How Much Are Small Business Consultant Fees?
When you’re starting a small business, you might run into some obstacles to the success you want to see. Small business consultants can help you cut through the number of items on your to-do list and set a course for future success. Here’s what to expect to pay.
Before you begin researching small business consultants in your area, you need to set a budget for your consultancy expenses. You can find consultants from inexpensive solo firms to high-dollar professional firms. While you may be tempted to go for the cheapest consultant you can find, you need to remember that when it comes to consulting, you often get what you pay for.
When determining your small business consultancy budget, you need to decide the quality of service you’d like to receive and allocate a budget according to how much you can realistically spend on a consultant. Remember, this is a business investment, so you should ideally get an attractive return on your consultancy investment.
Do You Need Business Plan Assistance?
Your small business consultant will offer marketing and administrative advice. But there are other services that your consultant may provide. Often, small business owners need help with getting their business plans solidified so that they can pursue the next level of investor funding or bank loans.
If you need business plan assistance, your business consultant may be able to provide this service for an additional fee. This fee will likely be billed as a project, rather than at an hourly rate, and will probably run you a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on top of your other consultancy fees.
While most small business consultants offer a free initial consultation, once you sign a contract with your consultant, you may owe one-time startup fees to your consultant or their firm. These fees might include meetings to help your consultant prepare a plan for your business’s success, marketing plans and other projections you or your consultant can use to move forward.
Hourly Rates of Small Business Consultants
After the startup fees, which may be billed hourly or by the project, you will likely work with your consultant on an hourly basis. Small business consultants charge rates anywhere from $50 an hour to $200 an hour and above. Depending on your location, consultant’s experience and the size of the firm that they work for, you can expect to pay a rate within this average.
Ongoing Expenses and Retainers
Your small business might benefit from continued support from your small business consultant. In this case, your consultant might contract with you for extended services beyond your initial startup phase. These services include retainers and hourly support, which can run in the thousands of dollars per month.
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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 Earned Income: Critical Business Model Considerations for Nonprofits (Nonprofit Financial Commons)
- Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability (Jan Masaoka, Steve Zimmerman, and Jeanne Bell)
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.
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 sample nonprofit 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 templated 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
Candid learning offers information and resources that are specifically designed to meet the needs of grantseekers..
Candid Learning > Training > Live
The Secrets to a Profitable Nonprofit Consulting Business
calendar_today Tuesday, May 12, 2020
access_time Eastern: 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm Central: 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm Mountain: 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm Pacific: 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Are you a nonprofit professional ready to turn your experience into a consulting career? Do you already consult but need support building a business strategy to grow your income and connections? This is an immersive three -month virtual training series that provides specialized and practical business development that will help jump-start or boost your nonprofit consulting business. Learn from a seasoned consultant on how to turn your passion for service into a profitable career.
Participants will meet virtually via Zoom for six Tuesdays from 2:00–4:00 pm ET/ 11:00 am–1:00 pm PT , twice per month, on the following dates:
- May 12: Establishing your business, client criteria, consulting focus area, and geography using new virtual expectations
- May 26: Developing a marketing strategy for generating clients through digital platforms
- June 16: Determining a fee structure and criteria for pro bono services to introduce your business plan
- June 30: Developing two to three immediate revenue streams from home
- July 14: Creating a business plan presentation
- July 28: Incorporating feedback and open questions into your business plan
Please register by Friday, May 8, 2020.
***All sessions meet virtually. Computer access with video/audio and a reliable internet connection is required.***
Zoom links will be sent prior to the start of the first session. To maximize benefit, we encourage virtual attendance for all sessions.
Upon completion of this virtual training series, you should be able to:
- Identify immediate opportunities to sustain your consulting business
- Assess who your target clientele is and create a marketing plan to reach them
- Plan how you will increase your clients ’ effectiveness
- Explain how you use data and outcomes to measure your consultancy’s impact
- Draft and refine your business plan based on expert feedback
- All levels of experience
- CEOs, executive directors, upper management
- Fundraising & development staff
- Grant writers
About Denise B. Lawrence (she/her)
Denise B. Lawrence is a consultant working with nonprofit executives and business executives across the globe since 1987 in the development and implementation of strategies that allow our communities to thrive. She has been a webinar and cohort presenter for Candid since 2017 and will facilitate the “Navigating Shifts in the Corporate Giving World” webinar on Thursday, July 15 . You can learn more at charityconsultantsinc.com .
