5 Keys for Achieving your Organization’s Goals

Many organizations take a step back at the end of the year to set their strategic goals, define their annual budget and inspire their team with a vision for the future year. But now, it’s that time of year. The madness of the holiday season has calmed.  The excitement and optimism that comes in early January starts to fade as the reality of the day to day sets in.

While it’s a little tougher to squash the optimism of vision-chasing social change professionals, there are some common traps that organizations fall into that derail their ability to march towards their most important goals.  February is the perfect time to reinforce, reestablish, and recommit to those big goals you dreamed about as the ball was dropping on New Year’s Eve.

At Common Impact, we take goal setting and goal achieving seriously. Here are a few of the big headlines we keep on our minds (and on sticky notes on our desk when our minds are full) to make sure we’re keeping our urgent work from drowning out our most important work.

  1. Make it matter: Even though everyone on a nonprofit’s staff typically knows its mission well, team members’ experiences and goals can be very different – whether its seniority (entry level to executive level), department (fundraising, programmatic, finance and admin), location or another dimension of their experience.  It’s important for leadership to tie strategic goals to the various motivations and outcomes of their staff.  If a staff member looks at an organizational goal and doesn’t see how their role plays a part – or how working on it will make their job easier or better – they’re less likely to engage or support leadership in moving it forward.
  2. Keep it simple:  While the actual projects and initiatives that organizations take on are multi-faceted, it’s critical to have a simple, powerful goal that connects them all to each other and to your mission that can serve as a compass.  Given the often unstable or unanticipated environment social change organizations are operating in, it’s paramount to be clear and dedicated to the end goal, not the various processes or steps to getting there.
  3. Accountability:  Nonprofits tend to foster collaborative environments where staff are wearing many hats and are willing to pitch in to initiatives that aren’t in their job description.  That can make for a fun, team-based environment, but can also make lead to a lack of accountability and clarity around roles.  Using SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound) goals or RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) models for organizational goals provide clarity amidst that collaboration on who is ultimately accountable for driving the goal forward.
  4. White Space:  Allow for unscheduled time where your team can collaborate with one another, share stories about their work, and identify connections between strategy, fundraising, programs, growth plans, and infrastructure building.  While formal, structured time is critical to driving goals forward, creating a little space for agenda items that might not seem obvious or important topics that might arise from organic conversation is how goals stay dynamic and relevant.
  5. Skilled Volunteers:  Your staff is not the only resource you have to get those big ambitious goals done.  Tap into the expertise and capacity of your network through pro bono service.  Your board, hands on volunteers, donors, participants, and supporters all have expertise to lend.  Think about how they could invest in your organization this year to turn your vision into reality.  Check out Capacity Commons to find out how to recruit volunteers, scope a project and manage it to a successful outcome!

How does your organization set goals?  What works for your team?  What pitfalls have you seen?