child hiding behind their hands

Business planning and avoidance tactics

Most charities I’ve worked with over the past year on the topic of business planning (amongst other things) have asked pretty much the same question, “What should we be doing right now?”

Nobody really has all the answers to this, but…


Whatever your ‘silly season’ is, I can guarantee you’ll be in the midst of it thinking “I wish I’d planned better for this during the quieter times”.


I think for many of us, now has unexpectedly become that quieter time.

One of the main purposes for people bringing me into their business, is to develop a commercial strategy to deliver a sustainable income with the aim of becoming less reliant on voluntary funding.  I’m not convinced I’ve ever presented a business plan to a board and they’ve been shocked and surprised.

Much of the time, charities are so underfunded, under-resourced that the time required to update a strategy does often get put on the back burner.

But there is something else which often comes labelled as ‘not enough time’.


It’s when it’s a task that we just don’t want to do.



  • we don’t feel we’re skilled enough
  • we’re not convinced enough time has been allocated
  • we don’t have faith there will be adequate value from doing it
  • it won’t be deemed by others as valuable.

I’ve supported businesses where the entire product offer was developed because of one person’s limited skills.

I was told that if I look on the reports, I’ll see that the product was the biggest seller.  When I asked what else was available, I was told, “nothing, this is our best seller”.

No s*** Sherlock…

Shedding light on this situation and offering some data driven evidence helped drive the profitability of this business.


“The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place.

Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue.”

Brian Tracy – Eat the Frog


We all have those confidence bashing demons which occasionally creep in, but I think now is a good time to tell them where to go!

So… what is it that you’ve repeatedly been putting off which you’ll regret not having used this time for?


  • What is your business plan looking like?
  • How’s your website?
  • What are you proactively doing now to look at your sales pipeline?
  • What could your membership offer look like?
  • What marketing content are you producing?


Here’s a classic Stephen Covey 2×2 to which most of you will recognise.

In general, the Important/Not Urgent are the aspects of your business which will bring you the greatest long-term benefit but are more often put off because of the urgent interruptions.  These tasks typically include:

  • business planning
  • examining deeply the profitability of commercial enterprises
  • high value fundraising


That said, before you delve into another exercise, I believe you already know the task you repeatedly put off.


So, make a few calls to people who are good at this task to gain some momentum and enthusiasm.

Use this time to create the sense that you are controlling the things you can, because there’s just a little too much beyond our control right now.


“Do not wait; the time will never be “just right”.

Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”



Health Warning: Before you embark on this, just make sure you’re in the right headspace, because doing any of this, without the energy and focus it’ll require, is not going to deliver the results you need.

In this current state of flux we’re all dealing with far more than what’s in our role profile.


Tony Richardson is LarkOwl’s Commercial Development Consultant.

He can help you with setting up a new commercial venture or ensuring an existing one is as profitable as it can be. 

He also writes business plans in preparation for capital fundraising projects and supports non profit boards with planning, visioning and operational management. 


Posted in Commercial fundraising, Lifestyle, Productivity.