Business Plan

The Nonprofit’s Business Plan and the Orchestra’s Musical Score

In Organizational Development, Strategic Planning by Shelli Bischoff

An organization is a system. When all parts of the system work in harmony, or synergy, with one another, you get a beautifully performing mission-driven organization. When there are organizational components—for example, programs, marketing, and communications, or the staffing, resources or culture—that aren’t aligned (playing off the same page) they are discordant… and not only displeasing… but in organizational terms… less efficient, effective, or potent.

A musical score is supposed to contain all the music for all the parts, written on the same page and vertically aligned, connected by barlines. I love that! It’s what makes all the instruments combine to create (presumably) beautiful music. It’s the best metaphor for why nonprofit organizations need business planning.

So, the business plan is your musical score. Instead of the sheet music for each instrument, the business plan is the score that incorporates the strategic plan, the marketing plan, the fundraising plan, the capacity development plan (ad nauseam). The business plan puts all the pieces together in a comprehensive, integrated whole.

To carry out the metaphor a little bit further, the plan, like a musical score, does not have to be terribly complex. It is sized, if you will, for a 4-piece ensemble (staff) or a 60-piece orchestra, for a short ditty or an expansive symphony. It is likely to get adapted and updated over time, to stay fresh, incorporate new ideas or new players. Based on good analysis and deliberate decisions, it defines all the pieces and how all the pieces fit. When there is a change in one part of the organization, there must be a change in the other parts to maintain alignment (harmony). It serves as a guide, and over time it’s “memorized” as the way you do business. to achieve goals, engage constituents, and to build and sustain a solid operating infrastructure.

Business plans are your organization’s musical score.

Decide what style of music best serves your mission, understand your audience, figure out all the parts for each of the players, create it in accordance with proven or innovative principles, ensure everyone has the instruments (skills, tools, attitudes) to work together… and… then create your organization’s beautiful music!

For more information, and less metaphor, see the blog “Why Nonprofits Need Business Plans” and the monograph The Business Plan Blueprint