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Free Example UK Non Profit Charity Business Plan Template

This free practical, charity business plan template (with examples) enables anyone to create a great charity annual business plan, with a simple checklist to enable you to ensure it will be a success. It also works for your CIC or other non profit.

Non Profit Charity Business Plan Template - 3 Steps

I've used the term charity business plan and as an example. Your business plan is what you aim to achieve in the coming year.  However, this planning template and checklist will work just as well for project and other plans, and will work just as well for your CIC or other non profit  

The only right way to carry out planning is whatever way works for your charity.  This resource provides a simple 3 step process to use as a template and checklist to create your plan, goals, objectives and KPIs, with examples.  Follow the process below to create one that will work for you.  That could be anything from a one page plan in Word for a very small charity to a substantial, detailed business plan for a large UK non profit. 

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Your objectives (or goals) are what you must achieve to dleiver your charity plan.  These can either be long term (strategic plan)) or nearer term, such as annual business, fundraising and project plans.  

Charity Business Plan Objectives - Strategic Plan

Often strategic and business, or other annual plans can be seen as quite separate, but these are not.  Next year's business, or fundraising plan, is Year 1 of your strategy.  Looking at your strategic plan objectives, what must you achieve in the coming year to deliver these?  

Charity Business Plan Objectives - Operations

You also need to ensure that your charity continues to be well run and delivers the high quality support you want it to.  Look at your operations, such as delivering services for your beneficiaries, fundraising, finance, people and other activities.  What are the key activities and what must you achieve in these areas areas?   


Trying to measure everything would take a huge amount of time and most won't really matter.  Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the key targets you use to measure and monitor your progress to achieving your planning objectives.

Measuring Charity KPIs

There are really only 3 things you might want to measure - quality, quantity and time.  And, these are interlinked.  The public sector is particularly prone to what are called perverse outcomes.  Focussing on a single KPI measure, to the exclusion of the others that nobody thought about, but which turn out to be really important. 

  • Increasing quality, often increases cost or takes longer to do.
  • Buying higher quality fresh food and/or preparing food from scratch, rather than buying in pre-prepared.
  • Increasing quantity, often increases cost and/or takes longer to achieve.
  • Preparing more meals and/or extending opening times. 
  • Reducing time, often reduces quality and/or costs more.
  • Using pre-prepared ingredients and buying more equipment/expanding kitchen capacity.  

You don't need to measure all 3 for everything, if the other factors aren't important, or won't change.  I've provided some examples of planning KPIs below. 

How To Set Business Plan KPIs

In order to ensure you deliver your objectives, you need to be able to measure these and monitor progress.  

The first step is to set KPIs for each objective using SMART – that is your KPIs are Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Timely and Relevant.

You then need to decide who will be responsible for delivering and reporting these, any milestones in terms of when activities will be delivered and how and when these will be reported.

Once you've set your KPIs, ask yourself if these are the key issues you need to monitor and manage to deliver your objective. Are there any KPIs you don't need and is there anything missing that you do?  And does each KPI meet the SMART criteria above? 


The Charity Excellence Data Store tracks sector resilience and a key theme is a lack of realism in charity planning.  Ambition is a hallmark of the sector, but 'Aspirational' is the flip side of planning to fail, if that involves committing people and resources to plans that aren't achievable.  Here are my ideas to help you ensure that your business plan will succeed. 

Business Plan Reality Checklist

For your business plan to work, you need to be able to confidently answer 'yes' to each of the questions below.  That's about making an objective assessment of each.  

  • Our plan includes everything that's important to us that we want to achieve
  • our objectives and targets are realistic and achievable
  • We will have enough people, with the necessary skills and experience to deliver our plan
  • The key risks have been identified and quantified
  • We have taken adequate steps to manage these, to ensure no risk remains unacceptably high
  • There is adequate funding in our budget to resource all of our business plan objectives
  • Our fundraising targets are realistic and we are confident that these should be achieved
  • We have contingency options to manage any unforeseen eventualities. 
  • For example, not launching a project until funding is secured, or having plans to scale back activity
  • Our plan has been communicated to everyone who needs to know about it and it is simple, clear and will be understood by them
  • The information reported focusses on the key issues and will enable us to take action in good time, if we need to

Congratulations, you have created a simple, clear and effective business plan.  If you are unsure about any of the above, revisit your plana nd make any changes you need to.  

Communicating Your Charity Plan And Making It A Success

The World is full of detailed and beautifully crafted plans sitting on shelves gathering dust.  in any, except the smallest of charities, it is your staff and volunteers who will deliver your plan, so they need to know what you want them to do and feel motivated to do so.  If you e mail a big complicated plan to everyone, it may not be read and, if it is, may not mean much to its readers. 

