so it’s essential to make sure your organization will consistently maintain at least that much in the coffers.
From that point, it’s all about future planning: If you exceed your fundraising goals, what will be done with the surplus? What will you do if you don’t meet your fundraising goals? Are you accounting for appropriate amounts going to payroll and administrative costs over time? Thinking through a forecast of your financial plan over the next several years will help ensure that your organization is sustainable.
Money management skills are just as important in a nonprofit as they are in a for-profit business. Knowing the financial details of your organization is incredibly important in a world where the public is ranking the credibility of charities based on what percentage of donations makes it to the programs and services. As a nonprofit, people are interested in the details of how money is being dispersed within organizations, with this information often being posted online on sites like Charity Navigator, so the public can make informed decisions about donating.
Potential contributors will do their research—so make sure you do too. No matter who your donors are, they will want to know they can trust your organization with their money. A robust financial plan is a solid foundation for reference that your nonprofit is on the right track.
Business planning is ongoing
It’s important to remember that a business plan doesn’t have to be set in stone. It acts as a roadmap, something that you can come back to as a guide, then revise and edit to suit your purpose at a given time.
I recommend that you review your financial plan once a month to see if your organization is on track, and then revise your plan as necessary.
Our free business plan template can help you work through each section of your plan. Also, be sure to check out a complete nonprofit business plan example for reference.
If you’re looking for a tool to help you write your business plan, you may want to check out LivePlan . It can easily be configured to create a nonprofit business plan with step-by-step guidance throughout the process. You’ll be able to easily develop forecasts and compare to your actuals through a single dashboard to actively plan, adjust, and present to investors and board members. It’s a great option to keep business planning simple so you can focus on serving those that you’re hoping to help.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2014. It was updated in 2021.
Artistic + intellectual pursuits. Social justice. Actress. Model. Musician. Eugene // Portland.
Starting or Growing a Business? Check out these Offerings.
All the Insights You Need to Help Your Business Succeed
Works with QBO & XERO
One-Page Business Pitch
Write A Winning Business Pitch In Just 60 Minutes
Start for $20/mo
Exclusive Offers on Must-Haves for New and Growing Businesses
$100+ in savings
Full Business Plan in Half the Time— and Double the Impact
Save 25% Annually
Plan, fund, and grow.
Easily write a business plan, secure funding, and gain insights.
Achieve your business funding goals with a proven plan format.
- Limited liability company (LLC)
- Corporation (C corp, S corp)
- Doing business as (DBA)
- Sole proprietorship
- Registered Agent Services
- Annual report
- Contracts & agreements
- Business licenses
- Foreign qualification
- Corporate amendment
- LZ Tax Services
- Trademark registration
- Trademark search
- Trademark monitoring
- Provisional patent
- Estate Plan Bundle
- Last will & testament
- Living trust
- Power of attorney
- Living will
- Name change
- Residential lease
- Property deed transfer
- For attorneys
- Check my order status
How to write a nonprofit business plan by Sandra Beckwith
How to write a nonprofit business plan
While a nonprofit business plan is similar to that of a for-profit company, it has a few important differences, including the need for a fundraising section.
Ready to start your business?
by Sandra Beckwith updated January 06, 2023 · 3 min read
While nonprofit organizations are purpose-driven rather than profit-driven, they have a great deal in common with their for-profit counterparts.
"We may be governed by a different part of the tax code and exempt from some—but not all—taxes, but we are businesses, too," says Rick Cohen, chief operating officer at the National Council of Nonprofits.
Like other types of businesses, successful nonprofits outline their goals and how they will achieve them in a written document known as a business plan .
A nonprofit's business plan is similar to that used by a for-profit entity but has key differences. Here's what you need to know about how to write a nonprofit business plan.
Nonprofit business plan elements
For-profit business plans detail what a company does, how it does it, who does it, and how it pays for it. A nonprofit business plan outlines that as well but approaches parts of the process differently.
The biggest difference is that nonprofit organizations focus on the problem they want to solve and how to fund programs and activities that help do that.
"Nonprofits have the added burden and opportunity of impact in their business plan," says Sara Gibson, co-founder and CEO of 20 Degrees, a consulting firm serving nonprofits. "The sector doesn't measure worth in profit—it is measured in lives and in change created. That has to be part of the plan."
Typical nonprofit business plans feature many of the following elements:
- Executive summary
- Mission and goals
- Community impact
- Products, services, and programs
- Organizational structure and staffing
- Market and competitive analysis
- Fundraising and development
- Financial plan
Fundraising section is essential
For-profit businesses might be funded initially by owners or outside investors, but the ultimate goal is usually self-sufficiency through sales. Many nonprofit organizations aren't structured or created to generate income to support their community services, so fundraising is key.
"It is critical for the sustainability of nonprofits that they are constantly being connected with grants and funders who will provide the financial resources needed for these nonprofits to continue offering quality and valuable assistance to the communities they serve," says Fernando Urbina, director of outreach for ImmigrationHelp.org.
Mikko Sperber, managing partner and founder of Fundamental Strategy, recommends taking on a for-profit business mindset when writing the fundraising section of the nonprofit business plan.
"If you build your plan to have a budget surplus at the end of your year, you then have the capital to reinvest in growing your organization and furthering your mission," he says.
The organization's communication and marketing strategy feeds fundraising goals, so be thoughtful about that piece when writing a nonprofit business plan.
"If no one knows who you are, then no one will be donating to your cause," says Mike McKnight, director of operations at Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome.
Keep it real
When outlining your business plan, be realistic about fundraising and other revenue streams, then match your budget to your fundraising goal, not the other way around. "In worst-case scenarios, fundraising numbers are plugged into a budget after the programmatic expenses are figured to just offset them without a realistic plan," Sperber says.
