Community Accounting NE

Business Plans

Basic Notes

Why should we bother?

If truth be told, most organisations probably write a "business Plan' because they have to produce one if they are to stand any chance of receiving financial support or a grant. It is rare to come across small organisations that have produced a Plan purely because they see it as a good idea.

Formally writing down your organisation can be useful.
* it makes sure that it is the whole Committee which is in charge
* it is better to plan ahead than simply drift along
* it gives you a chance to think of new things
* it makes you think about things or activities which are not working well

The Process
Obviously someone will have to write the plan, but before that the members should call a meeting of all interested parties to have an open discussion on the future for the organisation. This may involve the members or staff. Hopefully, the discussion will give rise to certain common aims for the organisation. A proposal can then be put together for consideration and comment by interested parties. Ultimately it is the managements responsibility to formally adopt the Plan.

What should the Plan include?
We think it is best to keep the plan fairly short as there is more chance that people will read it. If you can not avoid a lengthy document, it is a good idea to put a summary at the front which highlights the key elements of the plan.

The following elements should be included

1. An introduction.

* what is the point of the document and who is it for
* what was the process of consultation which has led to it's production
* the contents
* you may wish to include a summary of the key points

2. Setting the context
* to explain the field or environment within which your organisation operates
* what are the current issues
* what other services are available
* are there any relevant developments in government policy (local or national)

3. Your organisation (where are we now?)
* a very brief history
* an outline of the work you do
* how is your organisation structured - staff, committee, volunteers
* what are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

4. The need
* an analysis of the need for your services, both existing and those not being met

5. The long term goals (where are we going?)
* what services will you be providing
* how will you provide them (what resources will you need by way of people, offices, etc)
* this obviously relates to the time span for the plan which may be 3 years or perhaps even 5

6. The short term goals (how will we get there?)
* what precise steps must be taken over the next 12 months
* which are most important
* who will do it and when

7. Finance
* budgets should be produced for the next 3 years, or whatever the time span is * more detailed for the next 12 months

8. Monitoring and review
* explain how your management will know whether the Plan is being followed
* it makes sense to review the whole thing ever year

A rolling plan
An obvious problem with any plan is that it is rather difficult to predict the future. This is a particular problem for organisation which rely heavily on grant aid. No matter how hard you work, much of the future is in the hands of the Funders. It is likely, therefore, that any Plan will be 'out of date' quite quickly. One way to deal with this is to develop a 'rolling plan'

Your organisation may conduct an annual review of the Plan and rewrite the whole thing every year - i.e. write a 3 year plan every year. This obviously involves more work, but will help to avoid a gap developing between the plans and the reality.