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Is our plan robust?

03 January 2014

How can we make sure that our business plan for the church centre is robust, and really helps us to plan well?

A BUSINESS plan can have several important features that help your planning even before you begin detail design. Here are a few suggestions to get your started.

Make a graph that lists each of the (proposed) spaces down the left-hand side. Across the top, enter the days of the week divided into a.m., p.m., and evening. Fill in every box, showing the number of people that you know will use that room in every session of the week.

Then look at how the space could be used more economically. For example, three counselling rooms are fully used every morning - can you build one room, and use it in all three sessions, instead? You have two large meeting-rooms planned, but there are days when neither is used. Can you create one, and move the bookings around to fit the availability? Obviously, such economies will cost less in the builder's budget, but it goes further.

The cost of heating two large meeting-rooms is greater than the cost of heating one; and for either - and, at times, both - to be standing empty is adding unnecessary additional costs to your revenue budget.

When you have a workable schedule that is realistic about use, begin to examine the revenue implications. Reuse the schedule above to write in the number of hours that a space is used, and multiply it (I use a new right-hand column) to show how much income that space will bring in. You will find spaces that produce none: for instance, the broom cupboard, the admin office, and circulation spaces. When you add all the room incomes together, you can check whether this enables you to cover your costs.

In parallel with this scheduling, prepare a comprehensive list of the costs of the building. Include everything from insurance and utilities, cleaning and toilet supplies, administration and management costs, caretaking, maintenance, repairs, and a long-term building fund for major repairs. Turn this into an indicative annual budget.

Does the room income more than cover the running costs? There are two issues: first, if the income is insufficient to cover costs, review all your letting prices. Often, churches undervalue high-quality, large meeting spaces, and could often charge much more for such spaces. Similarly, churches usually assume that local groups are poorer than they are. Workable letting rates for well-run facilities are more acceptable to outside people than nominal rates for poor or unattractive spaces.

Second, especially if you have long-term users or tenants such as nursery groups, your break-even point - the point at which income exceeds expenditure - should be as low as 60 per cent of the amount that that income would reach if all spaces were used all the time.

Calculating this way allows you to cover times when, for example, a long-term user leaves; or the building is closed for a few days for repair and renewal. You will be able to build up a cushion of funds in the good times against the rainy day. Avoid the error of moving this cushion each year into the church funds, to cover its deficit.

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