Smart Goal Setting for Nonprofits

By Megan Jones
Aug 22, 2019 • 14 min read

Have you ever spent large amounts of time or energy towards a project, only to realize that it didn't really help you meet your mission? Have you ever wondered why you seem to be working so hard to get nowhere? It can be easy to believe that hard work will automatically result in progress. But if your efforts aren't directed in strategic ways, you won't truly accomplish much. 

Start With Your Mission

Consider how your organization sets goals. Every goal, both internal and external, should tie back to your mission statement. It should help quantify what you are trying to achieve and how you are trying to achieve it. Think of each intentional goal as a brick, your mission as the foundation, and your vision as the roof. Every time you create an intentional goal that supports your organization's mission, you are laying a brick on the foundation. Over time, your efforts build upon one another. Eventually you will have the necessary structure to support a roof- your overall vision. 

No matter how good a goal might seem on it's own, if it's not laid on your missional foundation, you're wasting a brick! If you aren't confident that your organization has laid a solid missional foundation, read our blog The Power of a Missional Statement, or listen to this Whole Whale podcast. Take the time to develop a clear mission and vision statement with your internal stakeholders. This is one of the most important steps you can take to help your organization thrive.

Set SMART Goals

After you've considered how your goals tie into your mission, ask yourself this question: is my goal SMART? Perhaps you've heard of this acronym before. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound. 

 Specify exactly what it is you want to accomplish. 

 Define a clear measurement of success so you can evaluate your progress. 

 Set a goal that challenges you but is still within your ability to achieve. 

 Determine what resources you have that will help you realistically reach your goal.

 Give yourself a deadline for your goal; this helps motivate you to focus and put forth the effort.

When you set SMART goals, you are much more likely to achieve them. Take the time to evaluate how you can make your current goals "smarter". Ask your team members to use the SMART acronym as they set future goals. To learn more, listen to a Hubspot interview with New York Times investigative reporter, Charles Duhigg about the power of setting SMART goals 


Prioritize Your Efforts 

The final step to effective goal setting is determining which goals you should pursue first. One tool our team has found useful is the HubSpot three horizon framework to help conceptualize our short, medium and long term goals. Short term goals focus on incremental improvements within a shorter time frame. You should spend about 70% of your resources here. Long term goals focus on innovating for the future and have a significantly longer time frame, perhaps even years or decades! You should spend about 10% of your resources here. Mid-term goals focus on bridging the present and the future goals. This is where genuine transformation takes place. You should spend about 20% of your resources here.



Are you ready to crush your goals?

Now you know the keys to setting great goals. Set goals that build on your mission, set goals that are SMART, and prioritize goals to move you towards the next horizon. It's up to you to implement these in your organization's processes. But we promise it is well worth the effort. Not only will tracking your progress internally boost team morale, it will excite your community too!

A strong goal setting process will make it simple for potential donors and volunteers to partner with you. You will be able to communicate your organization's goals and identify concrete ways for others to help you reach them. Moreover, as your donors and volunteers help you achieve a series of short term goals, their confidence in your organization will grow. This will develop a culture of trust and help you maintain your support base as you strive to achieve your medium and long-term goals. 

Do you need help tying your goals into your mission statement, core values, and marketing strategy? Check out our guide for Creating an Internal Design for Your Marketing Framework

meganjonesvillagecreedAbout the Author:

Megan Jones is the head of the Humanities Division of Village Creed. She graduated from Covenant College with a degree in Community Development in 2014. Her passion is fostering connections within communities to help individuals thrive.