Business Planning Tools

This toolkit, developed in collaboration with Solid Ground Consulting and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, is designed for busy leaders and will help you efficiently explore ways that you can pursue your mission-oriented work in new, revenue-positive ways. It will help you take a program or business opportunity, rooted in market need and your organization’s capabilities, and explore it until you’re satisfied that you can earn revenue that you can plow back into your mission. From there, you can use the templates below to write a formal business plan or present your concept to potential partners.

Jump to:
Why Take on Business Planning?
Assess Your Readiness
Engage Your Board
Build Your Knowledge
Develop Your Plan
Sample Business Plans
Put Your Plan to Work

Why Take on Business Planning?

Goal #1: Increase your mission impact. Chances are, you wish that your organization could do more. Business planning will help you determine what “more” is and how to get there. You might look at ways to expand existing programs or lines of business or you might decide to delve into a whole new area of work that addresses an unmet community need.

Goal #2: Increase your sustainability. In order to create and steward perpetually affordable housing and community assets, you must ensure that your organization is sustainable—that it will survive—in perpetuity. Business planning will help you to identify ways to move beyond philanthropic support and ground lease fee revenue and onto more sustainable ground.

Goal #3: Achieve both at the same time. Our audacious belief is that you can increase your mission impact and your organization’s sustainability at the same time by thinking like an entrepreneur and launching a social venture. This toolkit is designed to help you identify and implement the initiatives that will do most to increase your impact and sustainability.

Does is sound like we’ve sold out? Probably, but the results could be game changing. On this page, you’ll notice that we use business planning language like “social venture,” “customers,” “value proposition” and “products.” This toolkit will challenge you to think like an entrepreneur starting a new, revenue generating business. It might be a different and uncomfortable way for you to think and talk about your work but remember: the goal is always to increase the impact of your mission.

There is no singular formula for how to do this because a successful social venture must be rooted in your mission, your organization and your community. Read a few examples of successful social ventures to get your imagination going.

Case Study: HomeWise Real Estate Brokerage Services
Case Study: Verde Landscaping Services

Assess Your Readiness

Before you consider expanding existing or launching new programs or lines of business, make sure that the foundation of your organization is sound.

Stewardship Standards: Program and Business Planning
Review the first chapter of the Stewardship Standards and see if your organization is meeting the essential program and business planning standards and practices. If your organization has work to do on meeting the standards, make a plan for how to address any short comings before taking on something new.

Engage your Board

Once you’ve determined that you are building upon a solid foundation, engage your board of directors and make sure that they are agreeable to dedicating staff time and resources to business planning activities and that they are invested in your idea. You don’t want to present a final plan just to realize that your board does not support your proposed venture.

Board Survey: Ready for Business Planning?
Use this survey to start a conversation with your board members about your existing business practices and their appetite for risk. Taking on new types of work inherently involves risk and you need to know the boundaries of how far you can push before you risk your board’s support.

Develop your Three-Minute Pitch
You will edit and refine your idea and pitch over the course of your explorations. Writing and presenting this first version will help you clarify your initial idea and test it out with your board.

Build Your Knowledge

As you start exploring the world of business planning, entrepreneurship and social ventures, you’ll find that they have their own sets of vocabulary. While it’s not important for you to master this language and use it in your everyday work, it is important that you be able to understand the concepts behind the words.

Business Planning Vocabulary
Use this quick-reference glossary to help you navigate the business planning vocabulary

There are lots of resources to support you as you develop your business plan and social venture.  We have been using the following resources in our business planning fellowship since 2014 and we think that they are excellent, user friendly resources—especially for busy executive leaders.

Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur
Business Model Canvass by Strategyzer
The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution by David La Piana

Of course, you don’t have to use the Business Model Generation technique or canvass if it is not comfortable for you. However, all of our business planning fellows reported that they enjoyed using the canvass and that, once they became comfortable with the technique, they would consider using it again.

The Hypothesis/ Test/ Pivot Approach
Learn more about the Business Model Generation technique and the five phases of planning.

Develop Your Business Plan

A written business plan is an important tool for attracting investors and funders and guiding the implementation of your social venture within your organization. Start by reading the “Business Plan Overview and Outline.” It will provide context for all of the other tools both as you conduct your research and write your final plan.

Business Plan Overview and Outline
When you are ready to write, use this outline to help you frame your business plan. It will also help you identify when and how to use the following tools.

Business Model Canvas Summary
This document will help you understand the Business Model Generation vocabulary and how to translate your wall-sized canvass to your written plan.

Building a Sales Forecasting Model
Learn more about how to estimate future revenue from your new venture.

Money Matters Worksheet
This is a two-tab excel work book. The first tab will enable to you forecast sales and the second will help you project cash flow.

Customer Profile Worksheet
Use this worksheet to explore the key characteristics of your target customer.

Customer Needs and Benefits Worksheet
Once you’ve identified your target customer, use this worksheet to identify their wants and needs.

Value Proposition Worksheet
Develop your value proposition statement: “We help X do/ have Y by providing Z.”

Market Opportunity Analysis
Once you’ve identified your target customer and value proposition, you need to test your hypotheses. Use this worksheet to develop your research plan and, later, record and summarize your findings.

 Gantt Chart (Excel, WordWord Version 2)
Gantt charts are one way to visually communicate your implementation plan and project timeline.

Sample Business Plans

The following plans were produced by Members through the Business Planning Fellowship for Executive Leaders. We are sharing them as samples for you to review both as you think about possible social ventures and as you write your plan. Please note that the business plans are the sole property of their authors and should not be copied in part or in whole. They are also plans and not tried and tested programs. Use them for inspiration but not as implementable road maps.

Expanding from Homeownership to Rental
By Emily Seibel at Yellow Springs Home, Inc– 2014-2015 Business Fellow

Put your Plan to Work

Now that you have a plan, make sure that it becomes a reality! The process of developing and writing your business plan got all of your internal stakeholders on board with your proposed venture. Now it’s time to share it externally and gather the resources you need. A brief, three-minute pitch will help you recruit partners.

Develop your Three-Minute Pitch (again)
You already used this guide at the beginning of the process. Now, instead of pitching your board, you’ll be pitching potential funders, investors and partners.

We encourage you to think outside of the box when thinking about partners and funders. Part of why you have undertaken this process is to increase your organization’s sustainability and reduce your reliance on your existing funding streams. Think about investors not just funders. Consider partners that are not part of your usual circle.

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