Matching your budget to your fundraising goal is especially important because of the organization's impact on the community served, says Cohen, whose organization offers nonprofit business plan resources on its website.
"The worst thing a nonprofit can do is get to a place where people are counting on their services, but then need to close their doors, leaving those people in the lurch," he says.
To ensure your organization's business plan properly supports your mission, consider consulting with professionals such as nonprofit advisers and attorneys specializing in this sector .
Keep your nonprofit business plan handy, too. It's your organizational blueprint, but you'll also need to update it as circumstances or market conditions change.
About the Author
You may also like.
Starting a Business
How to start a nonprofit
Starting a successful nonprofit requires a clear mission, doing your research, and preparing a solid business plan.
Jan 27, 2023 · 10 min read
How to write a business plan
This advice from the pros will make the process of writing a business plan easier and less stressful.
Jan 06, 2023 · 4 min read
10 Tips for Starting a Nonprofit Business
If you want to start a nonprofit, you'll need to research and fine-tune your idea, get feedback from the right sources, and take concrete steps to start your charity on a solid foundation.
Jul 22, 2022 · 4 min read
Managing Your Business
Avoid These 5 Common Business Plan Mistakes
A good business plan requires significant research and effort. To make the best impression, be sure to take the extra time to fine-tune your plan, so your audience will find it easy to read and understand.
May 02, 2022 · 3 min read
How to pay yourself in an LLC
As a business owner, you have many options for paying yourself, but each comes with tax implications.
Start your business off right with a business plan outline
A business plan outline provides the framework for the business plan that will act as your small business blueprint. Answer these questions as you create yours.
Jan 06, 2023 · 3 min read
What Are the Duties of a Nonprofit President?
The duties, responsibilities, and salary of a nonprofit president differ in some important ways from the head of a for-profit entity.
Starting Your Nonprofit
Choosing a Type of Nonprofit Organization
This guide will help you choose the right type of nonprofit organization and set your organization up for success.
Jul 22, 2022 · 3 min read
Structuring your nonprofit: The differences between incorporation and LLC
Founders of small nonprofits are increasingly turning to LLC business structures rather than incorporating. Here's why it makes sense—and how to do it.
Jan 12, 2023 · 4 min read
How do I get started with my nonprofit application?
Ready to get started with your nonprofit application? This guide will help get you started.
Jan 25, 2023 · 5 min read
Is it better to have an LLC or DBA?
Your choice will likely come down to cost and the level of liability protection you need. Find if a DBA or LLC is right for you.
10 tips for creating a small business plan
A business plan is a necessary part of your impetus for success for your small business. Find out how to create a business plan that will help you obtain investors and stay on track as you grow.
Raise More & Grow Your Nonprofit.
The complete guide to writing a nonprofit business plan.
August 14, 2019
Leadership & Management
July 7, 2022
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Statistics from the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) show that there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations currently operating in the U.S. alone. Many of these organizations are hard at work helping people in need and addressing the great issues of our time. However, doing good work doesn’t necessarily translate into long-term success and financial stability. Other information has shown that around 12% of non-profits don’t make it past the 5-year mark, and this number expands to 17% at the 10-year mark.
12% of non-profits don’t make it past the 5-year mark and 17% at the 10-year mark
There are a variety of challenges behind these sobering statistics. In many cases, a nonprofit can be sunk before it starts due to a lack of a strong nonprofit business plan. Below is a complete guide to understanding why a nonprofit needs a business plan in place, and how to construct one, piece by piece.
The purpose of a nonprofit business plan
A business plan for a nonprofit is similar to that of a for-profit business plan, in that you want it to serve as a clear, complete roadmap for your organization. When your plan is complete, questions such as "what goals are we trying to accomplish?" or "what is the true purpose of our organization?" should be clear and simple to answer.
Your nonprofit business plan should provide answers to the following questions:
1. What activities do you plan to pursue in order to meet the organization’s high level goals?
2. What's your plan on getting revenue to fund these activities?
3. What are your operating costs and specifically how do these break down?
Note that there’s a difference between a business plan and a strategic plan, though there may be some overlap. A strategic plan is more conceptual, with different ideas you have in place to try and meet the organization’s greater vision (such as fighting homelessness or raising climate change awareness). A business plan serves as an action plan because it provides, in as much detail as possible, the specifics on how you’re going to execute your strategy.
- What is the Difference Between a Business Plan and a Strategic Plan?
- Business Planning for Nonprofits
Creating a nonprofit business plan
With this in mind, it’s important to discuss the individual sections of a nonprofit business plan. Having a proper plan in a recognizable format is essential for a variety of reasons. On your business’s end, it makes sure that as many issues or questions you may encounter are addressed up front. For outside entities, such as potential volunteers or donors, it shows that their time and energy will be managed well and put to good use. So, how do you go from conceptual to concrete?
Step 1: Write a mission statement
Having a mission statement is essential for any company, but even more so for nonprofits. Your markers of success are not just how the organization performs financially, but the impact it makes for your cause.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by creating a mission statement. A strong mission statement clarifies why your organization exists and determines the direction of activities.
At the head of their ethics page , NPR has a mission statement that clearly and concisely explains why they exist. From this you learn:
- The key point of their mission: creating a more informed public that understands new ideas and cultures
- Their mechanism of executing that vision: providing and reporting news/info that meets top journalistic standards
- Other essential details: their partnership with their membership statement
You should aim for the same level of clarity and brevity in your own mission statement.
The goal of a mission statement isn’t just about being able to showcase things externally, but also giving your internal team something to realign them if they get off track.
For example, if you're considering a new program or services, you can always check the idea against the mission statement. Does it align with your higher level goal and what your organization is ultimately trying to achieve? A mission statement is a compass to guide your team and keep the organization aligned and focused.