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Nonprofit Consulting: How To Start A Nonprofit Consulting Business
If you’ve worked in the nonprofit sector, you’ve gained valuable experience and wisdom — experience and wisdom nonprofit organizations would pay for.
Why not take your experience and use it to start a non-profit consulting business ?
Consider the example of non-profit consultant Douglas Nelson and his consultancy The Discovery Group .
Douglas works with medium and large-sized charitable organizations, sharing his expertise to help them with leadership, governance, fundraising, and strategic planning.
Starting a consulting business is an example of entrepreneurial consulting : using what you’ve learned in your career and offering that expertise to other organizations in your industry .
In this article, we’ll show you how to start your own nonprofit consulting business.
By the end, you will have a clear understanding of how you can take the skills you’ve developed working in the nonprofit world and building a profitable consulting business .
Ready? Let’s dive in…
As a nonprofit consultant, you may serve as a creative problem-solver, an experienced strategizer, or a wise vision-caster.
What Is a Nonprofit Consultant?
A nonprofit consultant is an independent expert who helps nonprofit organizations of various sizes overcome challenges, meet their needs, and achieve their goals more efficiently.
What are some reasons why a nonprofit organization would hire a consultant?
- To help them with fundraising and grant writing.
- To provide strategic thinking about setting and achieving goals.
- To improve organizational development and operational efficiency.
- To overcome key challenges or make the most of upcoming opportunities.
Here’s an example from a nonprofit consultant (and one of our Clarity Coaching clients).
Nonprofit executive teams and boards sometimes struggle to figure out how to ensure their organizations and infrastructure fully embody their mission and values.
According to A. Nicole Campbell , a member of our Clarity Coaching Program , her consultancy Build Up Advisory Group “helps clients lead brave, strategic socio-economic change by building their infrastructure capacity,”
She provides clients with the “time and space” they need to ensure they can embody their values in everything they do.
Examples Of Nonprofit Consulting Services
Nonprofit consultants work to solve various challenges nonprofits face, and thus, they provide many different services .
Douglas Nelson learned over the course of his career that the biggest challenges faced by charitable organizations are often self-imposed.
In his business, he helps clients get out of their own way by improving their operations and executive efficiency.
Whether a client needs help with leadership development, governance, fundraising, or executive coaching, Douglas and his team work collaboratively with them to define their objectives, overcome obstacles, and achieve their outcomes .
In his own words, “We work side-by-side with our clients to help them envision change, determine how to make it happen, and put the necessary tools and skills in place for success.”
As the many testimonials on their website make clear, The Discovery Group has helped hundreds of social profit clients to make a big impact in their communities.
5 Steps to Become a Nonprofit Consultant
So, how do you take your experience in the nonprofit world and turn it into a thriving nonprofit consulting business ?
Follow these five steps.
1) Get specific about your ideal nonprofit client
Nonprofit organizations come in all shapes and sizes, with a very broad range of missions and visions.
You can’t reach out to all of them. If you cast your net too broadly, you will blunt the impact of your message.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the narrower you focus — and the more precise you get about who you want to reach — the more your nonprofit consulting business will stand out.
For example, The Discovery Group specifically targets medium and large-sized charitable organizations that need help with board governance, strategic planning, and executive training.
Build Up Advisory Group focuses on philanthropic organizations in the social sector, particularly those looking for help with infrastructure design.
When you get highly specific about your ideal client, you will have a much easier time creating magnetic messaging that appeals to their needs.
You will also gain clarity about how to price your consulting services in order to communicate the value of what you have to offer.
2) Write messaging that attracts your ideal client
Your Magnetic Message speaks directly to your ideal client’s challenges so they feel understood.
It grabs their attention, sparks their curiosity, and entices them to reach out to you to learn more.
For example, a new philanthropic organization might have a hard time figuring out how to organize its internal team capacity in a way that will meet all of its priorities.
When they come across messaging from Build Up Advisory, they think, “Wow, Nic understands just how difficult it is to organize the infrastructure for a nonprofit. I wonder how she can help us?”
To create impactful messaging, we recommend the framework: Problem – Action – Results .
Your ideal clients have problems, many of which are unique to the nonprofit world.
