Business Plan for Nonprofit Growth: Organization and Infrastructure

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth of a 7-part series on Developing A Growth Business Plan. The series is based on presentations made at the Social Impact Exchange Symposium on Scaling Impact held June 14 and on the experiences of nonprofits that participated in the business plan competition.Organization and Infrastructure was presented by Mike Burns, partner in BWB Solutions.

Before you scale, be sure the structure of your organization can support growth. You’ll need to assess your nonprofit’s management team, governance, and staffing.

Start with a look at the history of the organization, with an eye to how you got to this point. Why are you thinking about scaling and where does your organization stand as a provider of service to the target population? Then on to infrastructure. Do not build your growth on shaky infrastructure. By realistically evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, building on the one and fixing the others, you’ll be much better positioned for success.

governance, nonprofit growth, nonprofit infrastructure, nonprofit scaling, staffingManagement Team and Succession
The key questions you must ask are:

  • What skills do we need to manage a larger organization?
  • What skills do we have on the team now?
  • How can we bridge the gap, if any, between the two?

Scaling is a long-haul process; it takes time. Part of assessing your management team is making sure that a succession plan is in place for key staff. Developing a deep bench is part of the planning process. Life happens. People will move on who don’t anticipate doing so.

Staffing
New staff and new skills may be required to implement and operate your nonprofit’s growth. Existing staff may have those skills or be eager to acquire them. If new staff is hired, you’ll need a plan for integrating them into the existing culture. And don’t forget the desks, computers, software, phones and office space needed to accommodate new duties or new people.

Capacity Building
Technical upgrades can be critical in scaling. Better software or working in the cloud may facilitate better communications. Looking at facilities, equipment, technical resources, and the knowledge to use them is part of any growth plan. For example, you may find that using a cloud phone system allows greater flexibility and is less expensive. That frees money for other purposes.

Governance/Legal Structure
Legally, will your expansion be part of your organization, a separate nonprofit or a separate for-profit? Will you franchise or sell a model or operate more sites yourself? Does the board have the depth and skills needed to govern the expanded operation? Check the laws, decide on the best structure for your mission. Examine the board’s role in the implementation of your scaling plan and in securing funds.

Geographic Issues
Expanding geographically involves a whole new set of infrastructure considerations, from physical space to cultural considerations. Consider transportation costs, staffing, management, and communication between sites.

Financial Investments
Upfront investment is usually required to get growth going. When will you need funds and how much will you need to acquire physical space, to hire and train staff, to upgrade infrastructure. If funds aren’t forthcoming, at what point will you “get out while you can?”

Monitoring and Reporting
Assessment of the new processes is not a one-time thing. You must plan for ongoing monitoring to track the progress of your growing program, its success, and changes that might make it more successful. Who will do this, to whom will they report, and how will they be funded?

Whew! That’s a lot of pre-planning. And it is all necessary. It’s about laying a rock-solid foundation upon which to build your growth. Take the time to plan ahead and you’re more likely to succeed.

For more about the ideas and insights from SIEx11 check out our SIEx11 special section and our free, downloadable ebooks, Scaling Impact: A Primer For Nonprofits and Getting Ready to Grow. Yes, it is aimed at small businesses but the tools and process apply to nonprofits as well.

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