Step 2: Collect the data
You can’t prepare for the future without some data from the past and present. This can range from financial data if you’re already in operation to secured funding if you’re getting ready to start.
Data related to operations and finances (such as revenue, expenses, taxes, etc.) is crucial for budgeting and organizational decisions.
You'll also want to collect data about your target donor. Who are they in terms of their income, demographics, location, etc. and what is the best way to reach them? Every business needs to market, and answering these demographic questions are crucial to targeting the right audience in a marketing campaign. You'll also need data about marketing costs collected from your fundraising, marketing, and CRM software and tools. This data can be extremely important for demonstrating the effectiveness of a given fundraising campaign or the organization as a whole.
Then there is data that nonprofits collect from third-party sources as to how to effectively address their cause, such as shared data from other nonprofits and data from governments.
By properly collecting and interpreting the above data, you can build your nonprofit to not only make an impact, but also ensure the organization is financially sustainable.
Step 3: Create an outline
Before you begin writing your plan, it’s important to have an outline of the sections of your plan. Just like an academic essay, it’s easier to make sure all the points are addressed by taking inventory of high level topics first. If you create an outline and find you don’t have all the materials you need to fill it, you may need to go back to the data collection stage.
Writing an outline gives you something simple to read that can easily be circulated to your team for input. Maybe some of your partners will want to emphasize an area that you missed or an area that needs more substance.
Having an outline makes it easier for you to create an organized, well-flowing piece. Each section needs to be clear on its own, but you also don’t want to be overly repetitive.
As a side-note, one area where a lot of business novices stall in terms of getting their plans off the ground is not knowing what format to choose or start with. The good news is there are a lot of resources available online for you to draw templates for from your plan, or just inspire one of your own.
Using a business plan template
You may want to use a template as a starting point for your business plan. The major benefit here is that a lot of the outlining work that we mentioned is already done for you. However, you may not want to follow the template word for word. A nonprofit business plan may require additional sections or parts that aren’t included in a conventional business plan template.
The best way to go about this is to try and focus less on copying the template, and more about copying the spirit of the template. For example, if you see a template that you like, you can keep the outline, but you may want to change the color scheme and font to better reflect your brand. And of course, all your text should be unique.
When it comes to adding a new section to a business plan template, for the most part, you can use your judgment. We will get into specific sections in a bit, but generally, you just want to pair your new section with the existing section that makes the most sense. For example, if your non-profit has retail sales as a part of a financial plan, you can include that along with the products, services and programs section.
- Free Nonprofit Sample Business Plans - Bplans
- Non-Profit Business Plan Template - Growthink
- Sample Nonprofit Business Plans - Bridgespan
- Nonprofit Business Plan Template - Slidebean
- 23+ Non Profit Business Plan Templates - Template.net
Nonprofit business plan sections
The exact content is going to vary based on the size, purpose, and nature of your nonprofit. However, there are certain sections that every business plan will need to have for investors, donors, and lenders to take you seriously. Generally, your outline will be built around the following main sections:
1. Executive summary
Many people write this last, even though it comes first in a business plan. This is because the executive summary is designed to be a general summary of the business plan as a whole. Naturally, it may be easier to write this after the rest of the business plan has been completed.
After reading your executive summary a person should ideally have a general idea of what the entire plan covers. Sometimes, a person may be interested in learning about your non-profit, but doesn’t have time to read a 20+ page document. In this case, the executive summary could be the difference between whether or not you land a major donor.
As a start, you want to cover the basic need your nonprofit services, why that need exists, and the way you plan to address that need. The goal here is to tell the story as clearly and and concisely as possible. If the person is sold and wants more details, they can read through the rest of your business plan.
This is the space where you can clarify exactly what your non-profit does. Think of it as explaining the way your nonprofit addresses that base need you laid out earlier. This can vary a lot based on what type of non-profit you’re running.
This page gives us some insight into the mechanisms Bucks County Historical Society uses to further their mission, which is “to educate and engage its many audiences in appreciating the past and to help people find stories and meanings relevant to their lives—both today and in the future.”
They accomplish this goal through putting together both permanent exhibits as well as regular events at their primary museum. However, in a non-profit business plan, you need to go further.
It’s important here not only to clearly explain who benefits from your services, but also the specific details how those services are provided. For example, saying you “help inner-city school children” isn’t specific enough. Are you providing education or material support? Your non-profit business plan readers need as much detail as possible using simple and clear language.
For a non-profit to succeed, it needs to have a steady stream of both donors and volunteers. Marketing plays a key role here as it does in a conventional business. This section should outline who your target audience is, and what you’ve already done/plan on doing to reach this audience. How you explain this is going to vary based on what stage your non-profit is in. We’ll split this section to make it more clear.
Nonprofits not in operation
Obviously, it’s difficult to market an idea effectively if you’re not in operation, but you still need to have a marketing plan in place. People who want to support your non-profit need to understand your marketing plan to attract donors. You need to profile all the data you have about your target market and outline how you plan to reach this audience.
Nonprofits already in operation
Marketing plans differ greatly for nonprofits already in operation. If your nonprofit is off the ground, you want to include data about your target market as well, along with other key details. Describe all your current marketing efforts, from events to general outreach, to conventional types of marketing like advertisements and email plans. Specific details are important. By the end of this, the reader should know:
- What type of marketing methods your organization prefers
- Why you’ve chosen these methods
- The track record of success using these methods
- What the costs and ROI of a marketing campaign
This is designed to serve as the “how” of your Products/Services/Programs section.
For example, if your goal is to provide school supplies for inner-city schoolchildren, you’ll need to explain how you will procure the supplies and distribute them to kids in need. Again, detail is essential. A reader should be able to understand not only how your non-profit operates on a daily basis, but also how it executes any task in the rest of the plan.