Write those problems down . For example…
- Maybe they need help with fundraising and writing grants;
- Maybe they’re struggling to figure out how best to design their organizational infrastructure;
- Or maybe they need help getting their board fully engaged and holding them accountable.
Let your ideal client know that you understand what their specific challenges are .
Then, explain how you help clients just like them to solve those challenges.
Finally, share the results they can expect to achieve from implementing your solutions.
Here’s an example:
- Problem : Your ideal client is struggling to raise funds to meet their operational needs, a common challenge in the nonprofit world.
- Solution : You offer a workshop that helps organizations like theirs tell compelling stories about their operational needs and the impact of the work they do.
- Result : Clients who have attended the workshop have, on average, doubled the amount of money they receive from fundraisers.
To make it as simple as possible, use our “ Magnetic Message Formula ” which will help you create a straightforward and effective message to attract your ideal client.
Here’s what it looks like:
I help [WHO] to [solve WHAT problem] so they can [see WHAT result].
For example, a new philanthropic organization might have a hard time figuring out how to structure their organization so that it operates efficiently.
They might also struggle with writing effective grants that will win them the funds they need.
Then they come across messaging from Build Up Advisory Group that says, “We help brave philanthropies and nonprofits scale their impact by strengthening their grant making and organizational structuring.”
The Discovery Group has similarly impactful messaging: “The work of the social profit sector isn’t always easy, and things don’t always go as planned…Through active listening and demonstrable respect, we align with clients and colleagues to define the challenge, consider the options, and find the right path forward together.”
3) Create and price your strategic offer
Your ideal nonprofit client is dealing with problems and challenges inside of their organization.
You, the nonprofit consultant, offer expert solutions (services) to solve those problems.
And most importantly, your services are going to help your client achieve their desired outcomes. That’s why they’ll pay your consulting fees .
However, to make them feel comfortable about the amount you charge, you must clearly communicate the value of your services and the impact you’re going to make on their organization .
For example, if you’re going to help them double the effectiveness of their fundraising, that’s going to make a positive impact on their growth.
Speak about that result up front, and you’ll increase the chance they’ll invest in your services.
Remember, much of your work as a consultant entails going out and winning new clients. An hourly rate doesn’t compensate you for the work you do marketing .
For this reason, we do not recommend charging an hourly rate. As a long-term pricing strategy, it will limit your growth.
That’s why we encourage consultants to charge value-based fees based on the tangible and intangible value you create for your nonprofit clients.
4) Rev up your marketing engine
Nonprofit organizations are dealing with unique problems, and they’re open to help.
But they may not realize there are experts out there — nonprofit consultants — who have expertise in solving their specific problems.
If they don’t know you exist, then they’re not going to come to you and ask for help.
The onus is on you to reach out, start relationships, learn about your ideal clients, and articulate how you can help.
That’s the essence of effective marketing.
Reach out, build trust, and let your ideal client know how you can help them with their most pressing challenges.
When you reach out, build relationships, and share what you’ll know, you’ll find ideal clients reaching out to you saying things like: “Hey, that blog post you made provided some great tips for grant writing. Could we talk to you about some of the problems we’re having?”
There are plenty of ways to market yourself, but we’ve found that the most effective marketing habits are Outreach , Follow-up , and Authority-building .
- Outreach – Share valuable content with your ideal clients directly through LinkedIn or email. By adding value to their lives, you generate interest in your work.
- Follow-up – Add more value over time by sending clients direct messages or emails on topics relevant to the nonprofit industry or their niche.
- Authority-building – Publish regular content on your blog, website, and social media platforms to share what you know and position yourself continually as a nonprofit expert. This will bolster your outreach and follow-up efforts.
When you combine outreach, follow-up, and authority-building in your marketing, you build relationships with your ideal client and open up opportunities for meaningful conversations.
5) Create meaningful conversations
You’ll know your marketing engine is working well when prospective clients begin responding.
They’ll appreciate the value you’re already providing and reach out to you to have meaningful conversations about their nonprofit challenges and your offers .
Your goal in those conversations is not to “close the sale.” Instead, it’s to help the client understand their situation and clarify their desired outcome.
Once they agree that you can help them, then you can make an offer like this:
“ It seems like our two-week fundraising development workshop would help you communicate more impactfully with potential donors and help you meet your financial goals faster and more efficiently. Let me show you what that would look like.”
