Nonprofit Business Plan for Impact
November 17, 2021
By Maryfrances Porter & Alison Nagel
For-profit businesses, which are focused on generating revenue, create business plans that clarify the need the product is filling, what the product is, and how
much revenue is projected. Nonprofits, which are focused on improving lives, need a business plan too.
Nonprofits need a business plan for communicating why, how, and to what end your nonprofit’s work is critical. While you also need a development plan for how much money needs to be raised, and how you are going to go about raising it, we aren’t talking about operations right now. We are talking about impact – the end result, your funders’ Return on Investment if you will – of all the work your organization does.
Nonprofit Business Plan for Impact
Businesses exist for lots of reasons, but in the end, they exit to generate revenue. Even if your firm is super value-driven and selling the most ethically sourced, renewable, and handy-dandy do-dad in the world, it’s gotta make money. Ultimately, your firm cannot create awesome do-dads if it’s not generating revenue.
Nonprofits also exist for lots of reasons, but in the end they gotta generate good. People who need affordable housing, cannot (obviously) afford market-rate housing, nor can they afford loans to buy housing or repair housing; they cannot even afford to pay for classes to help them learn more about budgeting and housing. Fortunately, a nonprofit focused on affordable housing can raise money (cue the development plan) to provide and actual affordable housing, finance low interest loans, do repairs keeping people safe in housing they are already in, and they can provide free education. But no matter how innovative or well-documented the programming is, no matter how amazing the staff, no matter how well-intentioned and value-driven the work is, in the end, it’s gotta generate real good.
A for-profit business plan attracts investors by selling an idea that promises to make money. A nonprofit business plan attracts investors by selling a strategy that promises to result in good.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of these? Something that spelled it all out, plain, and clear?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a one-page document that clearly links your mission, your strategy, all the things you do every day, and all the resources you need to do your work –> to the measures of your productivity and impact, as well as the long-term and community-level impacts you are working towards in order to get to your vision?
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to reach for a one-page document that outlines everything your organization does and frames any impact story you want to tell?
Over the course of the last 20 years working with small- and medium-sized nonprofits, we have been developing and refining our innovative and actionable Strategic Impact Map. We are going to show you how a Strategic Impact Map is a business plan for impact, a logic model, and a theory of change, all in one!
A Quick Side Note
Some of you might be thinking, “Isn’t this what a logic model sort of is?” Our answer is, “Yes, sort of. But, soooo much better!” Logic Models and Theories of Change are both tried and true tools for communicating the impact of the work nonprofits do.
However, as we have all experienced, these tools (a) are created by and for evaluators and funders, not for direct use and benefit of nonprofits, and the language is not intuitive; (b) are two separate tools, whereas the concepts are confusingly interrelated; and (c) do not lend themselves to be readily actionable by nonprofit leaders in day-to-day communication or decision making.
As a result, nonprofit leaders are very often using precious time to create something that is only be used once and doesn’t have added value day-to-day.
Strategic Impact Map™
The Strategic Impact Map is an answer to a problem of omission we see All.The.Time. For example, here’s article titled Delivering on the Promise of Nonprofits (sounds kinda business plan-y!) which was published in the Harvard Business Review. The authors say “organizations should start by rigorously addressing a few interdependent questions: Which results will we hold ourselves accountable for? How will we achieve them? What will the results really cost, and how can we fund them? How do we build the organization we need to deliver those results? Together, those questions provide a framework for developing pragmatic, specific plans of action.”
Unfortunately, even though the article is a really good explainer, the authors never actually provide a framework! Nothing to pull all these things together. How do you articulate all the things a nonprofit does?
We have an answer! And, it results in a one-page document that tells an efficient story of, not only why and how your organization does good, but also how you are measuring it!
Sounds Great, Doesn’t It?
If you like how this story sounds, you’ll love creating a Strategic Impact Map for your organization! If you want to see what a sample Strategic Impact Map looks like, you can find it here. You can also watch a short video that gives you a little more information about what it is!
Want to learn to create one yourself? Well, we have three options!
Solution #1: Get Our Guide
You can use this step-by-step Guide to create your own Strategic Impact Map. The Guide includes details on each of the parts of the Map, instructions for facilitating small group meetings to create a Map, and how to translate your Strategic Impact Map™ into a Theory of Change or Logic Model any time you’re asked.
Solution #2: Join us for a 2-Hour, Live Workshop
We are offering an in-depth, live, online workshop where you learn everything you need to know to build your very own Strategic Impact Map on Tuesday, 12/7/2021 11am – 1pm EST.
After this workshop you will walk away with:
- A deep understanding of all the parts of a Strategic Impact Map.
- An outline of the Strategies your organization uses. (This is the most important part of creating a Strategic Impact Map!)
- A detailed guide for creating a Strategic Impact Map at your organization (sold separately for $150, but free when you register for the workshop).
- A case study which gives you a concrete example to base your Strategic Impact Map on.
- Templates in Word you can use for creating your own Strategic Impact Map.
- A new group of colleagues because we all need a community of like-minded peers to support our work.
Solution #3: We Can Work with You Personally
Like we have done for dozens and dozens of others, we can work with you, your staff, and/or your Board to develop a Strategic Impact Map. Drop us a line, and we can figure out exactly what would work best for your organization!
At Partnerships for Strategic Impact®, we focus on coaching, training, and supporting small- and medium-sized nonprofits in telling powerful impact stories. You’ve worked hard to develop honest, trusting relationships with all your stakeholders and funders, and you have the powerful testimonials highlighting how you’ve changed lives. But we all know numbers still matter.
You really can tell the whole story of how your organization is improving people’s lives. You really can talk about how people can take what they learn and make lasting change. And you really can talk about how your work is done in service of improving community conditions for everyone.
This is within reach. Your funders and the people being served deserve to know more about the value your organization delivers.
We Get It
Your work is value driven. Its value lies in the impact of your work on the people served. Let us help you tell your impact story. Reach out, answering questions is our specialty.
— Maryfrances & Alison
Want more? Check out our Blogs and Videos.
We also curate and annotate resources just for small- and medium-sized nonprofits. Check out our Resource Library.
Looking for excellent consultants to help you with your next project? Search (or contribute to!) our growing directory of Recommended Consultants – recommended by and for small- and medium- sized nonprofits.
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