You need to communicate your plan in a simple, clear way that engages them. It also needs to be reflected in any other plans or procedures. For example, your budget and risk plans, any project plans and, for larger charities, appraisal objectives and departmental work plans. 

For reporting, sometimes reports are too 'fluffy' or nor easily understandable, or far too long and complicated.  Often these can be simply rubber stamped by boards.  Ensure that your reports meet your needs, focus on the key issues, are clear and understandable for trustees, and acted upon.  Here's the Charity Excellence guide to making reports more effective and less work.   

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Business plan template and guidance

Introduction , what is a business plan  .

A business plan sets out the financial and organisational aspects of your business. It shows:  

  • an overview of your organisation  
  • the financial status of your organisation  
  • the context in which your organisation sits  
  • how you wish to develop your organisation 

A business plan is not the same as a project plan. It focuses on the overall organisation and not specific activities.  

If you already have a business plan, then there is no need for you to produce another in order to apply to The National Lottery Heritage Fund. This is a guide for developing a business plan should you not already have one.

We are using the following headings for a business plan, which you can use as a template:

Executive summary  

  • About your organisation   
  • Governance and management structures 
  • Market appraisal and your approach 
  • Financial appraisal  

Risk register  

  • Monitoring and evaluating your organisation  
  • Organisational impact assessment  
  • Contact details for your organisation 


As every organisation is different you may wish to present the information under different headings or add additional content that better explains how your organisation works.  

Your business plan doesn’t need to be a long document. Try to make sure that you are as concise and clear as possible.  Most importantly the plan needs to be a document that you can refer back to and update in the general course of running your organisation. 

Who should produce a business plan?  

The business plan is a key document for any organisation and can be used to inform your stakeholders about the vision of your organisation, the types of activities you are pursuing and the impact you are trying to achieve.  

If you are applying for a National Lottery Grant for Heritage of over £250,000, we will ask you to submit your current business plan with your first-round application. If you are successful, you will be expected to update and develop this to reflect the longer-term sustainability of your project. You can allocate some budget within your grant request to help you do this. 

Under the National Lottery Grants for Heritage programme £3,000-£10,000 and £10,000-£250,000, we can support individual organisations, partnerships or consortia to deliver a wide range of activities to increase their resilience or take on the management of heritage, including applying for funding to develop a business plan. 

Before writing your plan  

Things to consider before producing your business plan: 

  • What work needs to be done in order to complete the plan? How will you go about gathering your evidence? 
  • Does the plan require seeking expertise on areas such as market analysis, taxation or legal matters?  
  • Who will write the plan? How will you engage staff and trustees in the process?  
  • What are the timelines for the business plan to be approved?  

Writing and reviewing your plan 

The template below will provide you with a basic framework for developing a business plan for your organisation.  

At the end of each section there are prompts to help you review your plan once you have prepared a draft in order to identify areas which may need further work.  

Additional sections and information should be added as required by your organisation. Links to additional resources can be found at the end of this document.  

Once you have a draft of your business plan it is a good idea to review it in order to assess its strengths and weaknesses, address any gaps and ensure it’s as clear, concise and logical as possible.  

  • Does the business plan present a strategy for achieving your aims and your mission?  
  • How sustainable is your approach?  
  • Do you need to address any gaps in capacity or your organisational resilience? 

Your business plan should start off with an overview of the contents of the document. The summary should be concise, set the tone and highlight the most important information. It should include: 

  • An overview of your organisation including your mission statement and what you want to achieve  
  • The key aims of your organisation for the period of the plan (usually 3-5 years) 
  • Key elements of your strategy including how you will assure the longer-term financial future of the organisation 
  • The main risks facing your organisation and how you plan to manage these in the short, medium and long term 
  • An explanation of how your organisation is resilient enough to meet challenges. This could include financial information, how you will ensure governance and management structures are fit for purpose, and the monitoring and evaluation processes you have in place 
  • Any additional key information  

Prompts for reviewing this section 

  • Have you provided a well-structured summary which highlights key points from the plan? 
  • Is your summary no more than two pages long? 
  • If someone with no prior knowledge of the organisation were to read your summary alone, would it make sense?  