Nonprofit Consultant Case Study: A. Nic Campbell
There are a couple of questions that nonprofit consultants almost always ask us: How much should I charge my clients for my consulting services? How much will clients be willing to pay?
The nonprofit consultants in our Clarity Coaching Program make as much as $2,000,000 a year from their consulting fees — but your income will vary depending on the services you offer and the kinds of clients you take on.
Let’s look at the example of Build Up Advisory Group .
They have identified a few key problems that plague many nonprofit organizations.
For example, most nonprofits struggle with fundraising, so they can speak to this precise issue: “You have difficulty raising funds because you are unable to tell a compelling story about your operational and infrastructure needs and their impact on your programmatic work.”
A. Nicole Campbell credits our Clarity Coaching Program with identifying this clear area of need and creating a portfolio of services to address this and other areas of focus.
After going through the program, she says, “You’re able to learn from other people, listen to their experiences, and discover how they are dealing with their struggles. ”
About her coaches and mentors in the program, she says, “They bring so much experience to the table, and they are strategic, analytical thinkers.”
She learned how to identify her ideal client, create a portfolio of specific services with clear pricing, and build compelling messaging around it.
All of this has enabled her to serve many nonprofits and philanthropic organizations — and build a very profitable business doing so.
Get Customized Coaching To Start Your Nonprofit Consulting Business
We’ve coached many nonprofit consultants to help them start and grow their consulting business — and we can do the same for you.
In our Clarity Coaching program , we’ve helped over 850 consultants to build a more strategic, profitable, and scalable, consulting business.
We’ve worked with nonprofit consultants and understand the specific nuances of starting, growing, and scaling a nonprofit consulting business specifically.
LEARN MORE ABOUT CLARITY COACHING
We’ll work hands-on with you to develop a strategic plan and then dive deep and work through your ideal client clarity, strategic messaging, consulting offers, fees and pricing, business model optimization, and help you to set up your marketing engine and lead generation system to consistently attract ideal clients.
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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?
updated November 21, 2023 · 3min read
Nonprofit business plan elements
Fundraising section is essential, keep it real.
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.
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
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.
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.
by Sandra Beckwith
Sandra Beckwith has been writing for traditional and online publications since she sold her first magazine article wh...
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How to Write The Best Nonprofit Business Plan: Ultimate Step By Step Guide in 2023
November 7, 2022
Table of Contents
Many assume that running a nonprofit is very different from running a company. And in some ways, they are right—from their philanthropic mission to the legalities of a tax-exempt status, those dedicating their time to operating a successful nonprofit organization deal with many worries that would not cross the mind of the average CEO.
But that is not to say that there aren’t any similarities between the two. One example is the necessity of a good business plan.
If you’ve never created one before, below you will find the ultimate step-by-step guide to how to write a nonprofit business plan.
Why Do You Need a Nonprofit Business Plan?
As their name implies, nonprofits are organizations that operate not for the purpose of profits, but rather in search of furthering philanthropic causes that help the world.
So why does a nonprofit need a business plan?
The truth is that a business plan does a lot more than strategizing for future profits. When done well, a business plan helps not only lay out an organization’s current standing, but it also demonstrates what it hopes to accomplish in the next three to five years, and how it will do so.
By seeing plans laid out in such a manner, one can more easily see both new possibilities and potential pitfalls. Business plans also help manage expectations so that one knows what is feasible, what is a stretch but still possible, and what is out of reach.
More than that, in the case of nonprofits, a nonprofit business plan is crucial when trying to secure support from others. Be it in the recruitment of new volunteers , in trying to sign corporate partnerships , or in applying for certain grants , when a nonprofit business plan is clear and comprehensive, it adds credibility to your organization which in turn can help you secure new sources of funding and support.
What Makes a Good Nonprofit Business Plan?
Understanding why you need a nonprofit business plan is very different from understanding what distinguishes a good one from those that are only serviceable.
If you’re familiar with regular business plans, then the good news is that there are not that many differences between that and a nonprofit business plan. There will be some changes of phrases and certain sections will be adapted to reflect the charitable nature of the organization, but at the core of its structure, the two can operate in very similar manners.
