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05. Write an Effective One-Page Nonprofit Business Plan in Less Than an Hour


A business plan is just as important for a nonprofit organization as it is for any for-profit-making company. 

Not only will your business plan guide your growth, but you’ll also quickly discover that investors, donors, and board members will ask to see copies of your business plan, and if you don’t have one, you could miss out on great opportunities.

Your business plan describes your nonprofit as it currently exists and sets up a road map for the next three to five years.

It lays out your goals, challenges, and plans for meeting those goals.

It’s a living document that should be updated frequently as your nonprofit expands.

When starting your nonprofit, it’s best to keep things simple and concise so you can move quickly and get things done.  

Many organizations have difficulty building their business plan, as parts of the nonprofit world are known for strategic planning processes that can be brain-numbingly complex and ineffective.

They can also be time-consuming and expensive, providing little to no return on investment for both donors and the organization itself.  

But, what if you captured your nonprofit business plan on just one piece of paper?

Imagine one simple document that was easy to understand, easy to communicate, and actionable.

The key to planning – and executing – is simplicity. And the key to simplicity is focus.

Enter Jim Horan, the author of the book “The One Page Nonprofit Business Plan for Nonprofit Organizations”.

Horan’s book links vision to strategy, strategy to execution, and execution to results.

Its focus on simple strategic planning also forces a team to focus and prioritize, greasing the wheels of implementation.

To give you an idea of Jim Horan and his approach, here’s an excerpt from the book:

If your nonprofit is struggling with its planning process…it is highly likely you have made too big of a project out of it…instead of documenting everything you know about your organization and all the decisions have already been made…get focused on the issues and opportunities that have the potential to move your organization forward…and monitor progress and results religiously.” .  

With the One Page Nonprofit Business Plan, you can say goodbye to complex language and processes and easily write a draft plan on a single page in less than two hours.

Not only is it fast, but this plan is also widely recognized for using relevant, actionable terms and language that help your board of directors, management, staff and volunteers clearly define and execute on their goals throughout multiple levels of the organization.

What is the One Page Nonprofit Business Plan?

The One Page Nonprofit Business Plan is an innovative approach to business planning that captures the essence of any organization, project, or program on a single page using keywords and short phrases.

Most nonprofits use this process to create not only the organization’s overall plan, but to create a plan for each supporting department, project, and program.

The flexible methodology and standard format make it simple for managers and teams to each have a plan and be able to review and understand each other’s plans.

The One Page Nonprofit Business Plan works because:

  • Plans  get documented
  • Plans are understandable
  • Plans are easy to write and update
  • Every manager and team member is working from the same playbook

This process creates:

  • Alignment
  • Accountability
  • Results

There are many ways to use a One Page Nonprofit Business Plan

One of the biggest advantages of this plan is that it can be used effectively for multiple things, so you can use one effective resource to plan the priorities of your entire nonprofit organization.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Annual Planning process
    1. Complete plan for small nonprofits and an executive summary for large organizations
    2. Project and program development
    3. Framework for compensation systems
  1. External Presentations
    1. Fund development
    2. Volunteer recruitment
    3. Strategic alliance development
  1. Research and Development
    1. Initial draft for new programs
    2. Proforma for mergers and acquisitions
    3. Framework for potential expansion
  1. Process & Performance Management
    1. Clear structure for measuring outcomes
    2. Benchmark to measure progress against priorities
    3. Improve cross-functional communication

Take advantage of clear, actionable business terminology

You may have noticed that depending on where you’re from, what companies or organizations you’ve worked for, or maybe even what school you went to that you have a certain business terminology, which may not be the same as other people’s.

To test this, Google the terms vision, mission, objectives, strategies, or business plans and see what you get back.

It’s likely you’ll have an entire slew of opinions as to what these all mean.

The varied definitions and ideas on how to go about creating them inevitably create conflict, confusion and barriers to even getting started on your business plan let along executing on it.

The One Page Nonprofit Business Plan solves this problem by translating these standard business plan elements into simple and universal questions:

  1. Vision – What are you building?
  2. Mission – Why does this nonprofit exist?
  3. Objectives – What results will you measure?
  4. Strategies – How will you build this nonprofit?
  5. Plans -What is the work to be done?

This simplification takes the guesswork out and allows your teams to create clear, concise plans that they can execute on.

Simply put, a One Page Nonprofit Business Plan is an incredibly effective tool for teams and organizations to achieve results, because it can help rally donors, staff and other stakeholders around the organization’s core values and initiatives.

Thousands of nonprofits have successfully written and implemented One Page Plans with this simple and effective planning methodology.

If you haven't already, make sure to download your One Page Nonprofit Business Plan template here. 

Also, if you're ready to start your nonprofit and you'd like everything done for you so you don't have to worry about any paperwork and details, then check out our done-for-you 501(c)3 nonprofit service.  

Or, if you you're ready to get started, but you have a few questions, the please book a free strategy session here. 

-Jacquelyn Long, How to write a One Page Nonprofit Business Plan, InstantNonprofit

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