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Understanding your program's market demand takes research. As you continue to revise and refine your program business plan—particularly the market demand section—these resources can prove helpful.

As a refresher, market demand is "The aggregate of the demands of all potential customers (market participants) for a specific product over a specific period in a specific market" (Business Dictionary). In other words, who may come to your events, read your publications, or visit your website in the next year?

5 recommended resources
  1. Census data: particularly useful for demographic information.
  2. Industry reports and market research reports: find details on a particular industry.
  3. Major polling sources: get an idea of public opinion by looking at sources such as Pew Research Center.
  4. Business Plans Handbook (available in print or online): see examples of actual business plans from small businesses.
  5. If you would like research assistance, don't hesitate to contact Extension's librarian, Kristen Mastel.

Don't forget you can conduct a needs assessment through surveys, focus groups, or an advisory committee.

What is the demand currently for the product? How is it changing? Do you see more dramatic changes in the future? Can you take advantage of these?

- Betsy Wieland, Center program manager and Kristen Mastel, Extension librarian

I was recently asked if program business plans can be used in plans of work. The short answer is--absolutely! This is an example of how program business plans can save you time. In your program business plans, you listed the activities and deliverables of your program. You can transfer those deliverables that you will continue in 2014 right into your plan of work.

Center staff has offered feedback on those business plans. You can include goals to improve your programming efforts in your plan of work. For example, if your program team wants to enhance evaluation efforts, you could incorporate that goal in your plan of work. Spoiler alert: you could also consider that work in leadership of program management as one of your strong areas for annual review and promotion documentation.

-Betsy Wieland, Center program manager

Program business plans: next steps

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Thank you all for attending our panel session on Program Business Plans last Wednesday afternoon at Program Conference! Hearing your feedback was very useful, and we are working on figuring out how we can best share your program business plans within the Center. This way, one program can learn from another program. Also, please feel free to let me know other suggestions for ways to improve the program business planning process.


Program business plan panel
(left to right) Dianne Sivald, grants manager; Tom Rothman, director of ag stakeholder outreach; Jeff Reneau, program leader; Sam Bauer, educator; Susanne Hinrichs, regional director; and moderator Whitney Meredith, evaluation specialist.

I hope you left the panel thinking about how your program business plans are not an assignment, but a tool that can be used for multiple purposes.

In fact, one way they can be used is to help you identify the data you need for the Federal Report, which is not that far away. All programs need to report their outputs and outcomes.

Outputs are what you include in your deliverable section. These are the things you count for the Federal Report. For example, you may have three workshops that train 50 people.

Outcomes are what you identify in your expected results section and results measurement section. They are what you hope your participants will do as a result of your program, such as increase their knowledge (learning gains) or implement best management practices (behavior changes). These are things you measure in your program evaluation.


If you have done a thorough job in these sections in your program business plan, collecting the data and turning it in for the Federal Report should be relatively easy. Please let me know if you have any questions!

-Whitney Meredith, evaluation

September incentive winners

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Thank you to the program teams that have turned in their program business plans. From among the plans we received by September 1, we randomly selected three to receive the $250 incentive. The teams are:

  • Agroforestry and Bioenergy

  • Farm Business Management

  • Swine


For those teams that did not win, your team could receive $250 if part of your plan is used as an example in AgPlan. Learn more about incentives here.

Program business plans due by Program Conference

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Please submit your program business plans to Mike Schmitt ( or Whitney Meredith ( by Program Conference, October 7-9, 2013. Since Program Conference last October, you have been hearing about the importance of program business plans. Excellent progress has been made in all the areas of our Center. Your investment of time and energy will pay dividends in programmatic value. Thank you for taking this important step.

Your program team may have discussed whether the plan should be written for one year, two years, or even five years. How often should it be updated?

You can ultimately determine the timeframe of your program business plan. While getting started, we recommend keeping the plan to one or two years. After using your plan for a year or two, you may find that writing a five-year plan is appropriate for your program.

You should be constantly referring back to your plan and update as appropriate. A formal update on at least an annual basis is a good practice.

-Whitney Meredith, evaluation

The executive summary is one of the most valuable portions of your program business plan--and the finished product is as valuable as the writing process. Because it is brief, it pushes each program team to describe what you do succinctly. It's an exercise in prioritizing. The finished product can be infinitely helpful in communicating what you do to ourselves, our audiences, and our authorizers.