If your marketing plan says that you hold community events monthly to drum up interest. Who is in charge of the event? How are they run? How much do they cost? What personnel or volunteers are needed for each event? Where are the venues?
This is also a good place to cover additional certifications or insurance that your non-profit needs in order to execute these operations, and your current progress towards obtaining them.
Your operations section should also have a space dedicated to your team. The reason for this is, just like any other business plan, is that the strength of an organization lies in the people running it.
For example, let’s look at this profile from The Nature Conservancy . The main points of the biography are to showcase Chief Development Officer Jim Asp’s work history as it is relevant to his job. You’ll want to do something similar in your business plan’s team section.
Equally important is making sure that you cover any staff changes that you plan to implement in the near future in your business plan. The reason for this is that investors/partners may not want to sign on assuming that one leadership team is in place, only for it to change when the business reaches a certain stage.
The sections we’ve been talking about would also be in a traditional for profit business plan. We start to deviate a bit at this point. The impact section is designed to outline the social change you plan to make with your organization, and how your choices factor into those goals.
Remember the thoughts that go into that mission statement we mentioned before? This is your chance to show how you plan to address that mission with your actions, and how you plan to track your progress.
Let’s revisit the idea of helping inner-city school children by providing school supplies. What exactly is the metric you’re going to use to determine your success? For-profit businesses can have their finances as their primary KPI, but it’s not that easy for non-profits. Let’s say that your mission is to provide 1,000 schoolchildren in an underserved school district supplies for their classes. Your impact plan could cover two metrics:
- How many supplies are distributed
- Secondary impact (improved grades, classwork completed, etc).
The primary goal of this section is to transform that vision into concrete, measurable goals and objectives. A great acronym to help you create these are S.M.A.R.T. goals which stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
Vitamin Angels does a good job of showing how their action supports the mission. Their goal of providing vitamins to mothers and children in developing countries has a concrete impact when we look at the numbers of how many children they service as well as how many countries they deliver to. As a non-profit business plan, it’s a good idea to include statistics like these to show exactly how close you are to your planned goals.
Every non-profit needs funding to operate, and this all-important section details exactly how you plan to cover these financial needs. Your business plan can be strong in every other section, but if your financial planning is flimsy, it’s going to prove difficult to gather believers to your cause.
It's important to paint a complete, positive picture of your fundraising plans and ambitions. Generally, this entails the following parts:
- Current financial status, such as current assets, cash on hand, liabilities
- Projections based off of your existing financial data and forms
- Key financial documents, such as a balance sheet, income statements, and cash flow sheet
- Any grants or major contributions received
- Your plan for fundraising (this may overlap with your marketing section which is okay)
- Potential issues and hurdles to your funding plan
- Your plans to address those issues
- How you'll utilize surplus donations
- Startup costs (if your non-profit is not established yet)
In general, if you see something else that isn’t accounted for here, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and put the relevant information in. It’s better to have too much information than too little when it comes to finances, especially since there is usually a clear preference for transparent business culture.
- How to Make a Five-Year Budget Plan for a Nonprofit
- Financial Transparency - National Council of Nonprofits
Generally, this serves as a space to attach additional documents and elements that you may find useful for your business plan. This can include things like supplementary charts or a list of your board of directors.
This is also a good place to put text or technical information that you think may be relevant to your business plan, but might be long-winded or difficult to read. A lot of the flow and structure concerns you have for a plan don’t really apply with an appendix.
In summary, while a non-profit may have very different goals than your average business, the ways that they reach those goals do have a lot of similarities with for-profit businesses. The best way to ensure your success is to have a clear, concrete vision and path to different milestones along the way. A solid, in-depth business plan also gives you something to refer back to when you are struggling and not sure where to turn.
Alongside your business plan, you also want to use tools and resources that promote efficiency at all levels. For example, every non-profit needs a consistent stream of donations to survive, so consider using a program like GiveForms that creates simple, accessible forms for your donors to easily make donations. Accounting and budgeting for these in your plans can pay dividends later on.
Share this Article
Related articles, start fundraising today.
- Insights & Analysis
- Nonprofit Jobs
Business Planning for Nonprofits
Business planning is a way of systematically answering questions such as, “What problem(s) are we trying to solve?” or “What are we trying to achieve?” and also, “Who will get us there, by when, and how much money and other resources will it take?”
The business planning process takes into account the nonprofit’s mission and vision, the role of the board, and external environmental factors, such as the climate for fundraising.
Ideally, the business planning process also critically examines basic assumptions about the nonprofit’s operating environment. What if the sources of income that exist today change in the future? Is the nonprofit too reliant on one foundation for revenue? What happens if there’s an economic downturn?
A business plan can help the nonprofit and its board be prepared for future risks. What is the likelihood that the planned activities will continue as usual, and that revenue will continue at current levels – and what is Plan B if they don't?
Narrative of a business plan
You can think of a business plan as a narrative or story explaining how the nonprofit will operate given its activities, its sources of revenue, its expenses, and the inevitable changes in its internal and external environments over time. Ideally, your plan will tell the story in a way that will make sense to someone not intimately familiar with the nonprofit’s operations.
According to Propel Nonprofits , business plans usually should have four components that identify revenue sources/mix; operations costs; program costs; and capital structure.
A business plan outlines the expected income sources to support the charitable nonprofit's activities. What types of revenue will the nonprofit rely on to keep its engine running – how much will be earned, how much from government grants or contracts, how much will be contributed? Within each of those broad categories, how much diversification exists, and should they be further diversified? Are there certain factors that need to be in place in order for today’s income streams to continue flowing?
The plan should address the everyday costs needed to operate the organization, as well as costs of specific programs and activities.
The plan may include details about the need for the organization's services (a needs assessment), the likelihood that certain funding will be available (a feasibility study), or changes to the organization's technology or staffing that will be needed in the future.
