Products And Services In Your Nonprofit Business Plan

In our last lesson, we explored the details of who your nonprofit serves. In this section, you will give specific accounts of how you will go about fixing the problems you want to fix. Whether you give something to your clients, or help them in some way with services, or you do both, the details of your solution are important for your donors, your board, your volunteers, and for you.

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What Will You Actually Do?

The product and service section of your plan addresses the exact way you will be solving the pain you’ve addressed. If the pain is homelessness in your city, will you provide shelter? Or will you provide money to pay for shelter? Will you provide money to a shelter, or will you give it directly to those you want to help? Will you tackle the homelessness problem through advocacy? Or will you lobby for your city to provide money or shelter? There are many ways to solve the millions of issues in the world. Each solution has its merits, but it is important to clearly identify how your solution works.

Product-Driven Solutions

First, define whether you are going to supply a product, a service, or a combination of both to your clients. If you will be putting together some type of product, you need to explain how that product actually solves the problem you are hoping to solve.

For example, if your cause is childhood obesity, and your clients are impoverished children in your city, you could give them a bicycle (product). You could take the same approach as Off The Front and make your clients earn a bike, or you could just give them away at Christmas.

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In either case, you need to draw a link between giving children a bike and fighting obesity in kids. That doesn’t seem too hard with this example. The more a child rides the bike, the more exercise they get, and the healthier they get as a result. Thus, you have helped to reduce the occurrences of childhood obesity in your service area.

Measuring your results is very important for determining your nonprofit’s success. Make sure to include ways to measure how your efforts impact your problem. Your first attempts will likely not be as good as the ones you’ll make after you’ve been in operation for awhile. You’ll learn as you go how to be more effective, and you will know when it is working if you are measuring results along the way. Being able to prove your impact will help you raise money from donors as well as provide necessary information if you apply for grants.

Once you have described the products you will give to your clients, think about where you will purchase them. How much will they cost? What size do you need? What are delivery times like? When will you give them to your clients? If you have a product-driven solution, make sure to think about all of the details of getting the product into the hands of your clients.

Service-Driven Solutions

Perhaps your nonprofit provides a service rather than a product. For example, let’s assume you are tackling the same cause, childhood obesity, and the same clients, impoverished youth in your community. Rather than having them earn a bike, you could organize volunteer coaches who go out to your clients’ schools to set up sports leagues.

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Although you are not giving your clients something tangible, you are still fighting for the same cause. Again, make sure to draw a link between the service provided (solution) and reducing the problem. This should be very clear and measurable.

After you have described what you are going to do, be specific about how you will implement it. Who is the coach? At which schools will you set up sports leagues? How will you go about getting permission to do what you want to do? Also, list any items your coaches will need to get the job done. Will they need sports equipment? Will they need a whistle? Ask yourself what a typical day of service would look like. Think about every possible thing you would need to get the job done.

Combination-Driven Solutions

Some nonprofits offer a product, and others a service, but most offer a combination of the two. Maybe you fall into this category. If your nonprofit offers products and services, you’ll need to provide details about how those products and services work together to enhance the cause. Be specific about the added value of providing both to your clients. In other words, you’ll need answers to why you don’t just provide the products and why you don’t just provide the services. Again, make sure there is a clear, measurable link between the offerings and the impact on your identified problem.

Looking Ahead

Now you have identified the problem (needs analysis) and the solution (product or service) for your nonprofit’s cause. Understanding these things is imperative, so you’re well on your way to operating a great nonprofit. Our next lesson will cover marketing for your nonprofit. If you want to make a significant impact, you’ve got to get the word out. We’ll look at best practices for doing just that in our next lesson.