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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Writing a business plan

While the language of business can seem at odds with the aims of voluntary organisations, you still need to plan for the future to get things done, and to account to your members, to funders and to the public as you carry out your activities.

Business planning in uncertain times

Your plan may need to be revised more often in response to the current cost of living crisis. By taking the time to try and identify future risks (such as an increase in costs or a reduction of funds) and some potential ways to address these, your organisation may be better equipped to adapt and respond quickly to lower the risks.

Why plan?

  • to clarify and meet your aims and objectives
  • to spot potential risks and problems
  • to set out your goals
  • to measure your progress, keep on track, manage performance
  • to ensure you do not accumulate losses
  • to ensure you comply with legislation and regulations
  • to plan your approach and monitor your activities over time
  • to raise money for the organisation or specific projects. It can be shown to other people who might provide or lend money, eg funders, public bodies, the bank.

You can also use your plan to introduce new groups of people to your organisation, such as volunteers or funders.

If you decide to apply to be a charity then the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator will want to see a copy of a business plan, organisational plan or grant application, or any other documents detailing your organisation’s intended activities.

What should our business plan say?

A business plan is a clear and documented account of the activities you have decided to undertake over a given period of time, and the cost of making them happen. It should cover objectives and strategies, and enable the organisation to deliver more effectively. Business plans are as individual as the groups that develop them, but some common elements include:

  • the history and background of your organisation and current activities
  • future activities – what you are going to do and why?
  • when and how you are going to do it?
  • where will the money come from? When and how it will be spent?
  • how will you assess the potential risks to your project?
  • how will you keep track of your progress and spending? How will you monitor and review?
  • how will you know if the plan is working? How will you evaluate?

Remember who you are writing the plan for: your management committee, your staff, members, clients. You should be honest and realistic when setting out your aims and objectives and how you intend to deliver them.

The information supplied in the ‘public version’ of a Business Plan may be slightly different to the version you will use for yourself. You should consider the information you supply to any third party carefully.

Who should be involved in the planning process?

Depending on the size of the organisation, it is useful to involve a number – or all – key players in the development of the plan to varying degrees. In voluntary organisations it is quite common to consult with clients, service users or members, as well as staff and/or the management committee.

Useful resources

Last modified on 8 August 2022
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