You've put all the processes in place (constitution, bank account and a management committee). What you need to start thinking about now is how to develop your group to become more sustainable. There are a number of areas that you need to start thinking about!
- business plan
- project planning
- fundraising plan
Policies enable you to establish a better structure.
- Policies shape all important decisions and activities
- They are rules, principles and guidelines an organisation’s management adopts to reach its long term goals
- Procedures are the steps employees/volunteers conduct in day to day operations to ensure that what they do reflects and supports existing policies
- They identify the key activities and provide a general strategy for decision-makers on how to handle issues as they arise
- They describe acceptable and unacceptable choices and behaviour and set a context and boundaries within which to develop procedures
Essential Policies to have for your group – we have a number of templates which you can adapt to meet your organisation’s needs.
What is a business plan?
A document that describes an organisation’s current status and plans for the future. It describes a business, its objectives, the market it is in and its financial forecasts. A number of people may request to see your business plan at some stage for example, banks, external investors, grant providers and potential partners.
A business plan should not be viewed as an occasional document. It should be updated every year.
The benefits of having a business plan
- Helps you to spot potential pitfalls before they happen
- Structures the financial side of your business efficiently
- Focuses your development efforts
- Works as a measure of your success
- Attracts funding and investment
What a business plan should include:
- An executive summary – an overview of the business you want to start. Most important part of your business plan.
- A short description of the business opportunity – who you are, what you plan to sell or offer, why and to whom. You must be able to clearly describe what your business does, whether you are writing the business plan for your own purposes or if you want other people to provide funds through investments or loans.
- Your marketing and sales strategy – why you think people will buy what you want to sell and how you plan to sell to them. You should define your market, your position in it and outline who your competitors are. What market research has been undertaken? You need to demonstrate that you’re fully aware of the marketplace you’re planning to operate in and that you understand any important trends and drivers.
- Your management team and personnel – staff. Need to set out your own background and skills and the structure and key skills of your staff etc.
- Your operations – premises, production facilities, IT. Need to outline your operational capabilities and any planned improvements. – location, producing your goods and services, MI systems and IT.
- Financial forecasts – need to provide a set of financial projections which translate what you have said about your business into numbers. How much capital you need if you are seeking external funding, the security you can offer lenders, how you plan to repay any borrowings and the sources of revenue and income.
Tips for presenting your plan
- Include a cover or binding and a contents page with page and section numbering
- Ensure it is legible
- Write the plan as if it’s intended for an external audience
- Show the plan to expert advisers
- Edit the plan – get at least two people to read it and check that it makes sense
- Avoid jargon and put detailed information e.g. market research data, financial in an appendix at the back
- Other detailed plans e.g. sales plan or staff training plan don’t include in the plan but mention that they exist.
A one page business plan to get you started
A simple business tool, designed to capture on one page various aspects of the organisation – business model, organisational management, financial return and social return – setting out in each case where the organisation is now and where it wants to be soon (in 2 years’ time) and later (in 5 years’ time)
Business Model – list the primary business activities, services and products, and identify the main service users
Organisational Development – describe the organisation including staffing, volunteers, board members, partners and resources
Financial Return – provide key financial figures, including capital investments, turnover, any surplus and cash flow analysis
Social Return – identify the social returns arising from the work for example, increased employment, better health for attendees and improved environmental quality
- A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources
- A project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.
- A project team often includes people who don’t usually work together and may be from different organisations
- All must be expertly managed to deliver the on-time, on-budget results,
Why is it important?
- Having a clear vision of what your project will tackle is fundamental to designing your project’s approach
- Being clear about the needs helps you decide how best to address it or how to complement other projects
- It keeps everyone involved in the project focused on the priorities
- It helps you revise and adapt your project if necessary
- Funders want to know that you have good reasons for your project
Activities are the tasks, actions or services that take place in your project to achieve its outcomes.
Why are they important?
- Specify what will be done, how it will be done, who will do it and when in order to achieve your outcomes
- Forms the main content of your project planning
- Determine the resources and budget that you need to run your project
- Activities should be specific and measurable. The more specific the activities are, the more accurate you will be able to be in setting your budget and planning your resources
Activities – key points checklist
- Does each activity have a direct link to one or more of your outcomes?
- Have you used words of action to describe your activities?
- From your activities, can you develop a project plan showing what you will do, how and by when in order to achieve the outcomes?
Precise specification for the project
An accurate description of what the project aims to achieve, and the criteria and flexibilities involved, its parameter, scope, range, outputs, sources, participants, budgets and timescales.
Prior to the project’s formal establishment the project ‘terms of reference’ are produced or at least drafted.