A good nonprofit business plan should be:
- Easy to understand not only to those who are familiar with the organization, but also to those who are getting to know it through it.
- Easy to read, with not a lot of technical terms.
- Visually engaging.
- Include as much information as possible while not being overly long.
Whoever reads your nonprofit business plan should, by the end of it, have a solid understanding of your goals, the structure of your organization, your vision for the future, and how you plan to accomplish these different things.
More than that, a good nonprofit business plan should provide you with a comprehensive roadmap for the next three to five years.
As is the case with any road trip, it is natural to sometimes go at a slower pace than expected or to deviate from the planned route due to unforeseeable circumstances; but by having planned the most efficient way to achieve your goals, you can use your roadmap to get back on track and adapt to the changes and challenges that come your way.
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10 Things to Include in a Nonprofit Business Plan
Now that you understand why you need a nonprofit business plan and what qualities are featured in a good one, it is time to explore some of the elements that go into crafting a successful nonprofit business plan.
1. Executive Summary
When building a good nonprofit business plan, the executive summary is the last thing you write, but the first thing—and sometimes the only thing—that anyone will read. As the name it implies, it is a summary of the entire document.
Typically, your executive summary should:
- Be no longer than two pages.
- Explain your nonprofit’s reason for existing.
- Discuss the issues you are trying to solve.
- Detail your approach to solving these issues.
- Go over your fundraising strategies.
- Give an overview of the general structure of your nonprofit.
In a strong nonprofit business plan, this part of the document should give people a good idea of what your organization does by providing a summary of all the information that will be included in the business plan.
Potential donors and investors presented with your nonprofit business plan might not have the time to read the entire document. For this reason, consider also making the executive summary a soft sell as to why they should support your cause.
Don’t solicit donations, but instead make your writing persuasive enough so that while talking about your organization, your operations, and your plans for the future, you can also secure their support.
One common mistake to make with this section is including tons of acronyms and technical terms that would be unfamiliar to those not working closely with your cause.
Remember that the executive summary is meant to be read quickly so it can efficiently familiarize outsiders who may never have heard of your nonprofit, the problem you are trying to solve, or the innovative solutions you’re employing. There will be space to include and explain those technical terms later on, but the executive summary is not the place to do this.
2. Mission Statement
If you’ve worked on a website, worked on incorporating your nonprofit, or applied to possible funding opportunities, then you have probably written some version of a mission statement.
Your nonprofit’s mission statement should be written with simple words and be easy to understand. It should be concise while also being specific. When written well, the mission statement should include the main ideas behind your nonprofit and how you plan on executing this vision.
While you should be able to summarize this with one or two sentences, this section of your nonprofit business plan will also give you the opportunity to go into details of how your organization will make a difference in the world.
Take this What We Do page for the British nonprofit Arts Derbyshire as an example.
This mission statement is only three sentences long, but with it, it gives you enough information to understand what the nonprofit’s goal is and how it seeks to achieve this mission.
The first two top lines explain what the aim of the organization is and why they believe this is important. Notice how the highlights draw attention not only to the nonprofit’s name (“Arts Derbyshire”), but also its nature (“strategic arts charity”) and its mission (“enrich people’s lives through art”).
The third line details how Arts Derbyshire fulfills the goal mentioned above by working together with artists and art groups and communities by providing them with strategic direction. They do not need to go into more detail than this—an overview that is concise but specific is all you need for a successful mission statement.
For more examples and tips to help you craft your own effective mission statement, check out this post on our blog.
3. Information on Your Team
Those who read your business plan will be interested in knowing who works in your nonprofit and what function they serve . As such, it is important to lay out the structure of your organization by describing the important positions and their responsibilities.
When discussing your team, consider answering these questions:
- Who are your board members?
- Who is on your management team?
- What are their qualifications?
- Do they have past experience working with nonprofits?
- Do they have a personal reason to be invested in this cause?
- What does their daily schedule look like?
- What are some responsibilities they have outside their usual day-to-day tasks?
- How do they help with fundraising efforts?
- How do they help with recruitment strategies?
Not only will answering these questions help outsiders learn what distinguishes your team from other similar nonprofits by highlighting what each individual brings to the table, it also gives you a better overview of how your nonprofit currently operates and the different ways you might be able to expand in the near future.
4. Target Audience
In most regular business plans, companies will often talk about their target audience and why they believe their product is a good fit for this demographic.