About your organisation

This section should provide information on the structure, objectives and activities of your organisation, including: 

  • when and why it was started 
  • its purpose, aims - including your mission statement - and key successes 
  • the key areas of activity, products and or services that you deliver, how they are distinctive and how will they be developed over the course of the plan 
  • details of the targets you have set for each area of activity 
  • legal status, eg unincorporated association or trust, or incorporated by Act of Parliament, Royal Charter, as a company limited by shares/guarantee, (Scottish) Charitable Incorporated Organisation, or Industrial and Provident Society. Indicate whether it is a Community Interest Company, or is registered or recognised as a charity. 
  • whether it has a membership of individuals, and if so the number of members 
  • the names of any other entities with which it has a formal association (e.g. any bodies with which there are funding agreements or that have the right to nominate multiple board members) 
  • whether it is a partnership of different organisations with a shared interest, identifying the other organisations/stakeholders you will be working with, the basis of the arrangement, and whether it is formal or informal). Summarise any partnership agreements. 
  • the number and roles of paid staff (give the number of paid staff − both in total and Full Time Equivalents) and explain the tasks they perform within the organisation 
  • the role of volunteers(give estimates of the number of regular volunteers, the tasks they do within the organisation, and the total number of hours they work on each task every year)
  • Describe how you fund your organisation’s activities, noting any sources which account for a particularly large proportion of your income and, if these come from a funding body, when this funding will be subject to review. 

Prompts for reviewing this section 

  • Have you accurately described your organisation’s purpose and main areas of activity, and how you are distinctive? 
  • Do you highlight key successes? 
  • Is it clear what services or products you offer and how you intend to develop them? 
  • Have you set clear targets? 
  • Is the structure of your organisation clearly set out in a way that is easy to understand? 
  • Have you included key information about your legal set up and how you staff and fund your core activities? 

Governance and management structures 

This section should explain your organisation’s management structure, decision-making processes and lines of communication and reporting. Providing a simple organogram/network diagram to show your governance, management and staffing structures. 

Governance summary  

This section should provide an overview of the governance in place within your organisation to ensure that business plans and strategies are approved and monitored.  

Describe the size and composition of the governing body (e.g. council, board of trustees, board of directors) and, where appropriate, arrangements in place for succession planning and board development training. List the roles covered by your senior management team.  

You should explain the make-up of your board and their engagement with the organisation, particularly in relation to: 

  • business planning, pricing policies and marketing strategies 
  • financial management and administration 
  • fundraising 
  • approving potential projects and maintaining oversight 
  • commissioning advisers and consultants 

Summarise the functions of any sub-groups, describing their membership, roles and responsibilities, specifying any delegated powers they are authorised to use. Indicate how frequently such groups meet. 

Management structure 

You should include simple organograms or network diagrams. These should show each job title in your organisation in a box and use lines to represent the reporting and supervisory relationships between different positions. There is no need to include an individual’s name. 

Show how many post-holders are employed in each position and whether they are full-time, part-time or volunteers. 

Example organogram

Each post-holder on the organogram should be listed on an accompanying schedule, which summarises the purpose and functions of that role. 

You should provide information on your recruitment policies for core staff. If your organisation engages external advisors on a regular basis you should give details of the company, their role and how they relate to the post-holders on the organogram. 


If volunteers are a key part of your organisation you should explain:  

  • The roles volunteers play in the organisation, including the types of responsibilities the volunteers have  
  • How many volunteers the organisation works with  
  • How many volunteer hours  
  • The role within your organisation responsible for managing volunteering and how this is monitored  
  • Have you covered how your organisation in managed and governed in a clear way? Is there any information missing? 
  • Have you included the main challenges which you face in running your business? 
  • Is it clear what skills and experience are needed going forward? Have you included information about how you develop skills within the organisation? 
  • Are there plans included for developing your structure and processes in the future? 

In this section you should include a more detailed overview of the aims of your organisation for the period of the plan and how they relate to your organisation’s overall mission, setting out the key activities you will undertake in order to achieve them.  

Include any projects that you plan to take on, demonstrating how they will work together to achieve your organisation’s aims. You should include information on the impact additional projects will have on your organisation and how you plan to address those impacts. 

Include dates and a timetable for reviewing and updating your strategy. 

Market appraisal and your current approach 

Include the approach of your business, relevant pricing strategies and use evidence to explain how your business will reach its market. Market analysis should be proportionate to the scope and size of your organisation. 

Describe your current market  

  • Is the profile of your heritage of local or national interest; is it well known?  
  • Is it valued by a wide cross-section of the public or a more limited special-interest group? 
  • How many customers have you had each year over the past 10 years?  
  • What proportion are family groups/schools?  
  • What are the demographics of the current audience - their age, gender, income, education, and occupation?  
  • Where do they live - locally, from the surrounding region, in this country or overseas?  
  • What proportion of customer contacts are repeats?  

Show you know your market 

  • On a national or regional basis, is your market growing, failing or stable?  
  • How does this relate to your organisation’s experience?  
  • Are there any national socio-economic trends or policies that will have any impact on your market?  
  • What would be the impact of change in the political, economic, social and technological environments in which you operate?  

Consider your target market  

  • Who are the people most likely to access your service?  
  • Are they single or repeat customers?  
  • What are their needs, behaviours, tastes and preferences?  
  • Think about what research has shown you so far. 

