For those harbouring dreams of becoming a change-maker, setting up a charity is the ideal route to making a difference.
You’ve identified and researched a pressing problem. You’re confident you can offer a unique solution. Now you need to attract the funds to make it happen.
To do so, you can join the 168,000 existing UK charities aiming to bring about impact and deliver change.
The latest Charity Commission figures show that together, these organisations raised over £77 billion in the year up to September 2018. Of these, just 1.3% raised over £5 million with 38.8% raising between £0-10,000 over the year.
Whatever financial ambitions you have for your charity, modest or magnificent, you’ll need a robust charity business plan to establish firm foundations.
Here we outline a straightforward structure for your charity business plan. One that will establish your vision, mission and purpose. One that could make all the difference between success and failure.
Setting Up A Charity
You’ve got the passion and the determination to make your charity work.
But before sitting down to write your charity business plan, there’s some extensive research to undertake.
Setting up a charity differs from setting up a standard business. Alongside the traditional hurdles of securing finance, forecasting income and sourcing staff, there are additional legal hoops to hop through.
You must establish a ‘purpose’, one that meets the Charity Commission’s strict criteria, and draw up your own unique governing document. This is a set of legally-binding rules which explain how your charity is run and must be carefully drafted.
Your business plan will naturally overlap with this, so use your governing document as a guide to inform its contents.
Together they’ll form the basis of your charity plans, steering you through the set-up process with confidence.
Your Charity Business Plan Template
Like all business plans, your document should act as a blueprint for your charity proposal. Evolving over time, it will inform the feasibility of your ambitions, the effectiveness of your strategy and the likelihood of investment.
Launching your charitable enterprise without one would be like circumnavigating the globe without a GPS system. So be clear on its direction and make it comprehensive, robust and professional.
Read on to explore a suggested charity business plan template to get you on the right track.
1. Executive Summary
Kick off your charity business plan with a succinct but informative executive summary. This should feature the key top-line points about your charity: its name, aims and mission statement along with a financial summary.
Charity-specific detail can include:
- A name that’s been approved by the Charity Commission
- A purpose, following Charity Commission guidelines, setting out what you want it to achieve
- The problem you wish to tackle and the need you aim to meet
- The solution you’re proposing
- Your fundraising goals
- Your social impact aspirations
Your mission statement should sum up your overall vision. This is crucial for a charity as how you’re perceived will influence your fundraising success.
Does the vision meet the Charity Commission’s requirement to be of ‘public benefit’? Will it inspire people to donate? Is it credible and achievable?
Position the opportunity you’re taking advantage of, outlining the problem you’ve spotted and the solution you’ve devised. What makes it unique? What makes your charity different? How will it make positive social impact?
From your executive summary, you can also extract key information to write an elevator pitch: your plans in a 60-second nutshell.
What would you tell a stranger in a lift about your charity? What’s it called? Who will it help? What’s your dream? Aim to write a pitch that couldn’t apply to any other UK charity and you’ll grab potential donors’ attention.
Perfecting this at an early stage will crystallise your vision. And, of course, allow you to spread the word about your charity at every opportunity.
Use this section to map out your journey over the next five to ten years. Refer back to your vision and break it down into small, achievable steps.
Be specific about the first year. What are you going to do first and when? Is there behind-the-scenes work to be done before you launch publicly and start fundraising or are you ready now? What impact are you hoping to make?
Make your objectives possible but also ambitious right from the get-go. Aim high. As well as giving you exciting targets, sharing them will also provide ongoing accountability. When colleagues, friends and family know your goals, they’ll be keen to encourage you to achieve.
When writing a business plan for charity, think of it as a living breathing thing, not just a document stored on your computer. So make your objectives real by printing them out in large font and sticking them on your office wall, your fridge or by your bed. Use these as a reminder of what you’ve set your sights on and how you’re going to get there.
And, of course, make them SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. You could even make them SMARTER: adding evaluated and reviewed to your initial criteria.
Within your charity business plan, you could include KPIs such as:
- To attract XX donors by the end of year XX
- To increase this donor figure by X% within XX years
- To establish an average recurring monthly donation amount of £XX by the end of year XX
- To increase this average figure by X% within XX years
- To gain XX social media followers by the end of year XX
- To increase this number by XX% within XX years
- To sign up XX donors to a regular payment plan, e.g. Direct Debit, by the end of year XX
- To prove social impact by gathering XX testimonials from people your charity has helped
3. Market Analysis
You may not immediately think of competition when it comes to doing good as a charity. But potential donors’ pockets are not endlessly deep, so you must consider who else they can choose to give money to.
Your business plan needs to display a clear and detailed understanding of your market within the wider charity space. Why would people donate to your organisation rather than a charity they’ve supported for years? What techniques are being used elsewhere to attract donors?
It’s especially important to analyse those charities operating within the same sector as yours:
- How much do they raise annually? Is this increasing or decreasing?
- What marketing strategies do they use? Which ones are most effective?
- How many people do they employ?
- If they’re trying to solve a similar problem to yours, are they open to collaboration or are their doors closed?