While nonprofits may not usually think of their interactions with others in such terms, the truth is that you still have an equivalent of a target audience. This would be your benefactors and your supporters.
When writing your nonprofit business plan, explain how your nonprofit will benefit communities and why you believe certain individuals are more likely to support your nonprofit.
Remember that this section is not exclusive to organizations focused on human beings or human communities and activities. Be it if your nonprofit fights for animal rights or if it seeks to preserve the natural environment, you should still go into details as to how you are benefiting these causes and who your supporters are.
5. Marketing Plan and Branding
We tend to think of marketing and branding as sales techniques. And while that is not entirely inaccurate, to limit yourself to this definition is to possibly ignore the role they play in the success of your nonprofit.
For a nonprofit, a marketing plan is not a plan on how to sell your product or service, but rather a plan on how to reach your supporters so that they will donate to your cause. For this reason, a good nonprofit business plan will include your different outreach strategies .
Advertisements, press releases, your website, and social media platforms are ways you can reach and engage with your audience. Not only should you understand how to best promote your nonprofit through each of these channels, but you should also craft a strategy based on the strengths and weaknesses of each format. This understanding and strategies should, in turn, be discussed in detail in your nonprofit business plan.
Remember to be specific. It could be beneficial to include projections on how you believe you will grow based on your marketing plan . If you’ve done any focus groups or market tests, or if there are any potential partners you would like to work with, you can also include them in this section. If appropriate, you can also touch upon the costs of your plan.
When it comes to branding, think about the following:
- Your colors
- Your slogan
All of these will be key in your communication efforts with your supporters and potential partners. You must pick something that not only fits your cause, but that will effectively motivate others to donate to your nonprofit.
6. Financial Plan
Nonprofits, just like any organizations operating in our modern world, need money in order to stay afloat.
However, in the case of a nonprofit, the organization needs money not only to pay for its operational expenses, but also in order to contribute to its cause.
Your financial plan will cover all of this and more. In it, you should include details of:
- Your current financial standing
- All your costs and expenses
- A detailed budget that takes into consideration both short-term expenses and long-term expectations
- Your possible fundraising strategies
- A plan for how to most effectively use any potential surplus
Your financial plan should show how you are covering all of your financial needs while also giving you a long-term budget that helps you create projections as to how your nonprofit will grow in the near future.
Some other things you should consider including in your financial plan include:
- List of Assets
- List of Liabilities
- List of Revenue Streams
- List of Grants Received
- Cash Flow Statements
The financial plan section of your nonprofit business plan would also be a good spot to discuss potential corporate partnerships, and how you would plan to integrate said initiatives into your overall strategy.
When taken as a whole, your financial plan should help you see gaps in your strategy and give you an idea on how to address these issues. It should also prove to potential supporters and investors that your nonprofit knows how to responsibly manage any potential donations or grants that it might receive now or in the future.
7. Impact Plan
Most business plans include a section reserved exclusively to discussing profits. Naturally, when it comes to building a nonprofit business plan, this section is tweaked to reflect the not-for-profit nature of your organization.
Because your nonprofit is working to better the world in some way, your impact plan is perhaps just as important a section in your nonprofit business plan as your financial plan.
To put it simply, your impact plan shows how your nonprofit will bring change to the world.
In this section, you elaborate on the concepts presented on your mission statement. Rather than speaking in abstract terms, you will need to lay out concrete scenarios with figures and measurable goals so that your readers clearly see the ways in which your nonprofit is currently making a difference in the world and how it will continue to do so in the future.
For more tips on how to write a good impact plan, check out this post in our blog.
8. Operational Plan
If your impact plan lays out the ways your nonprofit is making a difference in the world, then your operational plan details how it achieves all of that. In other words, the operational plan includes information on your daily activities, your legal licenses and certificates, your insurances, and any other relevant information related to how your nonprofit operates.
Many good nonprofit business plans will also include information on how their team is uniquely capable of bringing their vision to fruition. After all, if this is a section dedicated to the hows of your nonprofit, and your staff are the ones responsible for enacting those hows, then it makes sense to discuss their qualifications and their duties.
9. Vision and Milestones
If the nonprofit business plan is meant to be a roadmap for the next three to five years of your organization’s existence, then the milestones are the guideposts with which you’ll measure your progress toward achieving that vision.