Plan the project (timescales, costs, team etc)
Plan the various stages and activities of the project. Where possible involve your team in the planning. A useful tip is to work backwards from the end aim, identifying all the things that need to be put in place and done, in reverse order. Use some planning tools to achieve this e.g. brainstorming, fishbone diagrams, critical path analysis and gannt charts.
Project timescales and costs – most projects come in late so don’t plan a timescale that is over-ambitious. Ideally plan for some slippage. If you have been given a fixed deadline, plan to meet it earlier and work back from that earlier date.
The project team – another important part of the planning stage is picking your team. Selecting and gaining commitment from the best team members is crucial to the quality of the project, and the ease with which you are able to manage it. Try to establish your team as soon as possible.
Communicate the project plan – stakeholders, staff and volunteers
This serves two purposes – it informs people what’s happening, and it obtains essential support, agreement and commitment. If your project is complex and involves a team, then you should involve the team in the planning process to maximise buy-in, ownership and thereby accountability.
Also consider how best to communicate the aims and approach of your project to others in your organisation and wider network.
Involvement and communication are vital for cooperation and support. Failing to communicate to people is a common reason for arousing suspicion and objections, defensiveness or resistance
Agree and delegate project actions
Your plan will have identified those responsible for each activity. Activities need to be very clearly described, including all relevant parameters, timescales, costs and deliverables. Use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound) objectives to help you delegate tasks properly.
Managing the project team – leading and motivating
Manage the team and activities in meetings, communicating, supporting, and helping with decisions. Praise loudly, blame softly. One of the big challenges for a project manager is deciding how much freedom to give for each delegated activity. Tight parameters and lots of checking may be necessary for inexperienced people who like clear instructions but this approach would not be suitable for experienced, entrepreneurial and creative people. Look out for differences in personality and working styles in your team.
Face to face, when you can bring team members together, are generally the best way to avoid issues and relationships becoming personalised and emotional.
Managing the budget
If a project goes wildly over-budget it will not be considered as a success, even if it’s delivered on time and meets users’ needs. That’s why project managers need to manage their budgets.
Continually forecast the budget – a project run without frequent budget management and reforecasting will likely by headed for failure. Frequent budget oversight prevents the budget from getting too far out of hand.
Regularly forecast resource usage – just as the budget needs to be constantly revisited to keep it on track, you need to do the same for resource usage, since the people working on a project contribute to its cost. Project Managers should review the number of people currently working on a project and the projects’ future resource needs on a weekly basis. Doing so will ensure that you’ll fully utilise the resources you have and that you have the right resources ready for the rest of the project.
Keep the team informed – always keep the project team informed of the project budget forecast. By keeping the team informed of the budget status, they will be more likely to watch their project charges and far less likely to charge extra ‘gray area’ hours to your project (those are the hours that they know they worked but aren’t sure what they were working on).
Managing the risk issues and change on the project
A risk represents an uncertain event that could have an effect on the project objectives. This uncertainty is measured in terms of the probability of the risk and the possible impact the threat or opportunity might have on the project.
Identify – risks need to be identified and recorded in a risk log/assessment. Those people involved in the project have the responsibility of informing the project manager of any risks that may have an impact on the project’s objectives.
Assess – once identified the PM should seek the support of appropriate people in order to ascertain what the likelihood of the event occurring and its impact of the event.
Control – managing that risk through planning suitable responses to manage that risk.
Respond – responses to risks are two types. Proactive (implemented regardless of the risk occurring or not and often aimed at avoiding or reducing the chance or it ever occurring) and Reactive (implemented once the risk has occurred).
Check, measure and review project performance
Check the progress of activities against the plan. Review performance regularly and at the stipulated review points, and confirm the validity and relevance of the remainder of the plan. Adjust the plan if necessary in light of performance, changing circumstances, and new information, but remain on track and within the original terms of reference. Be sure to use transparent, pre-agreed measurements when judging performance.
Identify, agree and delegate new actions as appropriate. Inform team members and those in authority about developments, clearly, concisely and in writing. Plan team review meetings. Stick to the monitoring systems you established.
Completing the project
At the end of your successful project hold a review with the team. Ensure you understand what happened and why.
Reflect on any failures and mistakes positively, objectively and without allocating personal blame.
Reflect on successes gratefully and realistically.
Write a review report, and make observations and recommendations about follow up issues and priorities.
Evaluating the project
Evaluation is more than just gathering data. It is a picture of your project’s impact and provides a resource for planning new projects and making funding bids.
Evaluation can help organisations to make improvements. Learning from past work should help people to develop more effective projects in the future. Evaluation of projects provides evidence that the project achieved a certain end or did what it was supposed to do.
When planning evaluation you need to ensure that the project or service you are designing has clear and measurable objectives.
It is also necessary to ensure that accurate monitoring information is being collected for your service in order to demonstrate its performance.