Review the competition 

Find out what organisations are in competition with yours. All organisations have competition of some sort, even if they might not be exactly like your organisation. Look at how they price their activities, the competition’s business strategy, strengths and weaknesses.  

Develop a competitive strategy for your organisation 

Do a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis looks at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your organisation.  

Use evidence-based information and remember to include internal and external factors. Describe what is unique and special to your organisation and include disadvantages you have.  

Outline your marketing strategy

Base your marketing strategy on evidence and include pricing policies.  

The evidence you need to do the analysis might come from: 

  • data you have collected, over as long a period of time as is achievable  
  • national data, for example, the Taking Part survey (in England), national tourism surveys), National Statistics and local authority statistics  
  • existing market research  
  • market research commissioned to estimate potential markets and the potential popularity of the business with your target market 
  • reviewing operations that are similar to those you propose in your own area and further afield, using annual accounts available online from the Charity Commission (England) or Companies House 
  • Have you clearly set out who your target audience is? 
  • Does this section show that you are aware of the size of your market, who your main competitors are and how successful they are? 
  • Have you given an overview of your marketing strategy setting out your current pricing strategy, your approach to developing your audiences and your route to market?

Financial appraisal  

This section should include a general financial assessment of your organisation, an overview of your total financial need to support your day-to-day operation and details of your financial model, which includes your main sources of funding.  

Provide supporting documents in an appendix, detailing:  

  • a forecast income and expenditure account 
  • a cashflow forecast showing the expected monthly cashflow 
  • statements of assumptions underlying the forecasts 

Include detail of assumptions made in your calculations. An assumption is anything that you are relying on to make forecasts. For example, the average number of visitors you are expecting based on the previous year, or any unknown costs of materials. Make sure you also include details of any reserves.  

You may want to undertake a sensitivity analysis to show what your finances would look like if your projections fall short by various amounts, for example between five and 20 per cent. What would the risk to your operation be if either of these scenarios were to occur and what action might you need to take? 

  • Have you described how your organisation operates financially in a way that is easy to understand? 
  • Have you included an overview of your total financial needs, what your main sources of funding are and how your main activities contribute to achieving this?  
  • Have you included an expected cashflow forecast and income and expenditure forecast? 

The purpose of assessing risk is to see if there are any weaknesses in your organisation and to consider any threats to it from outside sources. There are several well-established methods of assessing factors which are affecting, or may affect, your organisation. A risk register is a document, usually set out as a table, that lists all the risks identified by an organisation and prioritised in order of importance. 

For each risk, outline: 

  • the nature of the risk, eg technical, market, financial, economic, management, legal 
  • a description of the risk 
  • the probability of the risk happening: low, medium, high, or % 
  • the effect the risk could have, eg on cost, time, performance 
  • the level of effect: low, medium, high, or % 
  • the overall effect 
  • how you would deal with the risk 
  • Have you listed the key potential problems that your organisation faces? On reflection, are they the main risks or can the list be reduced? 
  • Have the risks been properly calculated? 
  • Do you need to do any further thinking about how risks will be mitigated? 
  • Are there any alternative courses of action that have not been considered? 

Monitoring and evaluating your organisation 

In this section you should set out your plans for monitoring and evaluating your organisation’s performance and impact, to ensure you are meeting your aims and achieving your mission.  

To monitor the performance of your organisation you will need to gather different kinds of information at various stages. You should set a series of milestones, financial targets and performance targets in order to track these. 

Evaluation should be carried out regularly using the monitoring information. You should summarise your planned approach and include details of milestones. Your approach should show when you anticipate evaluating your achievements and should specify the scope of the evaluation and whether your organisation plans bring in any expertise to help you to assess the extent to which you are meeting your aims. 

You should plan to gather any required baseline information from the earliest opportunity, which will help you evaluate performance and the impact being made by your work. 

Prompts for reviewing this section

  • Have you included detail of the changes you want your organisation to make? How does this link to your mission and aims? 
  • Have you set out how you intend to monitor progress? Will you need any external advice? 
  • Have you detailed what success looks like? How will you know if you have achieved your targets? 
  • Do you have a plan for linking your findings into future decision-making? How do you report back to your board of trustees?  

Organisational impact assessment  

This section will be most helpful if you are applying to us for project funding.

Within an application we want to see how your proposed project will impact on your organisation and your current work.  

In your business plan, describe how the project will have an impact on your organisation and its finances for a period of five years from the end of the project: 

How will any additional costs created by the project continue to be funded? 

These costs can include additional staffing and housekeeping costs, business rates, maintenance obligations arising from implementing the buildings maintenance plan, and implementation of the conservation management plan. Document these additional costs in a table. Where the project is expected to lead to reduced expenditure (for example, reduced energy expenditure, productivity gains due to improved technology), include the costs of the savings in the table to give the planned net additional cost or saving. 