Some examples of milestones include:
- Fundraising goals
- Future campaigns goals
- Future partnerships goals
- Grant application goals
Remember to be specific —like with your impact plan, your goals should be easily measurable, concrete, and realistic.
The appendix is where you’ll attach any sort of documents that are relevant to your business plan and to your nonprofit. You can also use this section to include some of the more technical terms and information that you were not able to fit into the rest of your business plan.
4 Nonprofit Business Plan Tips to Consider
Now that you know what goes into a nonprofit business plan, here are four tips to help take yours to the next level.
1. Update Your Nonprofit Business Plan Often
While your business plan is a roadmap for the next three to five years, that does not mean it is written in stone. There are things that even the most savvy business-minded individuals cannot predict, and so, keeping your business plan flexible by adjusting it as you grow and learn is a good way to help your nonprofit adapt to the changing times.
Furthermore, by revisiting your nonprofit business plan on a regular basis—once a month is the usual recommended amount—you can better familiarize yourself with your goals, your milestones, and your strategies.
Soon, you will be better able to answer questions your board members and potential investors might have about your organization.
2. Write with an Audience in Mind
Whenever you are taking on an extensive writing project such as a business plan or a grant proposal , it is important to write with an audience in mind. While it is true that you will be using this document internally, there is a chance you will also show it to people outside of your nonprofit.
By writing with an audience in mind, you lessen your chances of overlooking important details of your strategy that may seem obvious to you but would not be so for someone else.
Think of potential donors, potential partners, or even grants you might be considering applying to. Writing to those audiences will not only prevent you from using too many technical terms, but it will also help you project confidence and persuasion into your writing without it coming across as a sales pitch.
3. Create an Outline Before You Start Writing
Never underestimate the power of a good outline.
While it may feel redundant to do so, outlining your business plan before you get to the actual writing will allow you to better structure this document so that it does not feel repetitive.
By outlining your business plan first, you can also see what sort of data you still need to collect and what sort of research you still need to conduct in order to support your strategies and aspirations. This way, you will not be caught by surprise half-way through drafting your nonprofit business plan because you realized you are missing a crucial piece of data.
4. Include Charts, Graphs, and Other Data
Charts, graphs, and other visual depictions of data are a great way to make your nonprofit business plan stand out.
By breaking up walls of texts so that it feels less overwhelming to the reader, you can create an aesthetic appeal that makes your writing more digestible while also supporting your statements with hard evidence.
If you're looking to start building your own nonprofit website, get started quickly by using our Nonprofit Website Template . The template is made in Canva, an an easy-to-use creative design tool. You can jump right in, change colors, add your logo, and adjust the copy so it fits your brand.Why start from scratch when you can use one of our templates?
Common Nonprofit Business Plan Mistakes
There are many mistakes one can make when writing a nonprofit business plan for the first time. Some of these we have alluded to already in this guide.
For example, it is important not to use too many technical terms or acronyms . Not only can that type of jargon bog down your writing, the time it takes to explain these terms and acronyms will eat away the much needed space that could be used discussing more important things.
We also mentioned before that you should not make your business plan overly long , as it could overwhelm readers with needless details. That being said, it should also not be too short, as that could mean you are missing important information.
Typically, the recommended amount is around 20 to 30 pages, but there are some that might be way below that, or way above those numbers. The right balance will depend tremendously on the specific organization, its scope, and its ambition.
Another common mistake that is easy to avoid involves formatting . While there’s no need to overthink things, pay attention so that you are not breaking the format you establish early on in the document. Not only can this be distracting and look unprofessional, it can also affect readability.
Successful Nonprofit Business Plan Examples
Finally, now that you know how to build your own nonprofit business plan, we’ve gathered some examples so that you can see these concepts in action.
World Wide Fund
The World Wide Fund is a massive international nonprofit operating across the globe and solving issues relating to nature and wildlife. Here you can see an example of their business plan-like document for their initiatives in Laos.
Aspire Public Schools
You don’t need to be an international organization to create a good business plan. Based in California, Aspire Public Schools is a charter management organization that aims to help students receive the best education possible so they can be ready for college. Constant Contact shows their 2004 business plan here .
