THE ROLE OF THE BUSINESS PLAN: An Interview with Dr. Jan Young

Part one of three

Dr. Jan Young

One of the prerequisites for fundraising success is a fund development or fundraising plan that is tied to an organization’s strategic plan. While strategic planning has a long history within the non-profit sector, some organizations are now choosing to work from a business plan. Wanting to learn more, we reached out to Dr. Jan Young, executive director of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, a health care legacy foundation that has awarded more than $150 million in grants.

A strong advocate of working from a business plan, Jan believes that “strategy without resources is a wish.” When reviewing grant applications, she has found many budgets incongruent with the goals, objectives or capacity of the organizations. “In basic terms, the math doesn’t work,” she said.

Working from a business plan can help an organization focus its resources, build toward sustainability and support successful fundraising. A business plan requires an organization to engage in the important task of assessing its capacity to deliver services (and raise funds!), as well as assessing the environment in which it works and the extent to which the services (or advocacy) it offers are needed.

But, we tend to hear more about strategic planning in the non-profit sector, and business planning for the private sector. Asked about the difference between the two, Jan explained, “Here’s what we typically see: Strategic plans have a greater focus on direction and tactics, and business plans have a greater focus on specific necessary resources, primarily sources and uses of funds, and sustainability.”

Over the years we have noticed that many strategic plans do not take into consideration where the money for the work will come from. Often we are brought in to help secure funds for priorities that have not been vetted by the appropriate individuals, foundations or granting agencies.

Jan recommended a correctly done assessment as one way to evaluate potential funding. Ask questions such as: What is the need? Who else is providing the same or similar services? What are the opportunities and challenges? To whom does it matter? (What is your value proposition?) If the non-profit ceased to exist tomorrow, would anyone notice?

Jan also suggested taking the time to address basic organizational questions. “In the simplest terms: Can the organization clearly state what it wants to do?” she asked. “What strategies does it wish to implement to achieve what it wants to do? Does it have the resources and assets such as people, time, facilities or equipment, partnerships and funding to implement the strategies? Can the organization define how it will know if it is making progress toward its goals? What will success look like?”

Next, Dr. Jan Young discusses how to create a business plan.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at or call (901) 522-8727.

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2 comments on “THE ROLE OF THE BUSINESS PLAN: An Interview with Dr. Jan Young”

  1. Pingback: How to write targeted proposals | Saad&Shaw

  2. Leanne Chasteen

    This is definitely one to save-some great advice and a great tool for evaluating what you are asking for and who you are asking.

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