  • It helps to write the summary last, when your plan is nearly finished.

  • Sit down with your plan and a highlighter. Find phrases that support your core goals and strategies, and pull those into your summary.

  • Include who, what, when, where, why, and how.

  • Keep it as a true summary and focused on the big picture.

  • Run it by someone with little or no background knowledge of your program to see if they understand what you do based only on the executive summary.

-Maggie Frazier, editor

Q & A Webinar this Wednesday

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You're invited! On Wednesday, June 5 from 2 to 3 p.m., join Mike Schmitt and Kevin Klair for an informational session on program business plans via UMConnect. The Q & A Webinar will have a very brief presentation and the remainder of the time will be open for you to ask questions. All questions are welcome! To join the webinar, simply go to the following link and sign in using your UMN ID and password on June 5 at 2 p.m.:

A closer look at market demand

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What kind of demand exists for your program? Are there enough "buyers" for what you're "selling"? Market demand is participation in your program in a set time period. Evaluating market demand goes hand in hand with identifying your target audience--both are important components of your program business plan.

When you know your audience, look at data to establish the level and frequency of demand for your program's products (events, newsletter, etc.). Analyze your market through focus groups, interviews, and/or surveys. City Data (includes areas far beyond cities) is a good place to start gathering data for determining your market demand.

-Maggie Frazier, editor

Program business plan incentives

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Program teams who turn in their program business plans early have a chance to win discretionary programming dollars. Incentives will also be awarded to those teams whose program business plans are used as examples in the AgPlan tool.

Award Quantity awarded Awarded to program team based on...
$1,000 2 Random drawing from among program business plans we receive by July 1.
$600 2 Random drawing from among program business plans we receive by August 1.
$250 3 Random drawing from among program business plans we receive by September 1.
$250 multiple Our Center seeks great examples of program business plans to share with other program teams. If we use part of your plan as an example in the AgPlan tool, your team receives this incentive.

Effective branding, marketing, and communications require a rich understanding of audiences backed up with data whenever possible. The following steps will get you on your way to developing your target audience profiles for your program business plan.

  1. Assemble historical demographic data you have on file from evaluations.
  2. Supplement with new data, which you can gather yourself or look to secondary resources. Pay particular attention to gathering demographics and psychographics. Here are a few places we recommend:
  • City Data (you can search by county)
  • Mapping America, New York Times
  • American fact finder
  • Also, think of people you've known and met in your target audience. Anecdotal references help us understand our audiences, which is particularly useful for gathering psychographics
  1. Consider trends. Demographics are changing all over the US. For an overview of projections, see "Demographic changes in Minnesota" by Susan Brower, State Demographer.
  2. Imagine ideal audiences. Your current audience is not necessarily your target audience. Consider the characteristics of who, within reason, your perfect audience would be.
  3. Pull it all together. Compare and contrast. Challenge your assumptions. Based on commonalities and groupings, establish audience groupings (two to four). Give each audience grouping a name so your program team can refer to them internally. For example: Beginner Livestock Producer, Turf Care Crew, Curious Home Gardener, Farmland Owner, Woodland Steward, etc.
  4. Divide these groupings into percentages that are relevant to you (percentage of revenue, attendance quantity, etc.). For example: Audience Name 1 (primary audience): 75%, Audience Name 2 (secondary audience): 15%, Audience Name 3 (secondary audience): 10%. For each audience name, list relevant demographics and psychographics found in research.
  5. Get feedback from your whole team. Compare notes with other, similar program teams. Gathering different perspectives will help solidify your grasp of target audiences.
-Maggie Frazier, editor

Google Groups, set up as a discussion board, can be a great way to collaborate on your program business plan. To get set-up with a Google Groups account for your program team, contact IT. Be sure to request the WEB FORUM version of Google Groups.

For best results, the admin/manager of Google Groups for your team should set the email settings to ABRIDGED for all team members. (To set this up the admin/manager should go into the Group. Click "Manage." Check the boxes next to all members of the group. Click "Actions" and then "Change delivery settings." Click "Abridged.")

For smaller groups (10 or fewer), try Google Hangouts. Conference calls may also play a role.

Once you are further along in the process, the AgPlan tool also allows for "reviewers" who can comment and/or edit your plan. These can be members of your program team and/or administration. Learn how to set up and communicate with a reviewer here. (You have to be logged in to AgPlan to access this information.)

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