What additional volunteer input will be required? 

Tell us about additional numbers of hours to be worked, and the number of additional hours required. You should also indicate how, and from where, these volunteers come, and the impact on your volunteer management and training arrangements. 

Are there any changes in governance or management that could affect the project? 

Tell us about any relevant changes to board composition or committee structure, or variation in individual duties or responsibilities. If the structure will be different during the operating phases of your project, provide separate diagrams to explain the arrangements. Additionally, outline any other material change in how the organisation will be managed as a consequence of the project. 

Provide the following financial projections: 

  • a statement of unrestricted funds financial activities, or of income and expenditure where the organisation is a local authority, university or other large organisation where the scale of the project is immaterial to the organisation’s total financial circumstances. Where the organisation has a trading subsidiary, its projections should be consolidated with those of its parent. 
  • the organisation’s balance sheet 
  • the assumptions on which the financial projections are based 
  • a sensitivity analysis 

In carrying out this financial impact appraisal you should: 

  • use the market analysis you have carried out in the course of your overall business planning to give details of your market size and the income generated. The assumptions should clearly show the basis on which the numbers have been calculated. 
  • demonstrate that the general trend will be for the organisation to generate annual surpluses on its unrestricted funds. 
  • you should base your analysis on your latest completed financial year if you have been in existence for that length of time (or the current year budget) and use this as a starting point for your projections so that you can clearly assess the net impact on your financial position from the incremental, on-going income and expenditure caused by the project you are proposing. 
  • include in the sensitivity analysis the income items that are most critical to the organisation’s success, are most uncertain, or contain the greatest risk. By adjusting these by percentages between 5% and 20%, depending on their nature and risk, it is possible to see the impact on the reported surplus. 

Contact details for your organisation 

At the end of your business plan, include contact details: 

Head office  

Telephone number 

Email address 

Appendices include additional information to support your plan. For example, evidence or reports you have commissioned, external advice, financial information or visuals which support the plan.  

When you have completed the plan, review your appendices to make sure that you haven’t missed any relevant detail. Check whether you have included information in the main business plan that should be listed in this section instead. 

Additional resources 

DIY toolkit , Nesta 

A toolkit on how to invent, adopt or adapt ideas that can deliver better results. Includes a template for  SWOT analysis . 

Small Charities Programme   

Resources and templates relating to business planning, including a template for developing a cashflow.  

Business planning guidance for arts and cultural organisations , Arts Council England  

Good practice business planning guidance for the arts and cultural sector 

The Sustainable Sun tool , NCVO  

Practical ideas and support to help your business work towards financial sustainability. 

The Audience Agency  

A guide to how you might go about starting to benchmark your organisation. 

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

Various business planning resources 

Creative & Cultural Skills

A tool to help you think about the resilience of your business 

Wales Council for Voluntary Action    

Various resources to help you run your organisation 

The Princes Regeneration Trust, Building Resources, Investment and Community Knowledge

Includes an example of sensitivity analysis  

Sample business plans for various industries 

Small Charities Coalition  

Resources relating to evaluation and impact 

New Philanthropy Capital

How to build a measurement impact framework 

Glossary of terms to do with business planning 

Accounting period .

A period of time used to identify and relate financial information. The major accounting period is the twelve-month financial year. Annual accounting periods in the public sector run from 1 April to 31 March. An annual accounting period can be any 12 months, not even concluding at a month’s end. 

An item of value owned and controlled by the organisation that has a useful life longer than a single accounting period. 

The cash accumulated from surpluses in successive accounting periods. 

Balance sheet 

A statement that shows, on a fixed point in time, an organisation’s assets and liabilities, their value, and how they were paid for. 

Bank overdraft 

Money advanced to enable to meet short-term cash-flow. Overdrafts are repayable on demand, and usually require collateral for the total amount of money being borrowed. 

An organisation’s annual operating programme, defined in terms of money. 

Business rates 

Also known as National Non-Domestic Rates (NNDR), a tax levied on the value of their property, which with council tax is the major source of funds for local council services. 

Capital spending 

Expenditure on the acquisition of assets. 

Capital income 

The incoming funds you will use to pay for your capital spending. 


Method of accounting for fixed assets by which the cost of the asset is reported on the balance sheet rather than as an expense on an income and expenditure account. The cost of the asset is written down over its useful life by depreciation. Where fixed assets increase in value over time, there should be periodic revaluations so that the balance sheet reports a reliable estimate of the asset’s value. 

The pattern of an organisation’s income and expenditure, and the impact on its cash balances; having surplus cash in hand after being able to meet all debts on the day they are due is a ‘positive’ cash-flow; not having cash to meet debts as they fall due is a ‘negative’ cash-flow. 