World Vision is a faith-based nonprofit that works all over the world with the aim to help children overcome the struggles of poverty by improving access to education, clean water, health services, disaster management, and more. You can see one of their current business plans here .
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Wrapping Up: How to Write The Best Nonprofit Business Plan
Building a good nonprofit business plan can be intimidating. With the amount of research that must be done, the extensive writing, and with so many potential pitfalls, it can be easy to get lost in the details and lose sight of the whole picture. This step-by-step guide hopefully helped you learn some tips and tricks to make sure your nonprofit business plan is the best it can be.
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Is Now the Time to Invest in Your Nonprofit Consulting Business?
by Funding For Good | Dec 5, 2022 | Consulting , Nonprofit Consulting
Here at Funding for Good, we spend a lot of time working with nonprofit organizations and leaders to create powerful strategic plans that help them achieve their goals faster. We also work with and support nonprofit consultants as they grow their work with nonprofit organizations.
Working with both of these groups, we’ve started to notice some incredible parallels.
Many of the benefits of strategic planning for nonprofit organizations are the same benefits nonprofit consultants can find through small business planning.
But first, nonprofit leaders and consultants alike often need a mindset shift. We frequently hear both nonprofit staff and nonprofit consultants talk about their work primarily in terms of mission and service.
I want to help accomplish good in the world.
I’m committed to doing work that adds value to my community.
I want to support change on issues that I’m passionate about.
But nonprofits are actually businesses . And so are the consultants that help them. By investing in creating stronger business strategies for all of us, we’ll ultimately be able to create more good in the world together.
What is Nonprofit Consulting?
With layoffs at large corporations and smaller businesses beginning to mount, more and more people are thinking about making the switch to consulting or entrepreneurship. Especially in times of economic turmoil, the idea of taking your financial destiny in your own hands can be incredibly compelling. Indeed, since the start of the pandemic, entrepreneurship has seen a significant increase .
For those of us who’ve spent our careers in nonprofits, becoming consultants to nonprofits can be a natural next step. It’s a way to share the hard-earned skills and wisdom we’ve gained working in and leading nonprofit organizations—while helping even more organizations in the long run.
Nonprofit consulting can include services such as:
- Executive coaching
- Leadership training
- Strategic planning
- Meeting and retreat facilitation
- Fundraising strategy and support
- Board development
- Event planning
- Executive searches
- Capital campaigns
- IT services
The key is finding your niche. Which is where small business planning comes in.
Benefits of Small Business Planning for Nonprofit Consultants
Whether you’re just getting started as a nonprofit consultant, or have been consulting with nonprofits for years, there is never a wrong time to strengthen your small business planning.
As with nonprofit strategic planning, we recommend bringing in outside support . As a nonprofit consultant, you’ll want to find someone who understands both the nonprofit sector and the world of consulting, and who has a proven track record of working with small businesses.
If you find the right match, your business coach or mentor will be worth every penny. They will help you to:
- Get clear on your business goals: If you don’t know your goals, how can you possibly reach them? Small business planning pushes you to articulate clear and measurable objectives. You’ll develop a timeline on which you’ll achieve your stated goals, and the metrics you’ll use to evaluate success. For example, this could include the amount of income you want to earn and the number and type of clients you want to secure. The trick is that it’s customized to your personal strengths and ambitions.
- Reach your goals faster: We often write about how creating a written strategic plan can double your organization’s chance of success. Don’t you want your nonprofit consulting business to have this same boost ?
- Learn from others’ mistakes: Running a business requires a thick skin. You’ll try things and fail at things. And then, if you’re doing it right, you’ll learn from those failures. But what if you could learn from other people’s mistakes instead of making them yourself? That’s one of the key benefits of finding someone to support your small business planning process. Whether you call them a mentor, a coach, or a consultant, by investing in outside expertise you’ll be able to skip over some of the worst mistakes and get to those wins faster.
Becoming a Nonprofit Consultant
As with any business endeavor, becoming a nonprofit consultant isn’t easy. It requires that same passion you’d bring to a salaried role working in nonprofit organizations. Yet it also demands that you approach the work with a business mindset.
We’ve said before that every nonprofit needs a strategic plan now . And the same goes for nonprofit consultants: it’s never too soon or too late to create your small business plan.
Calling all Nonprofit Consultants
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Do you dream of taking your side hustle full-time?
Learn how with Funding for Good!
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