Goals and Objectives

by Floyd Rumohr

Many of us working in nonprofits have heard goals and objectives used interchangeably. It’s easy to take them for granted and assume everyone on your team knows the difference.

Strategic goals are long-term (3-5 years*) desired results that focus resources of the organization toward mission fulfillment. They are measurable and observable endpoints that have objectives and tactics associated with each one.

You’ll know that it’s a strategic goal if you feel like popping a cork when it is achieved. For example, 1,000 more students able to read on grade level by the end of next year might incite such effervescence for a literacy program. Objectives are incremental steps toward a goal and, in this case, might include recruiting and training more education staff by January 2013, among others.

The “cork-popping” that comes from the 1,000 students is what characterizes the goal as strategic because the students are central to, in this case, a youth literacy organization’s mission.

I tend to favor explicit goal dates whenever possible. They provide specific timeframes against which team members can reflect on what didn’t work and celebrate what did at appropriate times. Goal dates also provide a sense of urgency or importance for a particular topic and specify an endpoint to monitor progress. Tracking progress along a timeline while identifying who is responsible for it will help the various teams involved stay on task and on time:

#

Goals and Objectives

Now? In 6 Months? In 12 Months?

Who’s Responsible?

1 1,000 more students will read at or above grade-level by June 2013. School partners currently sought Program Director
A.  Position descriptions under revision. Final draft due: July 2012. Current drafts under review Program Committee

Most organizations do not publicly share progress tracking because it is too granular for public consumption — especially if tactics, which describe how you get there, are included. The program director and committee responsible for strategic goal #1 above would likely have their own goals and tactical plan for achievement.

Many plans fail because of a lack of accountability. Don’t forget to create some sort of system for the organization to monitor and track progress, which can help to rally your troupes around each and every important goal!

Next up: environmental factors affecting nonprofits.

* Some organizations will plan twenty or thirty years ahead. This is especially true for large capital campaigns. For small organizations, 2-5 years is about as long term as it gets in our rapidly evolving world.

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