The Importance of Your Association’s Business Plan

Is your association making the most of its business plan? Perhaps you think business plans are only for for-profits or perhaps new associations. Or perhaps your business plan is gathering dust now your association is established. In fact, your business plan is a vital tool for the continuing development of your association, so there’s never been a better time to make or polish yours.

A business plan covers all aspects of your association – how it operates, how much money it needs, how it plans to meet its goals, and more. A good business plan will provide you with a comprehensive guide to your association. An even better business plan will become a living guide to your association, regularly updated and reviewed to reflect your association’s growth.

Elements of a Business Plan

You’ll find a lot of business plan templates and advice out there, which can seem overwhelming. However, even if the terminology varies a little from place to place, most business plans have the following six sections:

  1. Executive Summary: A summary of your mission statement, services, and how your association is structured and funded.
  2. Services: What services your association offers and what activities it undertakes, along with the needs these services address. You may also include an overview of the current state of your industry here.
  3. Market or Needs Analysis: Who are your members and prospects? Where are they? How many of them are there? Have they expressed an interest in what you do? Is anyone else offering similar services?
  4. Financials: Where do your funds come from? What are your annual costs and revenues? Include future projections.
  5. Strategy: How do you plan to achieve your aims? What will you focus on? What are your marketing and PR plans?
  6. Management Summary: How is your association governed and managed?

Putting the Plan in Business Plan

Your business plan needs to be just that – a plan. A strategic and well thought out document that clearly shows the aims of the association and breaks them down into manageable chunks. From figuring out which needs you are going to fill to deciding on how best to market your association, your plan is should be a document anyone can turn to and understand where your association is going and how it is going to get there.

Whether your association is new or well established, collating all the information you need for your business plan and using it to review your association’s overall trajectory is a valuable investment of your time in the future of your association.

Keeping Your Plan Up-to-Date

Your business plan is not a static document to be confined to the filing cabinet once you’ve used it for getting funding. It is a dynamic document that reflects where your association is at any time. As you discover new needs among your members, revise your marketing plan, or make adjustments to your budget, that information should be incorporated into your business plan so it will remain as a timely and up to date guide to your association.

A business plan is more than a summary – with planning and regular updating it can become a map of your association’s present and future.