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Introduction to business planning for community / volunteer groups & non profit organisations

Planning your success

Every gathering of people and resources occurs for one reason or another, either to support others around them like the low income sector, maybe the disabled, the homeless, the environment, animal welfare, a more global project, or perhaps supporting those within the gathering itself.

The gathering generally has a purpose for getting together and a general flow of values, followed by the expectations the gathering might want to achieve. It may take some time to achieve what is desired, yet the gathering generally has a reasonable idea of how long it might take to achieve the outcomes.


Many gatherings evolve into formal groups in the community and are often voluntary with some paid support. Some of the most common groups would be SPCA, Sports Clubs, Car Clubs, Environmental Protection Groups, Tramping and other Activity Groups, Writing clubs, Poetry Groups, cyber groups like Facebook Buy and Sell groups and many more.

An amount of these groups evolve into organisations that have been formed by the community for the benefit of the community. The organisations might be local stand-alone entities such as the local Museum, Art Gallery, Refuge Centre, or Community Centre, whilst others might be attached to a more globalised brand like the local Lions Chapters, Rotary Chapters, Scouting Groups, and Youth movements.

Once a group has been formed with the need to sustain itself for a period of time, a basic structure starts to occur to ensure the survival of the group so that the purpose of the group can be achieved.

All that join the group are there for the same purpose, yet many will have varied opinions on how the group should deliver their purpose. Such a variation of opinions could create conflict, which may drive the group into an amount of structure. The onset of the structure is the first step towards formalizing who the group is and what the group does.

As the group evolves further, more structure is required, yet if the basics haven’t been established at the onset of formalizing the group, it is likely that the group will lose sight of its purpose and gradually dwindle away, similar to constructing a building without any foundation, the building will fall at the first indication of adversity.

A basic structure should have a minimum of the following elements.

  • What is the purpose of the Group? This will assist in aligning all within the group.

  • The group will need an identity, a name that those within the group can use to authenticate their sense of belonging.

  • Who will lead the group? Someone needs to be the figurehead, the spokes-person and if necessary the adjudicator.

  • How long should each leader be in place and should there be others in a committee of sorts to work with the leader?

  • Should the group have an identity such as a symbol to connect the members?

  • What is the statement, or wording that all within the group can use to state who or what the group is?

  • Is there a financial need to support the group, and how will the finance be gathered and spent?

  • Is there a desire for the group to maintain any ethics, morals, or values?

There are other elements that start to become important for the group to introduce once the process of creating a structure has been initiated, yet there is an easier way to progress the structure of the group from its initiation and equally for an existing group that has simply continued to grow.

The most practical method of structure is to create a Business Plan and use a Professional Business Consultant or coach to guide the group in the process. My experience with community groups is that without a business plan, many opinions can be tabled at the same time from an array of group members with all the best intentions, yet if there is no documented plan, very little progresses as directional decisions get lost in the time-consuming discussions of who’s opinion is the right one.

When there is a documented plan, the direction is very clear, and so are the methods of achieving the outcomes. A plan should always be reviewed and modified when required, yet a documented plan will help achieve much more than a number of opinions.   

The importance of planning

Starting or continuing with a manufacturing business carries a level of excitement balanced with an amount of risk as there is always an element of the unknown with how the cost of manufacture might change, does the consumer market still want what is on offer, and can the consumer market still afford to purchase the product.

 The business owner feels passionate and enthusiastic about what they might achieve when embarking on the adventure of manufacturing their creations with the desire to transform their business ideas into products to gain profitable and successful outcomes. 

Being aware of overhead variations and market trends that may influence demand for the product being manufactured may reduce the risk of the business manufacturing a product that is not in as much in demand by the market than previously. Attempting to battle through the changes without considering any variation to the process or cost factors may have consequences that are not favourable for the business.

Continuing to do the same without consideration to changes that may be occurring that affect the manufacturing or distribution of a business is a bit like going into battle without a battle plan, which would be madness for any general to even think of doing, as the losses would be great with few benefits, yet some enthusiastic manufacturing business owners feel that marching forward whilst blindfolded might be worth the risk.

Passion and enthusiasm should not be confused with strategically planned drive and determination, as there is a mountainous difference between acting on impulse and acting on a measured approach.

Simply relying on passion and the desire to succeed can also cause the downfall of the very outcome the manufacturing business owner was hoping to achieve. Passion and enthusiasm can easily override sensibility and a measured approach in starting a business borne from a product creation, yet it is also passion that is one of the most important ingredients needed for a business owner or entrepreneur to initiate and grow a business.

