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Business Writing Articles: Questions for Building a Business Plan

Questions for Building a Business Plan

This set of questions is designed to support not-for-profit organizations in need of a business plan.  They are a way for you to develop the information you will need in order to propose a program or seek funding from an outside institution.  Your first step is to put together answers to these questions.  Your responses will form the basis for your second step, the business plan itself.

Articulating a vision

First, what is your vision for this project?  The more specific you are, the stronger your proposal will be.  These examples suggest the range of possible goals:

Spend some time articulating your vision, using your imagination and your knowledge of the current situation, to expand on these basic statements.  Think about how the project—the new building, the new program, new staff, the changed facilities—will look, sound, and even smell.  What will your institution feel like after the plan’s implementation?  Let your imagination and your enthusiasm run free while you get your ideas down on paper.

Why this project?

What is the rationale for the project?  Why should you go ahead with it?  If you will need funding, why should a foundation support it? How does the project fit into the larger “marketplace”? 

Internal support

Ask yourself who, and what, entities must be involved, in one way or another, in making the project a reality, regardless of its scope?  For example, your senior leadership, your board of directors, your faculty or physicians, your members.  How will you enroll these people in building the project?  What support do you already have?

The nitty-gritty

Once the project is defined as a whole, begin to think about answers to these questions:

A schedule for making it happen

What is a realistic date to have the project in place?  What kind of time is needed to make it real?  Consider factors such as turnaround time at foundations; the pace of decision-making at your institution; the complexity of the project.  Once you have a final date, you can work backward to establish internal deadlines.

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