Business Planning – Starting your own community group

Slide 1

Hello and welcome to this recording from Support Cambridgeshire, a partnership of Cambridge CVS and Hunts Forum. This module is one of several recordings we have developed to help people who are considering setting up or developing a charity. This session is introducing the idea of business planning to make sure you get the best possible result with the resources you have. Business planning involves looking ahead to what the charity wants to achieve over the next 1 – 3 years rather than being a detailed operational plan or much longer-term strategic plan.

Once agreed a business plan gives your committee something to work with to help maintain focus and to share with others such as supporters and potential funders. If you are considering registering your charity with the Charity Commission, it can be helpful to include a business plan with your application.

The guidance links, available in the end of this transcript, will provide you with all the materials we mention. This includes resources to create a business plan and this session will take you through some of the main things you need to think about.

Slide 2 Creating a plan

Planning involves knowing what you want to achieve, for who, how and when. There is no set format for a business plan, but typically it will cover:

  1. Background to the charity & operating environment
  2. Aims the charity will focus on during the lifetime of the plan
  3. Financing the plan
  4. Risks associated with the plan
  5. Evaluating performance

Slide 3 Background

Background content includes the Charity’s name, legal status, how it began and its charitable objects as outlined in its governing document.  An example charitable object might be to improve the conditions of life for local people through social welfare and recreation.

This part of the plan would also cover:

  • Your Vision – your hopes and ambitions for the future

An example of a vision might be – We want a town where all older people have the opportunity to live fulfilled lives

  • Your Mission– outlines why you exist

An example of a mission might be – To find the expertise and resources to support the social inclusion of older people in our town

  • Values – act as guide as to how you will achieve your mission

For example: Client focused , Supportive of each other

  • Intended outcomes are the differences that need to take place to deliver your mission. An example of an outcome is – Older people in the community feel less lonely. For more information on outcomes see the guidance links at the end of this transcript.
  • You should also include the Relevant skills and experience of your team and any existing Strategy this is the long-term plan (5 plus years) for the charity, if you have developed a strategy include a summary in your business plan. There is a link to a guide to strategic planning at the end of this document.

Slide 4   Demonstrating need

Looking at your group’s operating environment you will need to show evidence of what is needed most, what else is available locally and ask local people what they want. The group could research people’s views and might also ask the views of other groups and organisations offering support in the community.  It might also be appropriate for look for published data showing evidence of need such as information from the census.  There are links to data sources at the end of this transcript.

Slide 5 Identify the resources you have in place

You also need to think about your resources, how many people you have to help, whether you need to find more people? What skills do you need, what facilities you have access to and what funds are you likely to be able to raise?

Planning tools

There are many planning tools available, to help your organisation identify the additional resources that are needed to help you deliver your identified outcomes. Some of these tools are referred to in the links below and we’ll look at a couple in the next few slides.

Slide 6

A SWOT analysis is one of the most straightforward tools and is intended to help you assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing your organisation.

Slide 7

A PESTLE analysis will help you review the wider context you operate within. We have provided  guidance links for both these tools.

Slide 8 Setting aims and milestones

  • The group’s research will help steer how they prioritise what they do over the next 1 to 3 years. Their aims are expressed as broad statements of intent. For example, the research might show that people living alone with limited money and mobility might want more opportunities to meet with others locally to reduce loneliness. Therefore, one aim of the group might be – The development of activities for older people in our community (identified as socially isolated) by Mar 2026
  • To track the charity’s performance in meeting an aim you can set some milestones – these are significant steps towards achieving your aim: An example of a milestone might be that there is a 25% increase in the number of older people engaging in community activities by Oct 2024

Slide 9 Setting measurable objectives

Your objectives are how you will progress towards your aims they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) so that you can track your progress.

An example of an objective might be – We will develop a community car scheme offering 20 lifts a week by Sept 2023

The NCVO provide guidance on setting objectives – check out the guidance links at the end of this transcript.

Slide 10 Developing and marketing activities

Your group should develop activities that you have reason to think will deliver the aims and outcomes you want to achieve.  You should then market these activities to your intended beneficiaries and those that support and advise them.

Our example group are looking at activities that will bring people who are socially isolated together and help them feel less lonely.

Your business plan will include a summary of your activities and how your will market them leaving the detail to your operational plan.

Slide 11 Financing the plan – review potential income streams

Most charities are funded through a combination of funding sources. Ideally the funding should be spread across potential funding streams to avoid over reliance on one area of funding.  Donations might be small one-off payments, in response to a collection, or regular donations through direct debits or legacies from wills. You may also be able to apply to grant funders – grants tend to be restricted to fund projects that meet the funders priorities, although some funders will fund general running costs. Your charity may be able to sell some goods or services relevant to its charitable objects, and use the profits from this trading income to fund charitable activities. Or you might be funded by a statutory commissioner to deliver a service. Your business plan should consider which of these funding sectors you will pursue and how.

Image of square with four squares, each has text in, donor, grant funder, consumer, commissioner

Slide 12 Financing the plan – projected rolling budget

A budget is an essential planning tool, it is an estimate of your income and expenditure for a set period – your realistic best guess of what is going to happen. It is not set in stone, and it will be adjusted as necessary with the agreement of the committee.  The slide shows an example of a rolling budget for the 3 years covered by the business plan.  The notes state the key assumptions being made. For more information about creating a budget see our recording on putting in place financial controls.

Slide 13 Assess organisational risk

All organisations face risk and a business plan needs to address this.

To manage organisational risk those managing the group need to think more broadly, identifying the possible risks, the likelihood of the risks occurring and the impact that risk would have.  They then need to consider ways to reduce the risk. As an example of a governance risk, a committee member neglects or forgets to mention, that they have a close family member who will receive a financial benefit from a decision the charity has made. This is a conflict of interest, and if unaddressed could lead to allegations of corruption and potentially invalidate the organisation’s decision-making process. A group reduces the risk of this occurring by following good practice for example by maintaining a conflict of interest register and making declaration of any conflict a standing item at each meeting. Other areas of risk might be:

  • Operational risk for example, difficulty finding volunteers to run activities
  • Financial risk such as lack of available funds to pay bills
  • External risk for example, reduced donations due to cost-of-living pressures on supporters
  • Regulatory risk such as anticipated changes in legislation resulting in increased costs.

The Charity Commission provide a risk register template to help charities assess these sorts of risk.

Slide 14 The key policies and procedures shown here help mitigate risk  

  • Health & Safety including risk assessments
  • Equality policy
  • Safeguarding policy
  • Financial policy
  • Conflict of interest policy

Get in touch with us if you require support with these policies and procedures.

Slide 15 Evaluating performance

Finally, you will want to know that the activities you are running are achieving your goals. Ideally you will collect feedback for each of the activities you are running and pull these findings together to give you an overall picture of your progress against your stated objectives. In our community group example, the group will want to know that the people in their community, are coming along to their activities and feeling less lonely. To find this out they could measure numbers taking part and ask people for postcodes so they can check if they are local. They could ask those attending (or a sample of them) some questions to establish if they may be feeling lonely. The campaign to end loneliness have produced 3 brief questions groups can ask. The group could then ask the same people the same questions periodically to see if there is change. Depending on the result the group may decide to amend their activities and continue to monitor them. The group might also undertake a survey of local people to obtain their views on the group’s activities.

There is guidance link below which includes the measurement tool developed by The campaign to end loneliness 

There are lots of other measurement tools you can use and these are also shown in the guidance links.

You can also contact us for help.

Slide 16 To find out more and for further help and guidance please contact us at

Guidance links:

Guide to strategic planning

Help us improve our website