Lesson 3 in our course How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan
In our last lesson, we took a closer look at how to describe your nonprofit in your business plan, so that others would have a clear picture of what you are trying to accomplish. In this section of the nonprofit business plan, you will establish that there is an actual, measurable need that you are addressing.
Many times, the nonprofit founder will feel the need before they can measure it. This section of the plan will help us turn that feeling into tangible data that proves the need exists.
Describe the need in detail
What is it exactly that you are trying to fix? This can be a broad problem like cancer or a specific one like the difficulty of traveling to and from a treatment appointment for cancer patients in a particular geography. Both are relevant, but you need to clearly define the problem you will address.
How do you know there is a need? Start by writing down your observations. Try listing the negative implications associated with the presence of this problem. How do people, animals, or society suffer because of this problem? What are the positive outcomes that are present when this need is addressed?
Quantify the need
Can you count the number of instances you see of the actual need?
For example, if the problem you want to address has to do with homes with no fathers in them:
- How many of these homes exist in your area?
- How many children live in homes without a dad?
- How many homes turn into homes without dads each year?
- What are examples of negative effects? For instance: “Children who grow up in homes without fathers are X% more likely to [insert social problem here].”
These are measurable things that quantify the need and give details about the implications. All of these things will help you to establish that there is an actual, measurable need that should be addressed. They will also help when you begin to set goals for your organization.
Also, don’t forget to specify your servable area. Is it a certain zip code? Is it the city you live in? Is it a school district? A servable area can be as small a neighborhood, and as large as the world. Make sure you mention yours in this section.
Who else is addressing the need (in this or other ways)?
There are many ways to tackle the problems that exist in our cities, country, and world. It helps to identify who else is fighting for the same cause in your servable area to identify gaps in service and decide if there are ways to work together so both organizations can be more effective.
Who else, in your servable area, is tackling the same issue you are addressing? In what ways do they try to address it? For example, your method may be to offer free family counseling in hopes that parents stay together, thereby decreasing the number of fathers who move out of the home. Another nonprofit may offer free babysitting so that parents have time to work on their relationship without having to worry about their kids 24/7. Or, another nonprofit may instead focus on providing mentors to children already in fatherless houses. Each approach works toward minimizing the social problems that generally come about because of fathers being absent. So they are slightly different than what you might do, but are still relevant.
Who are your clients?
Sometimes, this can be harder to figure out than one might think. We can often point out social issues, but who you serve with regard to that issue may not be so clear. Plainly define who it is that you are going to serve. In the example above, are you going to be serving children who have no fathers in their households? Would you serve parents to prevent households from becoming fatherless? Would you serve mothers who are raising children on their own? Who you choose to serve will be important for staying focused on your nonprofit’s mission.
In addition to listing those you will serve, you’ll need to count them as well. This can be slightly different from the information about the number of households without fathers. Let’s assume you have chosen as your clients children in households without fathers. You could find out that households without fathers have an average of 3.2 children living in them. You could then list the total number of children who live in a home without a father in your area.
Are you curious to know if the need for a new program or service is tangible? Check out this needs assessment tool to find out if your need is significant enough to take action. Also, read over this websites information to find out why completing a needs assessment is essential to your nonprofit business plan.
What’s coming up?
After reading the first three lessons in this course, you should now have a solid concept on paper of what your nonprofit is, what it does, and who it serves. Our next lesson will cover your products/services. That is to say, we will look at how your nonprofit will meet the stated need.
Until then, take a look at Aplos Academy for other lessons that will help you run a great nonprofit!