Business planning guidance for arts and cultural organisations

Business planning guidance for arts and cultural organisations


A guide that helps you write the best business plan you can.  Based on preparing a plan that collates and clarifies your business model(s); is clear, coherent and realistic; has ambition and is attractive to stakeholders, funders and investors. Written by Dawn Langley and Susan J. Royce.



The purpose of this guidance is simple – to help you write the best business plan you can. It is based on preparing a business plan that:

  • collates and clarifies your business model(s)
  • is clear, coherent and realistic
  • has an appropriate level of ambition
  • is attractive to stakeholders, funders and investors

What has shaped this guidance?

In developing this guidance we have drawn on three main sources of inspiration and evidence:
• our own experience of working with clients in the sector developing and implementing business plans
• the wide range of available popular and academic literature on business planning for both the non-profit sector and organisations more generally – some key examples are listed in Appendix A
• feedback from Arts Council England and other funders on their experiences of assessing business plans for potential funding


The world in which arts and cultural organisations operate is changing rapidly and in uncertain ways. Reductions in public funding, new models of funding such as commissioning, shifting policy priorities, localism and now Brexit are all transforming the funding landscape. The adoption of new technologies is remaking old industries and creating new ones.

We cannot control or predict the future but in trying to understand and plan for it organisations can help to shape that future and ensure that they remain relevant and therefore successful.

Who is this guidance for?

This guidance is for anyone who is involved in developing a business plan for a non-profit arts or cultural organisation, which includes micro organisations, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and large scale organisations. It is therefore designed to cover a wide range of organisations with a breathtaking diversity of purposes and activity. The underlying principles of business
planning remain the same whatever the focus of your organisation but you may have to adapt elements to your particular needs.

he guidance has not been written as an application ‘template’ that current or potential Arts Council-funded organisations should follow slavishly. It draws on good practice and you are encouraged to apply it appropriately. While the most common constitutional form will be that of registered charity and Company Limited by Guarantee, it is not assumed that this is the only
model. The guidance therefore uses the terms ‘organisation’ and ‘business’, ‘board’ and ‘governing body’ interchangeably.

Who has produced this guidance?

The guidance has been produced by Dawn Langley (Alchemy Research & Consultancy) and Susan Royce who are both consultants in the creative and cultural sector. The guidance was commissioned by Arts Council England and is designed to provide independent advice and support.

Commissioned by Arts Council England

Download Business Planning Guidance in full (PDF)

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Business Planning
Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2022