What are the most common mistakes when writing a business plan? 

Watch our short video that explains how to avoid making common mistakes when writing your business plan.

With the right preparation, your business plan will be a powerful tool that enables you to make quick decisions, rapidly adjust your processes and decisions and optimise management of the team. 

Avoid making the following mistakes.

Using a single static plan 

Things constantly change within the VCSE environment. A good business plan is never truly finished. Undertake a lean plan and keep it focused. Revisit it regularly and be brave enough to alter or amend it if you think it’s right to do so. 

Losing the focus on income 

While income is not our prime reason for existing it is vitally important. A business plan that does not mention income and expenditure or set out your funding requirements for now and the future is not a solid and robust plan.

Skipping idea validation 

Never underestimate the importance of an idea. Ensure your plan sets out the idea, how you came to the conclusions you did and what you require to execute it. Give idea validation some critical thought. It may present your organisation with opportunities to generate income or enable you to deliver more to many. 

Making the planning process overwhelming 

Writing a business plan is not as hard as you might think. For example, a simple, lean plan contains a few pages of bullet-point lists, tables, and essential projections. Never get tempted to make the business plan process overwhelming. 

Vague goals or objectives 

Leave out vague and meaningless business phrases. Remember that the objective of a plan is its results, and for results, you need tracking and evaluation, as well as well-defined and robust objectives in the first place. If you cannot define these, then some development work is required before writing any business plan. 

Thinking that all business plans need to be the same 

Each plan should be unique to the circumstances of your organisation and tailored accordingly. 

Showing a distinct lack of care 

Funders will see through poorly thought out or careless business plans. If you start from the premise of a plan being a good thing to do for the organisation, rather than a burden on the organisation’s time, your finished business plan should be robust, well presented, and full of useful and informative content. 

Find out more at www.voluntaryimpact.org.uk/resources. 

What is a business plan?

Watch our short video that explains the concept of a business plan and what to include.

A business plan is a simple document that tells people about what type of organisation you are and what you are trying to achieve. It can be simple or complex, but having one is imperative in a competitive world. Some people refer to a business plan as a strategy. What’s important is not what you call it, but what you include. 

What should be included? 

Title and subtitle

Every great business plan starts with a captivating title and subtitle. You will want to make it clear that the document is, in fact, a business plan, but the subtitle can help tell the story of your organisation in just a short sentence.

Executive summary 

Although this is the last part of the business plan that you will write, it’s the first section that stakeholders will read, setting the stage for the rest of the document. It includes your organisation’s mission or vision statement, values, and goals. 

Organisational description 

This brief part of your business plan will detail your business name, years in operation, key offerings, and positioning statement. You might even add core values or a short history of the organisation. 

The opportunities you have 

The business opportunity should convince investors, funders, or members of the public that your organisation meets the needs of the market in a way that no other organisation can. 

The competitive analysis 

Understanding your competition is crucial to understanding how you can succeed, support more beneficiaries, and thrive. 

The target market 

You need to think about who you will support and how. In this section, you might need to think about geography, demographics, how customers access services or their behaviours. 


Marketing can be expensive, but you should have some basic and simple ideas about how you want to communicate with your beneficiaries and what type of messages you wish to send. 

The finances 

Outlining a financial summary of where your organisation is currently and where you would like to be in 12 months’ time will be useful in this section. 

The team 

Outline your team, its strengths, and the skills that you have at your disposal. 

Your funding requirements 

Remember that one of the goals of a business plan is to secure funding from investors, so you will need to include the funding requirements that you are seeking – the amount your business needs, for what reasons, and for how long. 

Types of business plan 

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to business plans. Choose one which suits your organisational needs and remember to update and review it regularly.

Find out more at www.voluntaryimpact.org.uk/resources. 

Business planning and strategy

Watch our short video that explains how to write a business plan or organisational strategy.

A simple strategy called ‘Six Critical Questions’ helps when thinking about business planning. To get the most out of these questions, they should ideally be discussed as a group with trustees, staff, and volunteers.

Here are the six questions.

Why does your organisation exist?

Our core purpose is what gets us out of bed and keeps us inspired. This question aims to achieve a simple line or two that effectively defines your overarching mission. Organisations need to give this some considerable thought though, it’s not as simple as it sounds.

How do we behave, what are our values and how do we live by them?

Values define who we are and are captured in the way we behave and how we do business. Ask yourself what your core values and organisational beliefs are, and then think about how these translate into the workplace.

What do we do?

Can you describe what you do clearly and accurately, in a way different audiences can understand? This sounds simple, but many organisations struggle to define this. A great starting point is to list your projects and activities. In the process of listing, you begin to gain organisational understanding.

How will we succeed?

This is your effective and operational business plan or strategy. There are many paths to success, and strategy is about choosing yours. Rather than having every detail mapped out, you can try having three ‘strategic anchors’ that fit your organisational profile and make sense to all, that can inform day to day decisions. When we are clear on our strategy, it’s much easier to distinguish between opportunities and distractions, decide what’s important and what’s not, make day to day decisions and choose what to focus on.

What’s most important right now?

When organisations have different teams that pursue different agendas, the result can be chaotic, frustrating, or confusing. Organisations can do anything they wish, but they cannot do everything right now. Decide what you are going to focus on and what’s going to make the biggest impact on your core purpose.

Who must do what?

In an organisation, this is about roles and responsibilities. Trustees and chief executives generally make important decisions and include staff and volunteers in this process. It’s the sum of the parts which is important.

You can find out about these six questions at www.voluntaryimpact.org.uk/resources.