Another aspect of a business plan could be a "competitive analysis" describing what other entities may be providing similar services in the nonprofit's service and mission areas. What are their sources of revenue and staffing structures? How do their services and capacities differ from those of your nonprofit?
Finally, the business plan should name important assumptions, such as the organization's reserve policies. Do your nonprofit’s policies require it to have at least six months of operating cash on hand? Do you have different types of cash reserves that require different levels of board approval to release?
The idea is to identify the known, and take into consideration the unknown, realities of the nonprofit's operations, and propose how the nonprofit will continue to be financially healthy. If the underlying assumptions or current conditions change, then having a plan can be useful to help identify adjustments that must be made to respond to changes in the nonprofit's operating environment.
Basic format of a business plan
The format may vary depending on the audience. A business plan prepared for a bank to support a loan application may be different than a business plan that board members use as the basis for budgeting. Here is a typical outline of the format for a business plan:
- Table of contents
- Executive summary - Name the problem the nonprofit is trying to solve: its mission, and how it accomplishes its mission.
- People: overview of the nonprofit’s board, staffing, and volunteer structure and who makes what happen
- Market opportunities/competitive analysis
- Programs and services: overview of implementation
- Contingencies: what could change?
- Financial health: what is the current status, and what are the sources of revenue to operate programs and advance the mission over time?
- Assumptions and proposed changes: What needs to be in place for this nonprofit to continue on sound financial footing?
More About Business Planning
Budgeting for Nonprofits
Contact your state association of nonprofits for support and resources related to business planning, strategic planning, and other fundamentals of nonprofit leadership.
- Components of transforming nonprofit business models (Propel Nonprofits)
- The matrix map: a powerful tool for nonprofit sustainability (Nonprofit Quarterly)
- The Nonprofit Business Plan: A Leader's Guide to Creating a Successful Business Model (David La Piana, Heather Gowdy, Lester Olmstead-Rose, and Brent Copen, Turner Publishing)
- Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability (Jan Masaoka, Steve Zimmerman, and Jeanne Bell)
- Sample business plan for a social enterprise (Propel Nonprofits)
Disclaimer: Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be nor should be construed as legal, accounting, tax, investment, or financial advice. Please consult a professional (attorney, accountant, tax advisor) for the latest and most accurate information. The National Council of Nonprofits makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.
Candid learning offers information and resources that are specifically designed to meet the needs of grantseekers..
Candid Learning > Resources > Knowledge base
How do I write a business plan for a nonprofit organization?
Like for-profit business ventures, nonprofits can create a business plan to describe how they will turn their mission into reality.
The business planning process involves the following steps:
- Researching the market, using a resource such as GuideStar , to see who else might be doing what the nonprofit plans to offer
- Investigating the resources the nonprofit will need to provide the service
- Devising marketing and communication strategies
- Assessing risk
- Determining ways to evaluate success - IssueLab Results is a place for foundations and nonprofits to share funded evaluations and to access the lessons of their peers and colleagues.
You can also use a business plan for a specific project or venture for a nonprofit.
To help diversify their revenue sources, for example, many nonprofits explore ways to earn income by developing their own business ventures. A classic example is Girl Scout cookies. Each year Girl Scout troops sell cookies, and the money they earn goes toward Girl Scout programs. Providing goods or services for a fee can be an important way for a nonprofit to bring in revenue to supplement its fundraising activities.
Selected resources below can help you learn more about creating an overall business plan for a nonprofit organization or specifically for an earned income venture.
Still have questions about starting a nonprofit, finding grants or other fundraising and management queries? Chat with or email Candid's experts to get answers. Ask Us Now!
If you're thinking about starting a nonprofit, take Candid's course, Is Starting a Nonprofit Right for You? Take the course in person or watch the video.
Have a question about this topic? Ask us!
Candid's Online Librarian service will answer your questions within two business days.
Este artículo está disponible en español
Explore resources curated by our staff for this topic:, staff-recommended websites, business planning (for nonprofits or for-profits).
This site provides an overview of business planning, with a special section focusing on nonprofits. Includes sample nonprofit business plans.
Business Planning for Nonprofits
Provides a listing of suggested resources on business and strategic planning for nonprofit organizations.
Business Planning Tools for Non-Profit Organizations
Offers advice on strategic plans, business plans & feasibility studies, as well as information on financial options, assessing funding sources. Extensive information on planning volunteer programs as well.
Free Nonprofit Sample Business Plans
Foundation Center does not endorse the business planning software sold on this site, but the sample nonprofit business plans provided are helpful and quite comprehensive.
How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan
This article provides a brief overview of the steps involved in creating a nonprofit business plan.
Nonprofit Business Plan Development: From Vision, Mission and Values to Implementation
This guide provides an overview of the steps in the planning process, (including SWOT analysis), vision and mission statement development, and goal setting.
This full-text article by Donald A. Griesman goes into detail on the process of starting a nonprofit organization. Beginning on page 10, he describes the elements of a business plan for a new nonprofit.
Nonprofit vs. Traditional Business Plans
Entrepreneur.com offers some information on the differences between a nonprofit and traditional business plan.
Sample Nonprofit Business Plans
Along with a link to its full-text article titled “Business Planning for Nonprofits: What It Is and Why It Matters,” the Bridgespan Group gives links to 3 sample nonprofit business plans.
Social Enterprise Business Plan
This outline was developed for nonprofit organizations wishing to embark on earned income ventures with a business model.
Strategic and Business Planning
A resource guide with definitions of planning terms and examples of planning techniques.
Write Your Business Plan
Though not geared specifically to nonprofits, these resources from the SBA cover in detail the elements that should be included in any kind of business plan.
Business plans handbook: non-profit.
