Management and Board Structure

Even if you plan to start your operation working by yourself in your home, your business plan must envision and describe your support team. These could be professional consultants or unpaid helpers, ranging from volunteers you train to experts who volunteer to train you.

Strength in numbers: You not only need extra help as your operation grows, you need it while writing your business plan. Journalists used to working on tight deadlines must realize this is not a “let me just write something and get it in” situation. It requires research, analysis, contingency planning, and an understanding of how numbers work. As you are telling your story in words, you must also tell you story with numbers, and they must match your narrative.You can’t say, “By Year Three, we will have a staff of five reporters,” and project a budget of $75,000 that year. The numbers must jibe. Wealthy donors tend to evaluate the financial statements before deciding whether to read the narrative. If financial projections are not your strength, include that strength in your management and board structure.

Accountability: INN recommends that founders plan to spend in the first year half of their total resources, both time and money, on fundraising. To ensure the money is well spent, the roles, duties and responsibilities of the management team should be outlined in the business plan. No matter how small the operation, an organizational structure must exist to show funders there is accountability. A startup founder should be answerable to a board of directors. The founder may find such a board by partnering with an existing nonprofit in the community, or can assemble a group of people who have complementary skills and knowledge.

Diverse skills: It can be tempting to fill a board with prominent journalists to gain credibility with foundations. But a board of eight members should have no more than four journalists, and the other members should fill gaps in the management team’s skills. It can be valuable to recruit a lawyer, an accountant, a fundraiser, a marketer and a social media expert, because those board members (all independent of any firms paid by the operation), bring needed expertise. People with deep pockets and extensive networks can be excellent board members even if they are too busy to attend many meetings.

A business plan can tactfully state that the organization has recruited board members who are well-connected to open doors to funding, or can identify board members as philanthropists who have a passion for civic engagement. A news site devoted to education should have educators on the board. If a board member brings expertise or community connections that are important to the mission but not obvious from the person’s name or job title, make it clear.

RESOURCES: America’s Small Business Development Centers, an association offering no-cost business consulting and low-cost business training
The Service Corps of Retired Executives