- If it’s a crowded marketplace, ask yourself honestly: is there room for your charity?
Alongside your rivals, you also need to research your target donors. Identifying them and getting under their skin is crucial to success.
So, define your supporters as accurately as possible:
- Where do they live?
- What do they do?
- How old are they?
- What’s their income?
- How much of this is disposable?
- Do they currently donate to charity?
- What are their interests?
- How do they spend their spare time?
- What qualifications do they have?
From there, think about the size and potential of this group and how you can not just reach them but persuade them to part with their money. Then use this to inform your sales and marketing strategy.
4. Business Structure
A comprehensive charity business plan needs to clearly outline your charity’s structure and give an operational overview. Potential investors will want to know that your set-up is professional and trustworthy.
Use this section to highlight how the day-to-day running of the charity will work, including:
- legal status and successful registration with the Charity Commission
- number of staff and their specific roles including fundraising, sales and marketing, finance, HR and admin support
- bios of key personnel including trustees
- partners and suppliers
- premises, equipment and other resources
- processes for taking payments from donors
- any insurance you have or will need
Stress how your employees will add value, focusing on their relevant strengths and experience. Do you have an expert fundraiser on board with a fantastic track record? Do you have an accounting whizz on standby to crunch the numbers? Shout about your team and how’ll they contribute to your success.
5. SWOT Analysis
Thoroughly analysing the potential of your charity, taking all the pros and cons into consideration, will reassure potential investors that you’re committed and appreciate the upcoming challenges.
The easiest way to do this is through a SWOT analysis: examining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business that can impact on whether you fly or flop.
Share your strengths with confidence. Ensure that they position you as professional and prepared, ticking off the basics and beyond.
These could include your personal connection to the purpose of your charity, its unique aims or a committed number of donors.
Don’t try to hide these, every start-up has them. Recognising your weaknesses is actually a strength, showing that you’re not underestimating the task ahead and can take the necessary steps to overcome them.
Maybe you’re aware that your coffers are currently emptier than you’d like, perhaps a lack of charity experience is concerning you.
Whatever difficulties you’ve identified, have a plan to make them vanish within an achievable time frame: you’re actively seeking investment, you’re deep in serious research, you’re seeking knowledge from the right people.
Share your change-maker dreams here: make your vision come alive with the passion and dedication that is driving your plans. A strong human interest story can sway even the steeliest of investors’ hearts.
Use this section to shout about any already-confirmed donors, your great launch event and your impressive contacts. And if you’ve completed any market research, pick out the highlights that present the best opportunities for growth.
Like your weaknesses, be honest about threats. Demonstrate your understanding of the market and how it could jeopardise your future plans.
What could happen if a charity with the same aims as yours launches? Could pressure on wages influence overall charity donations and therefore the security of yours?
6. Sales and Marketing
To get your message out there and attract donors, you’ll need a robust marketing plan.
Outline your strategy within your charity business plan and make it clear exactly how it will help you to achieve your KPIs.
Describe your brand and what makes it compelling:
- share your logo and strapline
- add the link to your website
- showcase your social media channels
- mention if you’re planning to dedicate budget to advertising
- include any marketing partners you have or are planning to secure, e.g. PR agency or digital specialist
If you’ve got a launch event in the diary, describe it with answers to all the relevant where, when, why and who questions.
Make it crystal clear how you plan to get conversations about your charity started. A thorough marketing strategy will convince potential investors that you mean business.
Your charity will depend on money. Add an in-depth section about finances to explain how you intend to fund your enterprise and keep the books balanced.
You’ll need to cover off start-up costs, funding sources and shortfalls, ongoing expenditure, sales, profit and loss and cashflow forecasts, and your fundraising strategy.
Transparency here will not only help you to make accurate predictions, it will also reassure investors that your plans are realistic.
List your start-up costs in full to reflect your understanding of the financial commitment, such as:
- staff wages
- office space rental fees
- equipment purchase/hire, e.g. computers, printers, phones and office furniture
- website design
- advertising and marketing
When writing a business plan for charity, your fundraising strategy needs to feature strongly. Fail here and your dreams will be dashed.
Demonstrate that you know where money will come from, how you’ll raise it and how you’ll keep the fundraising momentum going. Will you be relying on individuals, charitable foundations, corporate funders or a combination of all three?
Draw on insight here from those working in similar charities or talk to the Institute of Fundraising for expert advice.
Also include a full appendix of spreadsheets covering cashflow, profit and loss forecasts, and sales forecasts. Each should include projections for at least the first three years.
Of course, these will be based largely on guesswork but provided they’re backed up by your research and accurately calculated, it gives an indication of what’s achievable.
Round up your charity business plan with an uplifting conclusion. Refer back to your vision, focus on your passion and commitment, stress how you have the right knowledge and experience to make it a great success.
Paint a picture of what this success will look like in a year’s time. Whose lives could you have changed? What social problem could you have solved?
Use this template and your vision will be one step closer to becoming a reality.
Drafted, perfected and shared, you’ll have the firmest foundations to guide you through the process and persuade others to lend their support.