Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run
According to the proverb, careful planning puts you ahead in the long run and it's true. Careful planning will assist all charitable organisations to get ahead in the long run or to use a better word, ensure their long term sustainability.
Too much to do, too little time
But the challenge for grassroots charitable organisations, particularly those who have just started, is how to raise funds for core costs, to say afloat, but with limited time and resources to plan for the future?
It is a challenge as small grassroots charitable organisations are often stretched, busy organising activities, delivering services and do not have much time for planning ahead and raising funds to keep the charity afloat and to maintain existing services. However, planning for the future including developing business and fundraising plans is critical. For the time stretched, here are the top three things that you can do to help your organisation plan for both its short and long term future.
1. Business plan
The Oxford Languages dictionary succinctly defines a business plan as: ‘a document setting out a business's future objectives and strategies for achieving them.’ For small grassroots organisations, this does not need to be a lengthy document, but it should contain a summary of your organisation’s overall goals and objectives, how you will achieve them and importantly what you need to achieve them. This will be the foundation on which all your activities and other plans flow. Often starting this process with a simple SWOT analysis can help the charity identify what areas they need to drive forward and also those things they may need to stop doing. The SWOT analysis could be included in a long term five-year strategy, together with details of where you want your organisation to be in five years.
2. Fundraising Strategy
As a grassroots charity, you will want to focus on the funding streams that will give you the best return on investment. There are a number of funding streams you could focus on, one being Trust and Foundations. A fundraising strategy can be a simple document with a list of potential funders, their requirements, deadlines for applications, and the project which you are seeking funding for. It could also contain a short sentence about the application process, whether it is a one or two-stage process. This will be of enormous benefit as you will have details of all the funders in one place. This will help you determine what activities you want to do, and how much funding and other resources you need to fulfil this. This will give you clarity and an overview for the year and for the long term future.
3. Cashflow statement/management accounts
Financial planning is essential for grassroots charities. Developing a budget for the year, a cashflow statement or monthly management accounts are is not also good practice but is increasingly becoming a requirement from grant-giving organisations, particularly if organisations are applying for larger amounts of funding. Some trusts and foundations ask organisations who are applying for funds to supply a budget for the year detailing proposed income and expenditure.
So what are all these documents? Management accounts are financial reports which can be produced monthly or quarterly and include a profit & loss report and a balance sheet. Whereas a cash flow statement is a summary of how much cash is flowing into and out of your organisation in a defined period. For example in the month of June, you might have £4,000 income from various sources. During this month you might, for example, have to spend money on salaries, hiring of equipment or venues and other items. Doing this in advance, even if they are only estimates will help you to see where any potential peaks and troughs are and to identify any funding gaps. The Charity Finance Group small charity programme has provided guidance and templates for cashflow statements and management accounts.
A final word
Plans, plans and more plans. Developing a business and fundraising plan and financial reports may seem like a lot of work. However, a few days taken at the beginning of the year to develop a fundraising plan, a yearly budget and a cashflow will result in lots of positives for your organisation including helping you to ensure its long term sustainability and increase the success of your fundraising.
Tola Awogbamiye, Associate Orchard Fundraising