Cash-flow statement 

Forward projections of an organisation’s cash status, showing when balances are likely to be under most strain, when a bank overdraft or other short-term funding is required. The need to borrow is mitigated by the amount of working capital available. 

Consolidated (‘group’) accounts 

Accounting statements where the accounts of a holding organisation and all its subsidiaries are amalgamated into one, as though it were a single entity. 


Money set aside in a budget or cost-plan to meet the cost of unforeseen items/eventualities. 

A list of the elements of the project identifying the costs associated with each. 

A person or organisation to whom money is owed and (in the balance sheet) the total of such sums. 

Current assets 

Either cash or things convertible into cash within a short period of time, such as short-term investments, trading stocks and debtors. 

Current expenditure 

Spending on day-to-day items such as payroll, purchase of goods and services, rent and maintenance of assets. 

Current liabilities 

Amounts of money owed by the organisation that are due to be paid in the near future, normally within a year – including creditors and bank overdrafts. 

An individual or organisation owing money and (in the balance sheet) the total money owed in this way. 

Your organisation would be in deficit if its spending was more than its income in any accounting period. 


The permanent loss of value to an asset from whatever cause; or writing-off the value of fixed assets over their useful life. All tangible assets have to be depreciated. 

Fixed asset 

A valuable item of lasting value and not used up for operating purposes in a single annual 

accounting period: includes land, buildings, machinery and vehicles 

Full cost recovery 

Full cost recovery enables voluntary sector organisations to recover their organisational overheads, which are shared among their different projects. 

Income and expenditure account 

A statement showing what surplus or deficit has been made over an accounting period by a non-profit-making organisation, and how it has been applied. In the case of commercial companies called a profit and loss account. In annual accounts usually subsumed within the statement of financial activities. 

Intangible asset 

An asset that does not have a physical appearance (e.g. the goodwill associated with a business; investments). 


The organisation’s financial obligations to other parties. 

Net assets 

The difference between fixed and current assets and total liabilities. If liabilities exceed assets, there are net liabilities. 

Net current assets 

The difference between current assets and current liabilities. If the latter exceed the former, these are net current liabilities. 

Payments in advance 

Sums paid out of a current year’s income for the benefit of a future year. It is a current asset. 


Income received in advance of it being due, and for which services will be performed in a later accounting period. It is a current liability. 

Project progress chart 

Sometimes called a Gantt chart, this is used to illustrate, in bar-chart form, information on the progress of a project. It shows the duration and start dates of all the elements of a project. 

Part of an organisation’s capital, consisting of accumulated surpluses (Balances), surplus values created by revaluing assets, restricted funds, and sums set aside for specific purposes. 

Restricted funds 

Funds where donors have specified how the resources should be used and where the organisation does not have the power to vary those wishes. Includes Endowment Funds. 

Statement of financial activities 

A single accounting statement which analyses all capital and income resources and expenditures, and contains a reconciliation of all movements in the charity's funds, identifying income received for specific purposes. 

Items held for conversion to cash at a later date, including materials, finished goods, components, bought-in parts and work in progress. Included in current assets. 

Your organisation would be in surplus if its income was more than its expenditure in any accounting period. 

Tangible assets 

Assets that have a physical identity. 

Revenues from the sale of good or services, usually after deducting value added tax, trade discounts and goods returned. In public authorities it is sometimes used to refer to gross revenue expenditure. 

Unrestricted funds 

These are resources that can be spent on anything that furthers the organisation’s purpose. 

Working capital 

Capital available on a day-to-day basis for the operations of the organisation – current assets less current liabilities. 

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Charity Strategy and Business Planning

Pro bono management consultancy, help with charity business planning, charity business strategy, and charity business plan template..

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Cranfield Trust provides free, tailored management consultancy support to welfare charities. 

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Advice on immediate questions and management challenges is available via Cranfield Trust On Call, our telephone advice service.

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Having a good charity business plan in place will not only help you to have a clear focus, it will position you to attract new funders, volunteers and supporters. , thinking about and aligning your charitable activities also gives you time to think about potential risks and opportunities. a well thought out business plan is vital part of building a robust and successful charity. .

Webinar: How to create a business plan for your charity

The below webinar was delivered by Cranfield Trust Volunteer Stephen Cahill, as part of the ongoing Essentials to Excellence webinar series. The style of the webinar is a mix of presenter input and lively case studies with as much input as possible. You will leave the session equipped with simple practical steps you can take to translate your thoughts into action quickly.

You will learn how to:

  • Be successful at business planning – what has changed forever and why you need to revisit your business planning approach.
  • Make your business plan robust and avoid being ‘blindsided’.
  • Use your business plan as a focus for funders.
  • Do business planning with half the effort for twice the result!