What is a Business Plan

The meaning of the word ‘plan’ as described in the dictionary is “the representation of anything drawn on a plane, and forming a map or chart; a scheme devised; a project; disposition of parts according to a certain design; a method or process; a way; a mode. To invent or contrive for construction; to scheme’ to devise; to form in design.”   

Why have a Business Plan

Developing a plan prior to initiating a manufacturing business would assist in identifying any risks that may arise and how those risks could be reduced should they occur. The plan can also guide the business owner to issues such as how to sustain the manufacturing business whilst moving through various hurdles once the business has been established, and the identifying financial impacts of the business from conception, through to profitability.

Types of Business Plan

Basic Plan

A basic plan may be used for an individual starting their own business in providing goods to an organization or collection of organisations. It may be that the individual has left employment and is offered a long term contract with the organization they had left or another similar organization. For the individual to provide such services, they may have to initiate a business entity as a sole trader or possibly a limited company.

In doing so the individual may consider developing a basic plan for their business, as there may only be a low level third party (i.e. accountant, lawyer) requirement to view such a plan. The basic plan would simply entail the steps taken to transition from past employee into a business entity, and further maintain a level of financial sustainability that suits the individual.

A basic plan might include information such as:

  • Who owns the business (individual or shares)?
  • What type of business entity is required?
  • How will the financial matters be managed?
  • Are there any medium or long term liabilities that need to be managed?
  • What are the products/services of the business?
  • Are there any constraints in conjunction with the customers?
  • What are the business liabilities and risks?
  • Will the business plan for any further employees in the future?
  • What is the duration of any long term contracts, and what happens when the contracts expire?
  • What is the exit strategy of the business?

If the business has no intention of employing staff, does not operate from a leased or purchased facility (operated from home), does not require any marketing input to gain or maintain a customer base, and has no or low equipment overheads to maintain the product/service, a basic plan may provide all that is needed for the business to operate.

Comprehensive Plan

When wanting to initiate, restart, or grow a business that has employees, regular overhead costs, or a need to gain and maintain a customer base, having a plan for the business would be valuable.

As with all business entities in NZ business ownership carries a significant level of accountability. The business owner is entirely accountable for all actions within the business and carries the responsibility for anything that occurs within the business they own, whether the business is new or long established.

A component of that responsibility is the business owner being aware of the risks the business may be affected by, having enough financial support to ensure the business will survive the start-up process, implementing and monitoring all regulatory and compliance measures, and ensuring that all employees and other stakeholders are protected by the required employment and safety measures required of the business.

If things go wrong within the business, it is the business owner’s responsibility to show they had taken all practicable steps to identify the possible risks and have a plan to mitigate them. If no evidence can be provided showing the due diligence the business owner has taken, it is likely the business owner could be held accountable by the current government Laws and Acts for negligence of operating the business at risk.

As a business grows to a size needing employees, and further requiring a director, or board of directors that are not owners of the business, liability for any adversities within the business will reflect on the directors initially, then liability may continue through to the shareholders of the business, depending on the adversity and business structure.

One of the mechanisms to reduce negligence is to construct a business plan that would indicate the risks that have been considered and the actions to be applied to mitigate the risks, should they occur.

The business plan should include the critical operational components of the business that need to be managed, supply chain requirements, and the financial impact of implementing the business as well as any growth strategies. Prior to constructing the business plan, identifying who will view the plan and why, will influence the level of detail required. Third party stakeholders viewing the plan will want to understand the direction the business in heading in, and will seek to gain confidence in the soundness of the business, including the competency of the business owner.

Stakeholders that may seek to view a business plan:

  • Shareholders (Stock Market listed)
  • Management team & employees
  • Regulatory & compliance stakeholders
  • Investors
  • Banks (for borrowing)
  • Suppliers (supply agreements)
  • Large Customers (supply agreements)
  • Community (based on the product/service)

The business plan should provide enough detail for the plan to clearly indicate the information required to specify what type of business entity it is, what is the purpose of the business, who owns the business, is there enough financial input, what are the risks and have they been mitigated.

There are many types of templates for business plans for a wide range of businesses ranging from owner operator sized businesses through to multi-national corporations. Small to medium business entities wouldn’t be expected to produce the depth of detailed documentation more commonly produced in businesses listed on the stock exchange, or the multi-national corporations, yet there is a framework with minimal information to provide a clear pathway and intent for the business, without the need to document details that may not be significant to the business.


Key elements of a Business Plan>

Sustaining your Business Plan and making it work for you>


Noel Rodgers MBA – CMC

Business Advisor 

For further information on this subject please email Noel Rodgers 

E   M 0274 775583  


Introduction to business planning for community - volunteer groups & non profit organisations

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