Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this post, let’s talk a bit about what we mean by a business plan.
A business plan is the most important first step in the success of a nonprofit. Whether you are looking to change the world or change your neighbourhood, you need a business plan to get started.
If you are a nonprofit, or planning to start one, you may be asking yourself why you even need a business plan. Well, you do. You need to think about your nonprofit as a business, if for no other reason than the taxman will.
Having said all that, this article is not about the pros and cons of having a business plan. It’s about what is the best software to use once you’ve decided you need one.
So, here are my thoughts on a few of the best business plan software for nonprofits on the market today.
Jira Software is one of the most popular business planning software around, and it’s not just popular because it’s good at what it does. It’s also remarkably flexible, which can be seen by its many and varied customers, including Dominoes Pizzas, Indeed.com, Quantas, Spotify, Sotheby’s, and the UK’s Daily Telegraph.
Although Jira has a cloud-based option, what makes it particularly popular for many nonprofits is the ability to download the software and host it on a local server. This means the software can be customised to the exact needs of the nonprofit.
Business Plan Pro
Palo Alto Software is probably best known for its cloud-based software LifePlan (see below). For those wanting a business plan software for nonprofits that doesn’t require a monthly subscription and can be downloaded onto a local machine, Business Plan Pro is the solution.
What you get with Business Plan Pro is substantial. I’m not going to list everything here, but here are a few things that stood out for me:
- 500+ sample plans
- Powerful integrated financial support
- Easy to follow instructions for every section
- Examples to get you started
- Free ebooks.
It also has business planning courses included in the price, so if you are not sure what you are doing, this is an excellent plus. Of course, the other big plus is it is available for a one-off payment.
It has two options so if you would like to see which choice is the best fit for your nonprofit, go to Business Plan Pro’s official website.
- Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in other business planning tools, check out our wide collection of guides.
Biz Plans 4 U
Most of the software featured in this post comes at a price and while everyone understands that even nonprofits have outgoings, spending a lot might be considered extravagant. Biz Plans 4 U is a solution for even the most frugal of nonprofit owners or managers. It includes:
- Two plans – business and marketing
- Uses Microsoft Word and Excel
- Charts and graphs that update automatically
- All business plan sections
- Budget and financial statements
Even though it is not a complete solution, if you are starting out and need something that’s easy to use and inexpensive, this option could suit you down to the ground.
You may have seen a pattern in this post that all the products I have talked about so far have the option to download software onto your local machine.
This is not because I’m anti cloud-based solutions; it’s just that many people don’t want to pay monthly subscriptions. Most downloadable business plan software for nonprofits can be purchased with a one-off payment.
However, I wanted to include one cloud-based program in this list, even though it breaks my unofficial rule, not just for what it offers but also for its pricing structure.
LivePlan is the cloud-based version of Business Plan Pro, so if you don’t want to pay the monthly fee for LivePlan but like what it does, then Business Plan Pro is the way to go. If you don’t mind paying a subscription, then LivePlan is one of the best business planning software available.
PlanWare Free-Plan & Exl-Plan
As I have space for one more program, I’d like to include one that has a freebie and a paid option. In general, and especially if you want to be taken more seriously, free business planning software is not a great idea.
Having said that, if you have a limited budget and you want to download something to get you started, then the two programs offered by PlanWare may be a good option for you.
Included in Free-Plan is a template which has everything you need to write a respectable business plan with sample texts, tables, and charts. In addition, there is a pretty good guide (split up into sections) that helps with the template. The sections include:
- Executive summary
- Strategy and mission
- Profiling target markets
- Marketing strategies
- Sales plans and projects
While the software isn’t specifically designed for nonprofits, I reckon it is pretty good option, especially if you are just starting out.
There are two variations of the free version, but I would just use this one as it’s the most up-to-date.
As I said above, there is also a paid option available to download called Exl-Plan. It is the premium version of Free-Plan and comes with many extra features.
It also comes in different variations and each variation has a different price. Therefore, before ordering, you will want to consider:
- The size of your business
- The amount of revenue streams you have
- How many years of projections you want
- Your country’s accounting conventions
Surprisingly, what also makes this a good choice is the free version of Exl-Plan. Admittedly, you can’t do as much as you can with the paid versions, but you can download it and get an idea if it is the right software for your nonprofit
And there you have it. Obviously, this is far from an extensive list, but it gives you a fair idea of what types of downloadable business plan software for nonprofits is out there.
If you have a downloadable business plan software for nonprofits that you think is a good alternative to the software mentioned above, let us know in the comments section below.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been since updated for freshness, and accuracy.