Volunteer advice: 17 reasons for having a plan

By Jim Mackison, Sported volunteer

Jim Mackison, Sported volunteer1.SELL YOUR ORGANISATION/PROJECT TO FUNDERS
The most common reason to write a business plan is because a funder or a bank requires one.

 

2. IN YOUR OWN WORDS

Grant application forms are general purpose documents and can be a straitjacket. Writing a business plan in a structure, format and style that suits your purpose can make it easier to capture your thoughts and ideas.

 

3. SING FROM THE SAME HYMN SHEET

A plan helps everyone in your group/organisation (staff, trustees, volunteers) to understand what is going on, so that you are all pulling in the same direction.

 

4. BUILD CONFIDENCE WITH STAKEHOLDERS
A plan can help stakeholders (clients, user-groups, referral agencies, statutory agencies, partner organisations, local groups etc.) to understand how and why you as an organisation have chosen to direct your resources

 

5. FIT FOR PURPOSE
Sometimes your organisation needs to demonstrate that it knows what it is doing and has thought through different options and anticipated various eventualities, before it embarks on a difficult or risky course of action.

 

6. LEARNING ORGANISATION
If your organisation is setting off into uncharted territory where there aren’t any obvious benchmarks or models of good practice to follow then you may wish to chart your progress, learning as you go along, recording what does and doesn’t work so well.

 

7. NEW PROJECT OR ORGANISATION
If you can’t rely simply on experience then you can often avoid, minimise and mitigate risk by working out as many details of your new venture as you can beforehand.

 

8. MANAGING CHANGE
Making adjustments to the status quo can be difficult and unsettling. It can help to clarify thoughts by documenting the implications of the change, and then making plans and contingencies accordingly.

 

9. MANAGING GROWTH
Success can have its own pitfalls. Sometimes there are step changes that bring with them their own set of challenges. It is better to anticipate those challenges and work out in advance how best to manage them.

 

10. PURSUING GROWTH

Even if there are opportunities to seek out and explore, these still need careful consideration to assess their viability. Testing out your ideas on paper is risk free and may help a coherent plan to eventually emerge.

 

11. BIG PROJECT OR MULTIPLE PROJECTS
Taking on a big project (or several projects at once) requires a great deal of coordination of resources and people if you want to avoid muddle and frustration. A thought through plan can help identify the timescale bottlenecks, allocate resources efficiently and avoid some of the more obvious pitfalls.

 

12. SUSTAINABILITY
Working out how to sustain a project is rarely straightforward and usually requires an analysis of every element and a detailed review of the budget to figure out which are essentials and where cost efficiencies can be made.

 

13. COLLECTIVE KNOWLEDGE
A plan is a great tool to harness all the knowledge, experience, expertise & ideas of everyone within an organisation, instead of relying on the input of only one or two key people.

 

14. ROUTE MAP
When you have to think strategically there may be a gap between where your organisation is now and where you want it to be in a few years’ time. It might save you from meandering and getting lost if you can plan an approximate route from A to B.

 

15. SHARING TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
It is too easy in some organisations for a dedicated few to take on a disproportionate amount of the work. A plan can identify what needs to be done, set out who is doing what and make sure that everyone pulls their weight.

 

16. REVIEW PROGRESS
Not having a plan is a good way to fudge the records. After all, if you don’t have any targets or milestones you can’t fail to reach them.  On the other-hand how else will you be able to show that your project is a success if there is no measure of your achievements?  It is difficult to evaluate a project at its conclusion if there was no plan at the start for comparison.  The combination of a plan and an evaluation is a good basis for a bid for continuation funding.

 

17. ACCOUNTABILITY
Once you have set out what your organisation plans to do it is committed.  Stakeholders can reasonably expect the organisation to do its best to deliver on the plan.  It can be held to account.  A plan helps build stakeholders’ confidence that the organisation does what it says and doesn’t take on work that doesn’t take it towards achieving its stated objectives.