Business Plan For Nonprofit Growth: Planning for Scale
Business Plan For Nonprofit Growth: Planning for Scaleback

Editor’s Note: This is the third in 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. Scaling Plan was presented by the managing director of Social Impact Architects.

Scaling doesn’t necessarily mean new sites or more clients. It could mean “going deeper,” that is, providing a broader range of services for the communities you already serve. Or it could mean expanding your indirect influence through increased advocacy and influence on public policy. It may mean promoting your model, packaging it or licensing it.

The first step in scaling is to decide if your organization is ready to grow and what kind of growth is best for your organization, according  to Suzanne N. Smith, managing director of Social Impact Architects.

A series of four questions will help make those decisions:

  • Should we scale out or deep?
  • Do we have something worthy of scaling out?
  • Can we scale out effectively?
  • What steps do we need to take to get where we want to go?

After answering these questions you may find that while you want to scale out, your organization may not be ready yet, which gives you two options: Make a plan to build your readiness or work with a partner who can provide the expertise your organization lacks.

Again, the concepts of a business plan will help. You need to assess:

  • the need you will meet
  • competition
  • geographic and cultural factors
  • volunteer resources
  • financing
  • expertise within your agency

One of the critical elements in scaling is the tension between standardization, which keeps your program true to its roots, and customization to conform with diverse cultural or geographic needs.

In your scaling plan, lay out staffing roles and responsibilities, your marketing strategy, how you will measure impact, and project a timetable. And don’t forget to allow for the unexpected. Scaling includes growing pains as well as growing knowledge. Either can affect the way your plan is implemented. Build in flexibility.

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 Gettting Ready to Grow. Yes, it is aimed at small businesses but the tools and process apply to nonprofits as well.

What factors do you think nonprofits should consider when deciding whether to scale? What tools do you find useful?

Read part 2, Business Plan For Nonprofit Growth: Industry and Market Analysis