Find: Free eBook
Sign up for our newsletter
Nonprofit Business Plan Template & Guide [Updated 2023]
Nonprofit business plan template.
A nonprofit business plan is essential to start and grow your nonprofit (non-profit) organization. It helps organizations plan and execute on opportunities. All business plan templates will include a number of sections such as an executive summary, organizational overview, and industry analysis. A business plan template can be a crucial tool for any organization, but especially nonprofits as they are often founded by members with mixed levels of business experience.
How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan
Growthink’s nonprofit business plan template below is the result of 20+ years of research into the types of business plans that help nonprofit organizations (NPOs) to attract funding and achieve their goals.
Follow the links to each section of our nonprofit business plan template:
Next Section: Executive Summary >
Nonprofit Organization Planning Resources & FAQs
Below are answers to the most common questions asked by nonprofits:
Is there a nonprofit business plan template I can download?
Yes. If you’d like to quickly and easily complete your non-profit business plan, download our non-profit business plan template and complete your business plan and financial model in hours.
Where can I download a nonprofit business plan PDF?
You can download our free nonprofit business plan template PDF here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.
What Is a nonprofit business plan?
A non-profit business plan describes your organization as it currently exists (which could be just an idea) and presents a road map for the next three to five years. It lays out your goals, challenges, and plans for meeting your goals. Your business plan should be updated frequently, as it is not meant to be stagnant. It is particularly important to create/update your business plan annually to make sure your nonprofit remains on track towards successfully fulfilling its mission.
A nonprofit business plan template is a tool used to help your nonprofit business quickly develop a roadmap for your business.
Why do you need a business plan for your nonprofit?
A nonprofit business plan serves many purposes. Most importantly, it forces you to think through and perfect your nonprofit’s strategy, it provides a roadmap to follow to grow your nonprofit, and it provides financial and other information major donors and board members need to know before they invest in your organization. Business planning can be a challenge and business plan templates help make this task easier for your team.
What are the types of nonprofit organizations (NPOs)?
There are several types of nonprofits. These are categorized by section 500(c) by the IRS for tax exempt purposes. Listed below, are some of the frequently filed sections:
Corporations formed under Act of Congress. An example is Federal Credit Unions.
Holding corporations for tax exempt organizations. This group holds title to the property for the exempt group.
This is the most popular type of NPO. Examples include educational, literary, charitable, religious, public safety, international and national amateur sports competitions, organizations committed to the prevention of cruelty towards animals or children, etc. Organizations that fall into this category are either a private foundation or a public charity. Examples include Getty Foundation, Red Cross, Easter Seals, etc.
Examples include social welfare groups, civil leagues, employee associations, etc. This category promotes charity, community welfare and recreational/educational goals.
Horticultural, labor and agricultural organizations get classified under this section. These organizations are instructive or educational and work to improve products, working conditions and efficiency.
Examples include real estate boards, business leagues, etc. They work to ameliorate business conditions.
Recreation and social clubs that promote pleasure and activities fall into this category.
Fraternal beneficiary associations and societies belong to this section.
Voluntary Employees’ beneficiary associations which provide benefits, accidents and life payments to members are a part of this section.
When filling in your nonprofit business plan template, include the type of nonprofit business you intend to be.
What are the primary sources of funding for nonprofit business plans?
The primary funding sources for most nonprofit organizations are donors, grants and bank loans. Donors are individuals that provide capital to start and grow your nonprofit. Major donors, as the name implies, write large checks and are often instrumental in launching nonprofits. Grants are given by organizations and others to achieve specific goals and often nonprofits qualify for them. Business loans, particularly for asset purchases like buildings and equipment, are also typically used by nonprofits.
Nonprofit organizations may also sell products or services, work with investors or develop their own investments. The expertise of the non-profit staff, members and board of directors will impact funding options for a nonprofit organization. The non profits mission, resources, goals and vision will all impact the funding sources a nonprofit business will place in it's business plan as well.
What's the difference between business planning and strategic planning for nonprofits?
Business planning is typically done when you start your nonprofit. Your initial business plan hopes to forecast future results and give you the best possible chance for success. Once nonprofits have launched and are operating, many of the unknowns and assumptions are answered and strategic planning is used to help grow the organization. Both business planning and strategic planning are similar processes.
How do you write a nonprofit business plan?
To most quickly write a nonprofit business plan, start with a template that lays out the sections to complete. Answer the questions provided in the template and discuss them with your co-founders if applicable. A template financial model will help you more easily complete your financial forecasts.
What should be included in nonprofit plans?
A nonprofit business plan should include the following information: Executive Summary, Organization Overview, Products, Programs, and Services, Industry Analysis, Customer Analysis, Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, Management Team/Organizational Structure, Financial Plan and Appendix.
How do you start a nonprofit?
The key steps to starting a nonprofit are to choose the name of your organization, write your business plan, incorporate your organization, apply for your IRS and state tax exemptions and get any required licenses and permits you need to operate.
How many nonprofit organizations are in the US?
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are approximately 1.54 million nonprofits registered in the United States (data pulled from registrations with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)).
Does your action plan and fundraising plan belong in your plan?
Yes, both belong in your plan.
Include your action plan in the operations plan section. Your fundraising plan goes in your financial plan section. Here you will discuss how much money you must raise and from whom you plan to solicit these funds.
Where do you include your mission in your plan?
Your mission statement is extremely important as it lays the foundation for and presents the vision of your nonprofit. You should clearly detail your mission statement in both the executive summary and organizational overview of your nonprofit plan.
What do you include in a nonprofit’s financial projections?
Your financial projections must include an Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Statement. These statements within your business plan show how much money your organization will bring in from donors and customers/clients and how much your organization will spend.