Stephen Cahill Bio: 

Stephen Cahill BSc MPA (Warwick) is a semi-retired executive with extensive senior experience across the public, private and charity sectors. He has over 30 years of experience in helping organisations improve their governance, strategy, and operations. He specialises in helping organisations to achieve rapid results by focusing on,"the things that really matter".  He has been an active Cranfield Trust volunteer for nearly a decade.

Reworking your strategy

Six steps to reworking your charity’s strategy in the ‘new normal’ by Cranfield Trust Volunteer, Stephen Cahill. 

Build your charity business plan

Questions to ask to help you build your charity's business plan.

Business Planning - questions to build your plan

Charity business plan template

A template for a straightforward business plan, in Word and PDF versions.

Word template for three year business plan

PDF template for three year business plan

LEAN Management

In reviewing your activities and writing your business plan you may wish to consider your processes to ensure that they are efficient and contributing to a high quality of activity.  This article on LEAN management provides some guidance.

Introduction to Lean

Is merger right for your charity?

Volunteer Matthew Wilkley, Director of Income Generation at Independent Age, considers merger as a strategic option, with particular reference to fundraising.

Blog: To merge or not to merge

Related free charity resource library

Charity digital, charity set up and structure, fundraising, gdpr & data protection.

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Charity Commission Business Plan 2021 to 2022

The Charity Commission

Updated 14 December 2021

Applies to England and Wales

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© Crown copyright 2021

This publication is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated. To view this licence, visit or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: [email protected] .

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This publication is available at


The Charity Commission’s clear purpose is to ensure that charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society.

In 2020-21, we set ourselves two overarching areas of focus: being open for business and becoming a better, more professional organisation. The global health emergency has presented unprecedented challenges for us as a regulator and as an employer, requiring us to set a third priority of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 has only served to emphasise the importance of our work to secure the bond between the public and charities and support the resilience of the sector.

Despite the uncertainty and disruption the pandemic has brought, the aims and ambitions set out in our 2020-21 business plan remained highly relevant. We stayed ‘open for business’ in the most trying of circumstances, both for us and for charities, ensuring they got the help and support they needed to continue to operate. We continued our programme of change, becoming a more effective and efficient regulator. We invested in new approaches to data and intelligence to support evidence-based regulatory and operational decisions. Alongside more robust and proactive enforcement, and calling out poor practice where we saw it, we also delivered improvements in our guidance and engagement with the vast majority of charities and trustees who are trying to do the right thing. We established more professional internal support functions so that we are better equipped to deliver on behalf of the public.

We are now part-way through our investment in being a better, smarter, more targeted, and sure-footed regulator. We have made significant progress against our five-year strategy, but there is more we need to do.

Our Strategic Objectives

To achieve our strategy, we set 5 strategic objectives which were based on what success would look like to the public we serve; recognising that the public is not homogenous, but made up of groups of people with different attitudes and backgrounds.

For each of the strategic objectives we set an ambitious vision, set out in the following statements.

Holding charities to account

The charity sector is more respectful of, responsive to and in tune with public expectations because they are living up to their purpose and values, behaving with integrity and using their resources responsibly.

Dealing with wrongdoing and harm

Charities are better able to show they can be trusted and are better able to apply their know-how, because we are better at detecting, deterring and preventing wrongdoing and harm, and charities are better informed and more effective at protecting themselves.

Informing public choice

People have greater confidence that charities are making a real difference, including those who stand up for the most vulnerable in society, because they have easier access to the knowledge and understanding they need to be able to trust the charities they support.

Giving charities the understanding and tools they need

Charities are better able to make a real difference and help more people join together and contribute to their local communities, because there is increased professionalism in trusteeship which allows charities to innovate safely within the framework of charity law.

Keeping charity relevant

Charities are maximising the benefits they bring to society, because they continue to evolve and grow, demonstrating to everyone that charity is sustainable, resilient, influential and credible.

As we have identified our priorities for the year ahead, we have made sure that we have linked them back to our strategic objectives, demonstrating how what we are doing in year three, intrinsically links back to our 5-year journey.

Our Priorities for year 3

In year 3, we will continue to help charities to meet public expectations in the way they do their work, and to support them to maximise their impact in society. We will further promote the public interest by holding charities to account and supporting them to be more effective. Finally, we want to help ensure that the sector is resilient and able to play its part as the country recovers from the impact of the pandemic.

We will build on what we have achieved so far to cover more ground and increase our reach, not by growing in size as a regulator, but by amplifying our impact – enabling us to fulfil our purpose and be the effective, sure-footed regulator that the public deserve and that charities need. We will begin to reshape our relationship with trustees so that we reach more trustees directly, helping to ensure they are equipped to run their charities effectively, releasing greater impact to society. We will also reach more of the public, so that they know we are regulating with their interests front and centre, including by holding those who do wrong to account.

