Planning for Success - a guide to planning your community-based project

Table of Contents

Preparing to set sail
Charting the course

For more information


About ACOA

To this end, ACOA works with Atlantic Canadians to promote and strengthen local resources, foster partnerships and enhance community capacity to: create sustainable jobs; increase the availability of business capital; strengthen strategic planning; and encourage community participation and ownership relative to community economic development activities.

Commitment to sustainable development

ACOA is committed to protecting the environment of this region by promoting sustainable businesses and communities in Atlantic Canada.

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
P.O. Box 6051
Moncton, New Brunswick
E1C 9J8

Telephone: 1-800-561-7862
Fax: 1-506-851-7403

ISBN Number: 978-1-100-22098-7
Catalogue Number: AC5-22/2013E-PDF
ACOA: 2013-08



What is community development?

In economic development, community is defined as a geographic location, an industry sector or group of businesses or individuals of common interest.

Community development is defined as the planned evolution of all aspects of community well-being (economic, social, environmental and cultural). It is a process whereby community members come together to collectively generate solutions to common problems or take advantage of opportunities that will benefit the whole.

The scope of community development can vary from small initiatives within a small group, to large initiatives that involve the whole community. Regardless of the scope of the activity, effective community development should be: 

How to use this guide

This guide is designed to provide your community group with tips on how to move from a community idea to a community success. It will cover two key stages of community project planning:

1. “Preparing to set sail” will cover what should be done before you start to write your plan. This includes researching the issue or opportunity and the potential benefits and impact (i.e., what support is available and who should be at the table).

2. “Charting the course” will cover what should be included in your plan once all the preparation work, research and networking is complete. The plan is a practical tool that prospective funders will use to judge the potential of your idea and to engage the community. Your success in attracting funding support will depend greatly on your ability to provide a clear picture of your proposed activity.

Good luck with your project!


Preparing to set sail

Planning ahead. Before you start to write your plan, ask yourself the following questions:

Where are we going?

Looking at the map

At the initial stages of an idea it is critical to research the issue or opportunity in detail to ensure a clear understanding of where it is you want to go.

Why do we want to go there?

X marks the spot

It is important to identify why you want to go in a certain direction. This will assist you in evaluating the feasibility and value of the issue or opportunity, and in ensuring the objectives of your project are clear and consistent.

Who should be on board?

Building the right crew

It is crucial to have the right people at the table to best complement and advance your objectives. Consider who you should be consulting with to help further refine your project (e.g., community organizations, potential users, businesses, community sponsors, and advocates). In addition, you should consider not only who will be needed to develop and implement the project, but also who will support its ongoing operations (e.g., municipalities, associations, charity organizations, etc.).

Who can provide funding?

Finding a program that fits

Focus on and target potential funding agencies that are best positioned and most appropriate to your idea. You may also wish to contact the ACOA office nearest you to discuss your idea with a Program Officer and obtain direction and information on funding programs (see contact information at the back of this guide for the ACOA office nearest you). Consult potential funding organizations in advance to make sure your idea is a “fit” with their programs.


Charting the course

You are now ready to take the next step in the journey of transforming your community idea into a community success: writing your plan. The following provides insight on the four key elements of a well-written plan:

1. Description:

The project team and the project objectives, including all community partnerships and support for the project;

2. Dates:

The project start date and end date, as well as all steps to be taken and their estimated timelines;

3. Deliverables:

The project deliverables (outputs) and ultimate impact (outcomes); and

4. Resources:

The human and financial resources (inputs) required and where those resources will come from.

Written successfully, your plan will answer the following questions clearly and concisely:

1. Description

Project description

Describe your project in two or three paragraphs. Make sure that someone not familiar with the project can understand what is being proposed.

Objectives and activity

Outline your project objectives and explain how they:

Organization and governance

Include specific details about your group or organization, such as:

Depending on the length of the documentation, consider including some of the above in appendices rather than in the body of your plan.

In the case of capital projects (i.e., projects involving land, buildings, and assets), you should identify any potential issues related to environmental regulation requirements as well as who owns the land, building or asset(s), and specify whether leases are in place or will be required.

Project management

Demonstrate that the members of the project team have the necessary qualifications and experience to carry out the work. Include details such as:



Does your project involve more than one targeted community (i.e., industry sector/geographic location/community of interest)? If so, specify the type of groups and the industry sectors, including:

Can future partnerships with community groups be established? Include written confirmation related to anticipated support from relevant community-based organizations.

2. Dates


Outline the proposed project activities and their estimated completion dates. Include:

3. Deliverables

Reporting economic impact and results

How will your project make a difference? Describe the lasting economic impact your project will bring, particularly as it relates to the original issue or opportunity you seek to address.

Explain how your project will contribute to a viable and more diversified community.

When preparing your plan, be sure it addresses the following questions:


Think about your project in a holistic way. Consider its potential impact in terms of the economy, the environment, society, and culture – the four key elements of sustainable community development.

In the previous sections, you have already detailed how your project will improve the economic health of your community. Now identify how your project will impact the environmental, social, and cultural integrity of your community.

4. Resources

Project costs and financing

Detail the anticipated project costs and how those costs will be supported. Be sure to include:

Bridge financing capacity (if required).


Provide details of the future viability of the completed project by indicating how the initiative will be financed after completion. Include cash flow projections beyond the implementation stage (e.g., three-year cash flow). Also, indicate who will maintain the project. Remember that a project that requires ongoing long-term support from external sources is considered less “viable” over the long term. Your project should ultimately pay for itself and long-term viability of the project must be clearly demonstrated.

Final tips and tricks

Keep in mind that the supply of funding for community initiatives is often outweighed by demand. Also, remember that an assessment will be made of the strength of the plan and the benefits of the project to the community/communities. Given today’s competitive and demanding environment, community groups should ensure their proposals provide:

For more information

Contact the ACOA office nearest you:

New Brunswick: 1-800-561-4030
Prince Edward Island: 1-800-871-2596
Newfoundland and Labrador: 1-800-668-1010
Nova Scotia: 1-800-565-1228

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