The key purpose of your financial projections is to ensure you have enough money to keep your organization operating. They also can be an important component of your nonprofit business plan template, as donors, your board of directors, and others may review to understand financial requirements of your nonprofit.
How do nonprofit owners get paid?
Nonprofits function like for-profit businesses in that they often have employees who receive salaries. As such, as the owner, founder and/or CEO of a nonprofit, you can give yourself a salary. Many nonprofit CEOs, particularly those running large health, finance and educational organizations earn millions of dollars each year.
How much does it cost to start a nonprofit business?
Nonprofits must complete Form 1023 with the IRS in order to get exemption status. The filing fee for this form is $600. If neither actual nor projected annual income for the organization exceeds $50,000, you can file form Form 1023-EZ which costs just $275.
In addition to the filing fee, there are other costs associated with starting a nonprofit organization based on the type of organization you are developing (for example, if you require buildings and equipment). Gathering information through the business planning process will help you accurately estimate costs for your nonprofit business plan template.
Where can I download a nonprofit business plan template doc?
You can download our free nonprofit business plan template DOC here . This is a nonprofit business plan template you can use in Microsoft DOC format.
Helpful Video Tips for Nonprofit Business Plans
Below are tips to creating select sections of your nonprofit business plan:
Writing the Management Team Section of Your Nonprofit Business Plan
Writing the Operations Section of your Nonprofit Business Plan
Writing the Customer Analysis Section of Your Nonprofit Business Plan
Writing Your Nonprofit Business Plan’s Executive Summary
NONPROFIT BUSINESS PLAN OUTLINE
- Nonprofit Business Plan Home
- 1. Executive Summary
- 2. Organization Overview
- 3. Products, Programs, and Services
- 4. Industry Analysis
- 5. Customer Analysis
- 6. Marketing Plan
- 7. Operations Plan
- 8. Management Team
- 9. Financial Plan
- 10. Appendix
- Nonprofit Business Plan Summary
- Get started for free
- CRM and Sales
- Project management
- Software development
- Finance & Accounting
- Product updates
- monday apps
- monday workdocs
- monday news
- Task management
- Remote work
The best nonprofit business plan template in 2023
If you’re looking to start a new charity but don’t know where to start, a nonprofit business plan template can help. There are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the US. While it’s awesome that there are so many charitable orgs, unfortunately, many of them struggle to keep their doors open.
Like any other business, a nonprofit needs to prepare for the unexpected. Even without a global pandemic, strategic planning is crucial for a nonprofit to succeed.
In this article, we’ll look at why a business plan is important for nonprofit organizations and what details to include in your business plan. To get you started, our versatile nonprofit business plan template is ready for you to download to turn your nonprofit dreams into a reality.
Get the template
What is a nonprofit business plan template?
A nonprofit business plan template is not that different from a regular, profit-oriented business plan template. It can even focus on financial gain — as long as it specifies how to use that excess for the greater good.
A nonprofit business plan template includes fields that cover the foundational elements of a business plan, including:
- The overarching purpose of your nonprofit
- Its long and short-term goals
- An outline of how you’ll achieve these goals
The template also controls the general layout of the business plan, like recommended headings, sub-headings, and questions. But what’s the point? Let’s dive into the benefits a business plan template offers nonprofits.
Download Excel template
Why use a nonprofit business plan template?
To get your nonprofit business plans in motion, templates can:
If you’ve decided to start a nonprofit, you’re likely driven by passion and purpose. Although nonprofits are generally mission-driven, they’re still businesses. And that means you need to have a working business model. A template will give your ideas direction and encourage you to put your strategic thinking cap on.
Help you secure funding
One of the biggest reasons for writing a nonprofit business plan is to attract investment. After all, without enough funding, it’s nearly impossible to get your business off the ground. There’s simply no business without capital investment, and that’s even more true for nonprofits that rarely sell products.
Stakeholders and potential investors will need to assess the feasibility of your nonprofit business. You can encourage them to invest by presenting them with a well-written, well-thought-out business plan with all the necessary details — and a template lays the right foundation.
Facilitate clear messaging
One of the essential characteristics of any business plan — nonprofits included — is transparency around what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. A nebulous statement with grandiose aspirations but no practical plan won’t inspire confidence.
Instead, you should create a clear and concise purpose statement that sums up your goals and planned action steps. A good template will help you maintain a strong purpose statement and use clear messaging throughout.
Of course, there are different types of nonprofit plan templates you can use, depending on the kind of business plan you want to draw up.
What are some examples of a nonprofit business plan template?
From summary nonprofit plans to all encompassing strategies, check out a few sample business plan templates for different nonprofit use cases.
Summary nonprofit business plan template
New nonprofit ventures in the early stages of development can use this business plan template. It’s created to put out feelers to see if investors are interested in your idea. For example, you may want to start an animal shelter in your community, but aren’t sure if it’s a viable option due to a lack of funds. You’d use a summary business plan template to gauge interest in your nonprofit.
Full nonprofit business plan template
In this scenario, you have already laid the foundations for your nonprofit. You’re now at a point where you need financing to get your nonprofit off the ground.
This template is much longer than a summary and includes all the sections of a nonprofit business plan including the:
- Nonprofit description
- Needs analysis
- Marketing strategy
- Management team & board
- Human resource needs
It also typically includes a variety of documents that back up your market research and financial situation.
Operational nonprofit business plan template
This type of business plan template is extremely detail-oriented and outlines your nonprofit’s daily operations. It acts as an in-depth guide for who does what, how they should do it, and when they should do it.
An operational nonprofit business plan is written for your internal team rather than external parties like investors or board members.
Convinced to give a business plan template a go? Lucky for you, our team has created the perfect option for nonprofits.
monday.com’s nonprofit business plan template
At monday.com, we understand that starting a nonprofit business can feel overwhelming — scrambling to line up investors, arranging fundraising events, filing federal forms, and more. Because we want you and your nonprofit to succeed, we’ve created a customizable template to get you started. It’s right inside our Work OS , a digital platform that helps you effectively manage every aspect of your work — from budgets and high-level plans to individual to-do lists.
