By Anica Oaks

Although the recent economic downtown has proven a challenge for nonprofit agencies, the need for philanthropic organizations continues to grow. The good news is that as the economy improves, charitable giving also grows. In 2015, Americans gave more than $373 billion to charity and it is expected that it will grow as high as $55 trillion by 2052.

The largest contributors to charity are those with a high net worth with over 98 percent giving money to a charitable foundation each year. Many people donate time, something just as valuable to nonprofit agencies, with over 64 million adults volunteering their time each year.

If you have a desire to help those who with limited resources who need a certain product or service, you may consider starting your own nonprofit business to address this need. These four strategies can help you create an organization that meets that need.

Understand What a Strategic Plan Is

The first step is to understand the difference between a strategic plan, operating plan, business plan and case statement. A strategic plan explains how you plan to fulfill the mission of your charitable agency. It should not only include goals, but actionable steps as well as what resources are necessary.

An operating plan outlines the tasks used to achieve the goals of the strategic plan while a business plan is focused on the actions and investment you will need. A case statement is what you will use for marketing and fundraising, describing the goals, capabilities, strengths and benefits of your nonprofit.

Have a Clear View of Your Opportunities and Challenges

It is critical that you understand the external environment that exists surrounding your nonprofit. No organization lives in a vacuum, and external factors will have an impact on the services your nonprofit will provide. Social, political and economic changes in the community will impact the demand for the product or service you will offer.

By continually monitoring changes in the community, you can adjust your program to provide services to those who need it the most. In addition, you will need to address any challenges that may exist in the community that might make it difficult for those who need your service to obtain it, such as transportation to and from your location.

Know Your Limitations

As much as you would like to control the entire process, you will have staff and volunteers who will be responsible for delivering your products or services. In addition, it is more than likely you will have a board of directors that you must answer to regularly. Community leaders, funding sources and partner agencies will also have an impact on how your organization will operate.

These factors can lead to limitations in how far you can take your nonprofit. By knowing these in advance, you can create contingency plans in order to provide continuous care and service. It is important, however, to make sure all stakeholders have a voice in the planning process.

A Review of Best Practices

One way to succeed in the creation of a nonprofit is to review the best practices of other agencies who offer similar services. Although each organization has their own mission and client base, it is possible to learn from the successes and failures of other agencies.

Whether it is advice on human capital, technology or fundraising, other nonprofit leaders with training from degree programs such as an online master’s degree in organizational leadership can provide valuable insight into your planning process. Many times, a solution that worked for another agency will work for yours as well.

These are just a few suggestions that can help you make your dream of helping others become a reality. By following some key strategic planning steps, you can create a nonprofit that will help others and improve your community.

Anica Oaks is a professional content and copywriter who graduated from the University of San Francisco. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.