6 Steps to a SMART New Year

Like millions of others, my family and I decided that 2019 will be a healthier year. We want to eat healthier and get more exercise. We’ve tried it before, but then February rolls around and we start to lose our commitment and energy. Looking over the last few years, I’ve realized what’s missing from our plan: setting ourselves up for success. Yes, we buy healthier foods and join the gym—again. However, we haven’t used milestones along the way.

This year, we’re setting ourselves up for success with a monthly goal. For example, January’s goal is cutting out processed foods. February’s goal is giving up simple carbs. March’s goal is eliminating wheat. By planning a goal for each month and healthy activities for each week, we are much more likely to succeed.

Have you set yourself up for a successful new year with your personal goals? What about goals that impact your job? Does your organization have monthly goals? As we discuss in our new course Organizational Best Practices: Fundraising—Impact, you need to know your goals in order to obtain them. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

So where do you start?

Step 1: Brainstorm Goals for the Year

As a team, brainstorm some goals your organization wants to or should achieve. Remember that with brainstorming, nothing is off the table! Get your creative juices flowing and think of some out of the box ideas. What are some goals you have accomplished in the past? What does your organization need? Don’t forget each department and even each staff member in the brainstorming of goals. What do the fundraisers need? What does the finance department need? What does each program need?

Tip: Try to brainstorm a mix of output and outcome goals. Outputs are the direct result of a program’s activities, often expressed in terms of units. Outcomes illuminate the difference your outputs made. They are the desired change in status, condition, or behavior that results from a particular set of programs or activities.

Step 2: Identify the Best (and Most Attainable) Goals

Unattainable goals don’t motivate you or your staff. Stretch goals encourage you to work hard but make the goal within reach. Also, make each goal a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timed. Generic goals that you can’t measure and that don’t have a due date won’t motivate anyone. Plus, who wants to see an organization’s goals as, “We will increase funding to our programs”? Well, how much will you increase? Which programs? How will you measure the increase and by when?

Once you’ve identified the best and most attainable goals (and your stretch goals), break them down into monthly goals. Why monthly? How motivated are you to tackle a goal that is due in 30 days, compared to one due in 90 days? A shorter due date motivates the team and provides regular check-ins for the steps that make up your larger annual goals.

Tip: Make sure your final list of goals includes each department, program, and area. Everyone needs a goal to work toward.

Step 3: Identify Key Players in Goals

Who will be a part of achieving each goal? Who will be responsible for collecting and recording the necessary data? If each staff member and department is part of a goal, everyone feels valued and part of the bigger vision and goal for the organization.

Step 4: Create Goal Calendars

For each area, create a calendar to make sure everyone knows what’s expected for each month (or even week or day). Consider these calendars:

A central communications calendar informs everyone the ways your organization is communicating to supporters. This is a great place to add monthly themes around various events or holidays, so all communications can be consistent. This is also a good place for staff members to check to make sure that they aren’t duplicating communications or sending too many on a particular day.

Based on the themes in the central communications calendar, create a social media calendar with a focus topic for each month. Then break that calendar down into ideas for each week and determine which days you’ll post to which social media platform. The staff responsible for social media don’t have to guess what to post each week and when, and other staff can see what’s being posted on social media.

Create a membership engagement calendar to outline when and how you’ll keep members engaged. Create a volunteer appreciation and engagement calendar for actions to steward volunteers and keep them engaged. Create a newsletter calendar for print and email to track when each type of newsletter will be sent and with which themes or topics.  Create a planned giver engagement calendar to ensure your planned gift donors are continually stewarded and engaged. Create a sustainer giver calendar to ensure you are stewarding and engaging your loyal donors.

Step 5: Share Your Goals—The Most Important Step

Your goals shouldn’t be a secret. Make sure everyone knows your goals and your progress toward them.

Share your goals internally. Your staff can’t work toward a common goal if each person doesn’t know the goal or their role in the goal achievement. Plus, when supporters ask what the organization’s goals are, staff need to be prepared to answer (with an update on the progress, too)!

Share your goals externally. Most people want to know the impact of their donations. If they don’t know what your goals are and your progress, they’ll define goals for your organization in their heads. It’s much better to be open about your goals, so everyone can work together towards the common goals and celebrate accomplishments.

Share updates regularly: Last year I talked with a fundraising committee last year who was confused when funding for their big campaign dropped off. They never gave supporters or prospects an update on the goal, so people lost interest. By communicating progress, you share the celebration with your supporters and revitalize their support. Even a missed goal can be a great opportunity to show your need for more support and still celebrate what you did accomplish.

Step 6: Ensure Success by Empowering Staff

Do you and your team know the best way to achieve your goals? Do you know if they are the right goals? Does your team know what goes into a great fundraising campaign, stewardship series, email communication, or social media post? Does your finance team know how to best communicate with other departments? Do your volunteer or membership programs know how to truly engage and retain supporters?

There’s always room to grow. That’s why Blackbaud University expanded its trainings to include product-agnostic trainings on industry best practices. Blackbaud University can help you plan to succeed and plan your next steps on everything from goal creation to execution. For more information, visit https://hello.blackbaud.com/blackbaudu and join the upcoming What’s New at Blackbaud U webinar on February 13