Elevate Your Impact, Achieve Your Mission

One of the top reasons nonprofits fail is because they do not have defined goals.

Organizations may have a mission and vision. They see a big problem and want to address it, but they can get stuck when unexpected challenges.

For your organization to achieve success you must develop actionable plans and monitor progress. Goals will give you focus, provide motivation for employees, and set criteria for your organization to work towards.

Goal planning will enhance productivity not only through gained focus, but also by setting clear priorities, solid decision-making, and determined responsibility.

For your organization to succeed you need to start with a strategic plan.

The Power of Strategic Planning

Nonprofits need a rigorous annual planning process to drive future success, profitability, value, and impact.  

Before setting goals, your organization needs to have a strategic plan. This plan will not only outline your goals, but it will inform decisions and develop opportunities. It establishes a process in which the goals get realized so the organization can obtain the vision.

To identify your objectives, analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and align your goals with the long-term vision, use a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

  • Strengths: What does your nonprofit do well? Name the core competencies of your organization.
  • Weaknesses: Where do you struggle or miss the mark? Describe areas for improvement.
  • Opportunities: Where do you see room for growth, internally and externally?
  • Threats: What other nonprofit organizations have similar missions that compete against yours?

In addition to a SWOT analysis, consult with others inside and outside of your organization. Review your current work processes and monitor complaints from donors, volunteers, and staff.

Break Down Objectives into Actionable Tasks 

A strategic plan will also include SMART goals. With the plan and goals in place, it is time to look at objectives. An objective is not the same as a goal. It uses measurable actions in the short term to achieve your goal.

To write objectives look at your SMART goals and break them down into smaller, manageable tasks. State them in quantifiable terms and as an outcome. Write objectives that are measurable and time bound.

When you break down and write objectives it ensures clarity and accountability with everyone at your organization. 

Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

A KPI measures ministry progress and performance. You decide what KPI to use based on your goals and objectives. Employ key performance indicators at every level of your organization to measure success.

High-level KPIs focus on the overall performance of your nonprofit, while low-level ones may address specific processes or areas, such as donor acquisition.

 You can choose from 12 types of KPIs:

  1. Quantitative indicators: Presented as a number, like ratios, percentages, etc.
  2. Qualitative indicators: Can’t present as a number, like feelings or opinions.
  3. Leading indicators: Variables that identify long-term trends and could predict future outcomes.
  4. Lagging indicators: Measure past output to gain insight into future success.
  5. Input indicators: Track the necessary resources to produce an outcome.
  6. Output indicators: Measure the success or failure of your process activities.
  7. Process indicators: Represent the efficiency of an organization’s process.
  8. Practical indicators: Explore the function with existing organizational processes.
  9. Directional indicators: Determine an organization’s success in comparison with competitors.
  10. Actionable indicators: An organization’s ability to effect change.
  11. Financial indicators: Measure an organization’s monetary growth and stability.
  12. Outcome indicators: Mark whether the organization/program is meeting their goals.

To decide which metrics to use for your KPIs, identify the intended result, select the right measurement, set targets and thresholds, and define the most important metric to measure growth.

Prioritization and Time Management

It is not enough to create goals and objectives. The purpose behind them is to allow you to prioritize and manage tasks. Too often, organizations get bogged down with meaningless tasks. Instead, goals keep you focused on what matters and what will move the needle, day in and day out.

Increase your time management by using these strategies: 

  • Start your day with a plan
  • Set deadlines
  • Delegate tasks
  • Avoid multitasking
  • Know when to say “no”
  • Block off time on your calendar

Take time to recharge. While this may seem obvious, it’s hard for many people to do. You need to rest so you stay energized to accomplish your goals each day.

Effective Monitoring Techniques

Monitoring your process will help you prioritize your goals. First, set a deadline. As you work on goals, review how close you are to meeting the deadline. Break large tasks into smaller ones and monitor your progress daily.  

Track your progress by using a method or combination of methods to keep you moving.