Here’s what you can do on our template:
Access all your documents from one central location
Besides a business plan, starting a nonprofit requires a lot of other documentation. Supporting documents include a cash flow statement or a general financial statement, resumes of founders, and letters of support.
monday.com’s Work OS lets you store all these essential documents in one centralized location. That means you don’t need to open several tabs or run multiple programs to view your information. On monday.com, you can quickly and easily access documents and share them with potential investors and donors. Security features also help you control access to any board or document, only letting invited people or employees view or edit them. By keeping everything in one place, you save time on tracking down rogue files or statements and can focus on what really matters, such as running your nonprofit.
Turn your business plan into action
With monday.com’s nonprofit business plan template, you can seamlessly transform your plan into actionable tasks. After all, it’s going to take more than some sound strategic planning to bring your nonprofit to life.
Based on your business plan, you have the power to create interactive vision boards, calendars, timelines, cards, charts, and more. Because delegation is key, assign tasks to any of your team members from your main board. You can even set up notification automations so that everyone stays up to date with their responsibilities. Plus, to make sure the team stays on track, you can use the Progress Tracking Column that shows you the percent to completion of tasks based on the different status columns of your board.
Keep your finger on the pulse
From budgets to customer satisfaction, you need to maintain a high-level overview of your nonprofit’s key metrics.
monday.com keeps you well-informed on the status of your nonprofit’s progress, all on one platform. With customizable dashboards — for example, a real-time overview of donations received and projects completed — and visually appealing views, you can make confident decisions on how to take your nonprofit business forward.
Now that you have the template, let’s cover each section and how to fill it out correctly.
Essential sections of a nonprofit business plan template
So what exactly goes into a nonprofit business plan? Let’s take a look at the different sections you’ll find in most templates.
This is a concise summary of your business at the beginning of your plan. It should be both inspired and to the point. The executive summary is typically two pages long and dedicates about two sentences to each section of the plan.
This section gives some background on your company and summarizes the goal of your business. At the same time, it should touch on other important factors like your action plan for attracting potential external stakeholders. You can think of an organization overview as a mission statement and company description rolled into one.
Products, programs, and services
Any business exists to provide products, programs, and services — perhaps with a focus on the latter two for nonprofits. Your business plan should outline what you are bringing to your community. This will influence your target market , potential investors, and marketing strategies.
An effective marketing strategy is the cornerstone of any successful business. Your marketing plan will identify your target audience and how you plan to reach them. It deals with pricing structures while also assessing customer engagement levels.
The operational plan describes the steps a company will take over a certain period. It focuses on the day-to-day aspects of the business, like what tasks need to be done and who is responsible for what. The operational section of a business plan works closely with strategic planning.
Even nonprofits face competition from other nonprofits with similar business profiles. A market analysis looks at the strengths and weaknesses of competing businesses and where you fit in. This section should include a strategy to overtake competitors in the market. There are many formats and templates you can use here, for example, a SWOT analysis .
Your financial plan should be a holistic image of your company’s financial status and financial goals. As well as your fundraising plan , make sure to include details like cash flow, investments, insurance, debt, and savings.
Before we wrap up, we’ll address some commonly asked questions about nonprofit business plan templates.
FAQs about nonprofit business plan templates
How do you write a business plan for a nonprofit.
The best way to write a nonprofit business plan is with a template so that you don’t leave anything out. Our template has all the sections ready for you to fill in, combined with features of a cutting-edge Work OS.
For some extra tips, take a look at our advice on how to write a business plan . We’ve detailed the various elements involved in business planning processes and how these should be structured.
How many pages should a nonprofit business plan be?
Business plans don’t have to be excessively long. Remember that concise communication is optimal. As a rule of thumb — and this will vary depending on the complexity and size of your business plan — a nonprofit business plan is typically between seven and thirty pages long.
What is a nonprofit business plan called?
A nonprofit business plan is called just that — a ‘nonprofit business plan.’ You may think that its nonprofit element makes it very different from a profit-oriented plan. But it is essentially the same type of document.
What is the best business structure for a nonprofit?
The consensus is that a corporation is the most appropriate and effective structure for a nonprofit business.
How do you start a nonprofit with no money?
Creating a business plan and approaching potential investors, aka donators, is the best way to start a nonprofit business if you don’t have the funds yourself.
Try monday.com for nonprofits
Join the 150k+ customers who use monday.com.
How to write a nonprofit business plan · Create an executive summary · Write an organization description · Conduct market analysis · Outline
How to write a nonprofit business plan in 7 steps · 1. Mind your audience · 2. Outline your plan · 3. Keep formatting simple · 4. Divide sections
10-Step Guide on Writing a Business Plan for Nonprofits ; a. Outline your nonprofit's current and projected financial status. · d. Include your
Include both the management team of the day-to-day aspects of your nonprofit as well as board members and mention those who may overlap between the two roles.
Nonprofit business plan elements · Executive summary · Mission and goals · Community impact · Products, services, and programs · Organizational
As a start, you want to cover the basic need your nonprofit services, why that need exists, and the way you plan to address that need. The goal
Basic format of a business plan · Table of contents · Executive summary - Name the problem the nonprofit is trying to solve: its mission, and how it accomplishes
Researching the market, using a resource such as GuideStar, to see who else might be doing what the nonprofit plans to offer · Investigating the resources the
A nonprofit business plan should include the following information: Executive Summary, Organization Overview, Products, Programs, and Services, Industry
Essential sections of a nonprofit business plan template · Executive summary · Organization overview · Products, programs, and services · Marketing