How to Use LivePlan for Your Nonprofit Business Plan

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Are you starting or running a nonprofit?

Whether you’re using LivePlan already or doing some research on what software is right for your organization, it’s natural that you’ll have some questions about how LivePlan might be able to serve your needs.

At Palo Alto Software, we strive to connect with as many entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, and small business owners as possible, and we know that for a lot of you, that will mean at some point in your career you’ll need to create a nonprofit business or strategic plan. We’re here to help.

Nonprofits need good business planning as much—and sometimes more than—the rest of the world.

Good business planning is about management, accountability, performance metrics, tracking, and improving over time.

Where else could all these things be more important than when you’re invested in working for a great cause? 

Let’s explore the options available in LivePlan for creating an impressive and professional business plan for a nonprofit organization.

Preparing for the future

With LivePlan, you can create the financial plan for your organization on a three to five year basis, with one, two, or three years of monthly details included.

You can revise or edit this at any time, as you need to. This includes your key financial statements, which essentially show a comprehensive perspective on when your organization has a surplus of funds that can be funneled back into program costs and administration, versus when times are leaner and an extra fundraising push might be needed.

LivePlan provides cash flow planning, a topic that is just as critical to nonprofits as it is to for-profit businesses.

You may not think of your organization as a business in need of cash flow, but the reality is that there is a base level of funding consistently required to keep the current projects running and the office doors open.

Planning for the basics and then setting your sights on future achievements will help ensure the sustainability of your venture. LivePlan lets you keep track of it all in one place, so you can keep doing what you love well into the future.

In addition to all of this, LivePlan allows you to:

1. Edit the plan outline in the software to include the chapters, sections, and titles that are most applicable for your project.

You can also remove an unwanted section or add an entirely new one.

Want to change or remove the word “Company” from the plan outline? Go right ahead, just click edit.

We currently have a nonprofit customized outline available upon request as well, if you’d like something that’s already set in place. It has an outline and instructions, already tailored to nonprofits.

For instance, the template changes the title of Profit & Loss table to Surplus & Deficit. The template includes a chapter to describe your fundraising plan, rather than sales plan, and a chapter to provide an overview of your beneficiaries, rather than the traditional for-profit market analysis.

Here’s a visual:


You can see the outline on the lefthand side.

2. Create a polished slide deck for those important meetings and presentations.

The Pitch feature of LivePlan is a great way to lay out a quick overview perspective of your organization, its financials, and who is involved in running it, including your management team or partners.

You can then export this to a file that can be opened in Powerpoint or Keynote, or publish it as a private webpage, so it’s on hand whenever you need to give a lecture or presentation.

3. Export your plan as a PDF and Word document for easy sharing.

4. Receive a 30% off discount for monthly LivePlan payments when you provide us with your nonprofit tax ID number or EIN.

Presenting to the board


A sample view from within LivePlan of revenue and expenses.

You can see above an example of how LivePlan clearly lists expenses and revenue.

This is just a sample snapshot, but as mentioned above, the titles can be changed to suit nonprofit needs. One of the biggest issues facing any nonprofit is budgeting, and having an easy way to share that budget with the board.

Printing out lengthy budgets full of individual items can be a distraction during meetings, derailing conversations with unimportant details or making it difficult to get a big picture perspective. What looks like being 30% over budget on office supplies could indicate something as basic as the purchase of a new computer monitor that month, when a typical month’s expenditures are very low by comparison.

Putting the minutiae of these numbers in front of a group often leads to confusion or drawn out discussion about small matters, but in order to solve this problem you need viable alternative that still lets key stakeholders know the numbers they need to know.

In order to keep meetings on track and give board members the information they need to make informed decisions, a higher level view of the budget is a better fit.

We know that most board members assume liability and fiscal responsibility when they accept a seat; so they have a vested interested in the oversight of the organization’s financial plan. LivePlan gives them a tool for management and oversight that is user-friendly and straightforward.

With LivePlan, you can group areas of your budget together, show expenses by month and by year, and then give the board members guest passes so they can look over the data within the software at their leisure and, if they need to, leave questions or comments.

Using the Scoreboard for financial tracking

LivePlan’s Scoreboard feature provides an opportunity to enter your detailed actual values, either manually or by syncing with your Quickbooks or Xero accounting software, and then compare them to your planned outcomes.

This is a great tool for tracking how well you anticipate doing in the future against the reality of what you’ve fundraised and spent.

The Scoreboard has many practical applications for nonprofit use, not the least of which is a clear visual of how much revenue is intended for the cause you’re serving, how much is really getting to the programs and recipients, and what amounts might be going to administrative costs or other uses. If you see how things are shaking out financially, you can make adjustments easily as you go. 

This type of data is critical to nonprofits in a world where the percentage of an organization’s money that actually goes to its programs and services is public knowledge.

Potential contributors will do their research and want to know they can trust your organization. Donors want to see where their money is going, and it’s much easier to track your numbers along the way and make corrections as needed than it is to try and revive a bad reputation for mismanaging funds.  

Are you using LivePlan to further your nonprofit success? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted in Business Plan Writing
  • Zachary Welch

    It would be great if LivePlan was available through TechSoup for NFP with revenue below a certain threshold. Smaller or startup NFPs may struggle with the $130 annual fee in the first few years, especially when operation is solely by volunteers and budgets are small. A service like this is tremendously helpful, but a nice-to-have not a need-to-have for fledgling NFPs. Something to consider.