  • Regular check-ins: Find an accountability partner and set up a time to meet with them to discuss your progress. In many instances, this is with your boss or employee, but you can choose a peer, as well.
  • Progress reports: An ongoing document that shows progress towards the completion of a project or goal. Include the status, milestones, issues, and team member responsibilities.
  • Project Management Tools: You have many project management tool options. After you add tasks in your project management tool, create a dashboard to view your progress.

Course Correction and Adaptability

As the saying goes—even the best-laid plans can go awry. Part of goal planning and progress is flexibility and adaptability. To achieve success, you need both. Sometimes you will only need to modify your tasks to still reach your goals. However, goals change, and you need to be ready to change with them.

As you work towards your goals, identify potential obstacles and make adjustments when needed. Evaluate your progress and at each step look again for roadblocks and possible solutions.

You don’t need to do this alone. Work with your team members during regular check-ins and through progress reports to determine possible obstacles and how to adapt your goals.  

Celebrate Milestones and Recognize Achievements

As you make progress on your goals and objectives, celebrate milestones and achievements. Not only will it make you feel better to accomplish a task, but it will also encourage you to work towards the goal's completion. You can celebrate successes in a variety of ways, through recognition, praise, gifts, shared stories, or get-togethers.

Remember to celebrate your successes and those of your peers, leaders, employees—and volunteers.    

The acknowledgment of success has a profound effect on individuals. It reminds people of the goals and tasks they completed. It can provide a time for reflection about what worked well and changes to make.

Celebrations serve as a morale booster and provide opportunities for team members to develop relationships with the rest of the organization.

Overcome Challenges and Stay Motivated

To continue on a path of success, you need to maintain focus, stay motivated, and seek support when needed. Mentors, consultants, and like-minded peers can provide advice and encouragement as you face challenges.  

Here are some common challenges you will encounter and how to overcome them as you pursue your goals. 

  • Too many goals: Narrow down your list of goals to focus on your top 5.
  • Too many distractions: Don’t multitask and find a quiet place to work.  
  • Failure to monitor your progress: Choose from online or offline tools to measure your progress.
  • Inconsistency: Work on tasks and progress daily to keep the momentum going.
  • Unmotivated: Break down large goals into smaller ones and celebrate your achievements.

Learn from Setbacks and Failure

Every person and organization experiences setbacks and failures. How you and your nonprofit respond will determine if you have future success. If you learn from your mistakes and missteps, then you will not make the same ones again. Your organization needs to build a culture of learning.   

Learning allows individuals the freedom to experiment and develop resilience. Embrace a growth mindset and use failure as an opportunity for improvement.

To make failure less threatening, let them hear about failure from others. Employees learn and respect leaders who share their mistakes.

In some cases, you will need to accept defeat. This is the time to be flexible and devise a new goal, plan, or process.

The Role of Accountability Partners and Support Networks

Do you find it difficult to stay focused and motivated on your goals? Do you need someone to bounce ideas off of as you plan? An accountability partner will guide you. Find an individual or a network of peers who can help you as you plan and implement your goals.

You can choose partners from inside your organization, like a colleague, or from outside.

An accountability partner and support network will:

  • Increase your motivation
  • Provide a sense of belonging and approval
  • Measure and evaluate your progress
  • Provide honest feedback
  • Offer new perspectives

Look for support from individuals who have similar goals, great communication skills, are disciplined, and will give positive encouragement. Define your goals first before looking for an accountability partner. Talk to colleagues inside and outside of your organization and ask potential partners questions to gauge how well you work together.

You can also gather community support in the form of church groups, events, and social media.

Greater Impact Through Goal-Planning

By developing actionable plans and implementing effective monitoring techniques, you and your organization can stay focused, make progress, and achieve goals. With a structured approach and the right tools, success becomes an attainable reality.

A strategic plan means more productivity, which also means greater impact.

Implement these strategies, from actionable tasks to time management, to building a support network, and improve the chances of success for you, your colleagues, and your entire nonprofit.