Starting an Outward Bound Center
Planning Guidelines

Feasibility Study

  1. Decide on goals and purposes within the general Outward Bound mission who are you going to serve and why?
  2. Make presentations to key community organizations to assess viability and need.
  3. Organize a preparation committee with a cross-section of prominent and influential people from the business, government, education and environmental sectors (or whatever sectors seem appropriate for your particular school and territory).
  4. Decide on the initial type of program operation– residential or mobile base, year-round operational or seasonal?
  5. Get volunteer delegates to visit and survey other Outward Bound schools that operate in a similar environment and/or culture.
  6. Carry out a survey for the most desirable location with reasonable access to a major population center and to bus, rail, or airport.
  7. Identify the market and the capacity of target populations to pay tuition. What age groups, when would they be available?
  8. Assess the possibility of major companies or government sponsoring their employees.
  9. Identify funding sources and probable sustainability, such as tuition fees, corporate contributions, government support, foundation gifts, private contributions.

Provisional Licensing Planning

Setting up the Organization

  1. Seek consultant support from OBI resources.
  2. Design organizational structure: Name? Trustees? Advisory Board? Draft by-laws as a non-profit corporation.
  3. Agree on roles and responsibilities of Board members.
  4. Set up Board member task groups.
  5. Create a business plan to project fiscal feasibility, initial capital costs, start-up of marketing and operational costs of first year, management structure, size of operation, size of core staff and staffing criteria, salaries, tuition level, bursary fund needs, fund-raising goals, and fiscal control systems.
  6. Create a profile of the chief executive.
  7. Identify a chief executive and fund a visit to an established Outward Bound School with the task of recommending a plan of implementation.
  8. Raise funds to support start up salaries.


  1. Director sets up administrative and business structure, reviews and revises original business plan.
  2. Fund-raising initiated.
  3. Detailed program planning get consultant help if necessary, staff selection and training, area reconnaissance, site selection program design, syllabus and staff handbook, safety policies and procedures , interface with outside agencies.
  4. Marketing material produced: brochures, direct mail pieces, Web site, public information, recruiting, etc.
  5. Liability and insurance provisions.
  6. Emergency/contingency planning.
  7. What should the business plan include?

The following suggests the basic outline for a business plan. It is not necessary to follow the format provided, it is only offered as a guide.

1. Executive Summary:

This is the most critical part of the business plan for investors and people who fund your start up costs.  This is where people gain their first impression of the organization, founding team and the concepts that underlie the venture. It should be a maximum of two pages in length and be written last.  It should include:

  • Background on Outward Bound and what the need is for Outward Bound in your territory.
  • A description of the school’s mission and anticipated outcomes.
  • Background on the founders of the school.
  • The legal framework of the school.
  • The educational products to be offered and what they will provide to the students/clients.
  • The market and competition for experiential education and/or professional development in your territory.
  • Details of any community support and/or partners.
  • A summary of the financial data and plan of operations.
  • The amount of initial money needed to start the organization.

2. The Center and its Services:

This section is designed to introduce Outward Bound to people who do not know its services.  It also describes the current status of the organization, what niche the school fills within the specified territory, it’s strategic plan for the future and the staff/board members who will be involved in the project. Some key areas to focus on:

  • Mission and Philosophy
  • The Services/Products to be offered (type of program operations-mobile/base camp, age groups, course types, etc.)
  • Market entry strategy, expected market reaction, growth strategy, barriers to entry and growth.
  • Partnerships and Community relationships.

3. Analysis of the Market:

This section describes in detail the size and perspective of the market as well as the potential for growth in the organization. It also describes some of the hurdles that are expected as the school enters into the new territory. Elements of this section include:

  • Market Segments
  • Market Size
  • Market Growth/Trends
  • Purchasing Decision makers
  • Economic sources for purchaser
  • Competition and how the school manages it
  • Potential substitute organizations that could create competition
  • Partnerships

4. Sales and Marketing

This section is designed to help the school founders to think about how to attract and develop a market for their courses. Here are some key elements to think about:

  • Identify the target market groups
  • Identify client demand for programs and services
  • Explain how you plan to advertise and market the programs and services (Marketing Strategy)
  • Explain the pricing strategy (Fee Structure)
  • Present the Sales Strategy

5. Funding

As a not-for profit entity describe the funding structure and resource development strategy of the organization.  This should include:

  • Funding plans for scholarships
  • Seed money for start up operational costs
  • Fund raising plan for capital investments and other long term needs
  • Continuous Operations funding strategy

6. Financial Management:

This section includes all of the financial estimates and needs for the organization over the first three years. It should include:

  • An explanation of the source and amount of initial capital.
  • An operating budget for the first year.
  • A monthly cash flow for the first year.
  • Projected balance sheets for a two-year period.
  • Discussion on the break-even point.
  • Discussion on who will maintain the accounting records and how they will be kept.
  • “What if” statements that address alternative approaches to any problems that may develop.

7. Operations:

This section should describe in detail the operations and governance plans for the organization.  It should include:


  • A description of the location and proposed facilities
  • The program types and duration
  • Discussion of insurance, lease or rent proposals
  • Identification of the equipment necessary to safely deliver the promised services
    The Management Team Structure:

  • An explanation of the management structure and how it will be managed on a day-to-day basis.
  • Discussion on hiring, training and other relevant personnel strategies
    Organization Structure:

  • Identification of evaluation and assessment strategies for staff, programs and organization.
  • Risk management structure
    Governance Strategies

  • Who is on the board and why
  • How the board will operate

8. Concluding statement

  • Summarize the school’s educational goals and objectives.
  • Describe the credentials of the board members
  • Summarize pledged financial and resource support

9. Appendices:

These should include any relevant data that would help OBI and potential investors/funders make more informed decisions:

  • Resumés of Founding Team members
  • Implementation timeline
  • Market research
  • Maps of the territories in which the school operates