These priorities are set within the context of the strategic shifts we need to make to achieve our strategy, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Priority one: We will help charity to deliver impact, as the country recovers from the pandemic

To help charities deliver impact that supports the country in its recovery from the pandemic, we need to improve our services to trustees and build stronger relationships with them. We will improve the channels that people use to contact us and to receive help and support. Whether members of the public, existing trustees or those looking to establish charities, we will aim to ensure that everyone who wants to speak to us, through any channel, receives a timely and effective response that answers their query first time.

Over the next year, we will develop a programme of work to engage trustees on a one to one basis to support their compliance with legal requirements. We will also reach out to trustees through sustained and targeted campaigns with messages that help them to understand their responsibilities and engaging them with our improving suite of accessible guidance.

We will automate our processes, where possible, making information more easily accessible and processes smoother, freeing up capacity for more proactive work. We will promote accurate and prompt submissions of annual returns, ensuring the register is up-to-date and helps the public make informed choices about which charities to support.


  • design and deliver the initial phase of a trustee portal, as the first step in building a more one to one relationship with trustees
  • complete the discovery phase for a digital-first Registration system and explore opportunities for further automation in other processes
  • develop an action plan to improve charities’ compliance in submitting statutory returns, including managing the extensions granted to charities in 2020-21 due to COVID-19
  • redesign more of our guidance and deliver a programme of trustee-facing campaigns on key areas of charity governance

Priority two: We will continue to deliver a step change in our robust approach to regulation

We will continue to put the public interest front and centre of our approach to regulating charities. We will strengthen our robust approach, being clear where things have gone wrong and why it matters. We will increase the amount of wrongdoing we uncover proactively, developing our increasingly sophisticated approach to intelligence gathering and data analysis. We will continue to make it more straightforward for the public or people working in charities to raise concerns with us, and we will continue to treat every complaint seriously and sensitively.

Alongside this we will continue to build the skills of our staff to ensure they feel confident in delivering casework, helping them to be purpose-driven, achieving outcomes swiftly and robustly, and ensuring that they have the systems and tools that enable them to identify and tackle harm.

We will also begin preparations for an expanded Register, working with the Church of England to pilot and manage the receipt of applications from cathedrals applying for charitable status and then up to 35,000 excepted church charities over the next decade.

  • set up a training academy to improve the skills, knowledge and capability of our caseworkers
  • deliver an action plan to embed our Casework Quality Assurance Framework
  • support the passage of the Law Commission Bill through Parliament and prepare for its implementation
  • strengthen our legal team’s capability to respond to challenge as well as developments in the regulatory landscape
  • start to register Cathedrals and set out our plan for the registration of Churches

Priority three: We will improve how we use data

Over the year ahead, we will significantly improve our approach to data. We will begin a fundamental review of the data we collect from the sector through statutory returns, such as the Annual Return, Register Particulars, and the Charities Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP).

We will improve how we use that data and intelligence to inform our work, helping us to identify and address the issues and risks that emerge more proactively. We will deliver further improvements to our Register of Charities.

We will explore how transparency of key metrics and improved reporting of charity impact can contribute to better informed public choices and better, more accountable charities. This will be supported by communications campaigns to help the public engage with information about charities when deciding which to support.

We will deliver the next stages in our data and intelligence strategies and further build our systems and processes in support of them.

  • review the framework for data collection from charities including Annual Return (Financial Year 2023), SORP and Register Particulars
  • improve how we use our information and data as intelligence in our casework and decision-making
  • deliver further improvements to the Register, informed by our policy framework for transparency and accountability

Priority four: We will create the right environment to enable our people to be more effective and to help make the Commission a great place to work

This year we will set out a clear vision for the future of our workforce – how and where we work, how we support and develop our people, and what we want the culture and ethos of the Commission to be. We will learn from our experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, and from best practice, in making the Charity Commission a great place to work.

We will support the development our people, continuing to deliver our people strategy and working to ensure that every employee feels engaged and has the skills and tools they need to do their job well. We will improve how we engage and communicate with our staff, making use of all the channels available to us.

Building on how we have successfully responded to the challenges thrown at us by COVID-19, we will be a prepared and resilient organisation able to manage internal and external shocks more effectively. We will further improve our IT systems in line with our roadmap.

  • set out what our future workforce will look like; where and how it will work; and the cultural ethos we seek to promote
  • deliver a set of initiatives that support the enhanced wellbeing and engagement of our people
  • implement a new back-office business system
  • complete the rollout of our internal risk management framework
  • make a strong Comprehensive Spending Review submission to H.M. Treasury

Tracking our performance

We will report performance against our Business Plan in our Annual Report for that financial year. We will also continue to track our performance against our Strategic Impact Measures and Customer Service Standards, to ensure the public can see how, each year, the Commission is meeting its strategic and operational objectives.

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