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Social Enterprise Business Plan: Templates and Examples

7 August 2021

A social enterprise is an organisation that exists to address a social need. Think of it as a cross between a business and a charity. Like a business, a social enterprise sells products or services in exchange for cash. But like a charity, instead of using these profits to enrich shareholders, a social enterprise will instead channel them into schemes to help them achieve their social objectives.

How does a social enterprise work? There’s more than one way to run this type of organisation. For more information, read our complete guide to the various different social enterprise business models.

If you’ve got an idea for a social enterprise, you can also read our step-by-step guide to setting one up.

To get your social enterprise off the ground, you’ll need a source of funding. There are many grants and opportunities out there, and we have a guide to finding grants that works for you.

Do I Need a Business Plan for a Social Enterprise?

For your social enterprise funding applications to be successful, you’ll need a social enterprise business plan. In this post, we’ll explain what a business plan is, and link you to numerous templates that’ll help you put a solid plan together for your big idea.

What is a Social Enterprise Business Plan?

Your social enterprise business plan essentially outlines:

  • Who you are,
  • What you want to achieve,
  • How you plan on achieving this,
  • How you plan on funding this,
  • And how you intend to measure your success.

Let’s explore the various sections you’ll need to include in your business plan, and the sort of information you’ll have to include.

How to Write a Social Enterprise Business Plan

1. Executive Summary

This is where you outline, as succinctly as possible, who you are and what you want to do. It’s a proof of concept, something potential investors can skim over to get a good idea of your goals before they delve into the details.

Although your executive summary should open your social enterprise business plan, it’s a good idea to write it last, when you’ll have a better understanding of the market, your competitors, and other aspects of your plan.

The executive summary should include:

  • A brief overview of the industry or sector you wish to enter, and of the problem you wish to address.
  • A description of your organisation, and of your business concept.
  • Your value proposition – why should people work with you, rather than your competitors?
  • Key success factors – how will you measure your impact?
  • A brief look at your finances – how much do you think you’ll make, and what sort of capital will you need upfront?

2. Your Mission Statement

This is where you expand upon the overview you gave in your executive summary.

Talk about the problem you want to address, and how you want to address it. Your focus is upon detailing how aligned your organisation will be with your mission. As we explored when we discussed the different type of social enterprise business models, some social enterprises help their beneficiaries directly, while others have a less direct relationship.

For example, The Big Issue exists to help the homeless, and they help them directly through paying them to distribute their magazines. The Big Issue are therefore directly aligned with their mission: Their business operations support their goals, and vice versa.

But on the other hand, consider TOMS Shoes, a social enterprise that exists to donate shoes to children in developing countries. To fund this enterprise, they sell shoes to customers in developed countries. And for every pair of shoes they sell, they donate another pair to their beneficiaries.

So when explaining your mission statement, take the time to explain how aligned your social enterprise will be with your goals.

3. Your Business Structure and Operations

This might prove to be the longest section of your social enterprise business plan. Detail how your social enterprise is structured, with a list of all the roles that will exist in your business, and the key responsibilities of each one.

This will demonstrate that you know what you’re doing, and that you’ll make good use of your resources. If you’re applying for funding, outlining your business structure might also help you justify your capital requirements. All the people you need to achieve your goals will need paying, of course!

In terms of your wider operations, you need to explain how you’ll deliver your core products and services, and how you’ll support your beneficiaries. So beyond your management structure and staffing plan, think about your supply chain, your material costs, and your provisions for customer services and support. You can also talk about the facilities you’ll need, along with any specialist equipment, all while accounting for future growth and improvements.

4. Market Analysis and Competitor Analysis

Who are your target customers, and how do you intend to meet their needs? And who are your main competitors, and how will your products or services stand out from the competition?

This section of your social enterprise business plan might include at least one SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for “Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat.” So consider any recent or emerging changes in your sector or industry, as well as any unmet needs that you intend to provide.

5. Products and Services

What specific products and services do you intend to sell? Who’s the target customer for each, and what sort of market demands will each one meet?

There’s no need to talk about specifics at this stage, such as pricing and the supply chain. But you could talk about any future products or services you wish to provide, and how these will be aligned with your goals.

6. Marketing and Sales

How will you reach your target market? How will you convert any prospects into paying customers, and how might these paying customers become loyal, repeat customers?

At this point you’ll have already outlined your social enterprise’s business structure, and the various roles that will exist within your organisation. You’ll have also outlined the key responsibilities of each role. So readers at this point might already be aware that you’ll have a dedicated marketing professional on your payroll, and of the key duties you’ll expect them to perform.

But this section of your social enterprise business plan will allow you to go into specifics about your marketing plan. Which products will you launch first, and how will you introduce them to the market? Which channels will you use, and what sort of messages will you put out on them? Are there any special events, or awareness days, that you can use to spread your word and kindle interest in your products, services and cause?

At this stage you can also include a brief sales forecast. Taking into account all of your expenses, and the various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the market, how much do you expect to make in your first year of business? And given your plans and your projected growth, how much do you expect to make in your second, third, fourth and fifth years of business?

7. Measuring Your Success

An ordinary business can measure its success by its bottom line. If the profits are on the rise, then the shareholders are happy, and thus everyone’s happy.

But a social enterprise is no ordinary business. Profits matter, of course. But to remain compliant, you’ll also have to demonstrate how you’re meeting your social goals. So how will you measure success?

For TOMS Shoes, who we mentioned earlier, measuring success must be easy. For every pair of shoes they sell, they donate another pair to a child in a developing country. So they can measure their success by simply counting the number of shoes they sell and, as such, the number they’ve been able to donate.

Similarly, Baron Fig is a social enterprise that sells notebooks, and for each notebook they sell, they plant a tree. They can count the number of notebooks they’ve sold to measure their profits, and count the number of trees they’ve planted to measure their social impact.

Some social enterprises operate as social firms, providing employment opportunities to people who might not otherwise find work. A good example of this is the Big Issue, who we mentioned above. Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant is another example. They trained homeless people, ex-offenders, disadvantaged youth and others to work as chefs in their restaurant.

How might Fifteen Restaurant have measured success? On one level, just like any other restaurant – through assessing profit margins and customer satisfaction scores. But the Fifteen Restaurant could also consider every person they employed as a person who might otherwise have been in prison, on the streets, or otherwise struggling. So every person in full or part-time employment for Fifteen Restaurant could be considered a measure of success.

So what’s your social enterprise’s goal, and how will you know that you’re working towards achieving it? This part of your social enterprise business plan is essentially your opportunity to make it clear that your idea has potential.

8. Financial Considerations

Finally, the numbers. For at least the first three years of your operations, outline your revenue projections and your key expenses. This is also where you can outline your start-up costs. How much will you need to get everything off the ground, from staffing, to facilities, to production, to sales and marketing?

Talk about your intended sources of funding, and include a cash flow projection.

Remember: The more accurate you are about your expenses, and the more realistic you are about your revenue projections, then the more likely potential investors are to take your business plan seriously, and invest.

Social Enterprise Business Plan Templates

Many places online provide free social enterprise business plan templates. Not all of these follow the structure we’ve suggested above, and some of them are from the US, where there’s different legislation for social enterprises than in the UK. Nonetheless, by following our guide and any one of these templates, you should be able to put a social enterprise business plan together that will tick every box:

Additional Support for Social Enterprises

If you’re setting up a social enterprise, writing your business plan should make it clear just how risky this business can be.

So to help you manage the risks, Worcester-based Hazelton Mountford offer specialist social enterprise insurance. It will cover your unique requirements as a not-for-profit business, ensuring you can support your cause with total peace of mind.