Critical Success Factor #9: The importance of business planning for your social enterprise

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Looking back as we bring this 9 part series to a close we have discussed the following 8 Selection Criteria that a nonprofit should keep in mind when selecting a Social Enterprise model:

  1. It must support and be consistent with your mission
  2. Have market viability
  3. Differentiate in its competitive space
  4. Be one for which your organization has, or can cost effectively build the financial, staffing, managementand infrastructure to launch, manage and grow
  5. Not require a disproportionate allocation of resources which would impair mission
  6. Be scalable and sustainable
  7. Be able to reach break-even in a “reasonable” timeframe
  8. Create greater visibility and market awareness of your npo brand

To review these earlier posts go to:


Next Step: Prepare a business plan

Like any new venture it is essential to write a business plan in order to document your market research and strategies to design, launch, manage and grow your social enterprise. The business plan process helps you and your team think effectively through key areas such as:

  • Market/Competitive analysis
  • Products or services to be provided
  • Organizational staffing and management
  • Marketing and sales strategies and
  • Financial projections, among others

The plan also serves to:

  • Set performance goals
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive structured planning process reassuring to funders, board members, and other constituents
  • Foster enthusiasm among staff and other stakeholders for the positive impact its success will have on your core nonprofit mission

Here are some Resources to assist your business planning:

Developing Social Enterprise Business Plan by Professor Allen Grossman of Harvard University

SBA How To Write a Business Plan , The Small Business Administration’s guide to writing a business plan provides valuable advice that is applicable to a social enterprise business plan as well. A great adjunct to Professor Grossman’s work above.

A few final thoughts…

A social enterprise is not for all nonprofit organizations. Those who use the selection criteria above to guide their due diligence may find that they cannot meet some of the selection criteria at this time. That having been said, the diligence exercise is still of great value in that it:

  • Fosters enhanced fiscal management and innovative entrepreneurial thinking among management, staff and board members, which help the nonprofit organization excel at mission
  • Engages all stakeholders in critical thinking about their organization’s condition
  • Inspires a desire to leverage strengths and overcome weaknesses

all of which bode well for the organization’s health and send a very positive message to donors, funders, board members and other stakeholders, even if the organization doesn’t create a social enterprise.
Lastly, these outcomes are especially important today because they will differentiate your nonprofit from other organizations competing for harder-to-get government and foundation funding and reduced giving from other sources.

My next series of blog posts will begin in January and will address a range of topics relevant to both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, so stay tuned, please post your comments and free to call/e-mail me anytime for free chat about any challenges or questions you may have.

Jim Stoynoff jstoynoff@Synthesis.Biz (312) 920-1700



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