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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Setting Goals for Your Nonprofit

Skip the resolutions and let’s talk about goal setting for your nonprofit. July 1 represents a new fiscal year for many nonprofits, a time to review programs and previous goals to be sure they’re aligned with the mission and to establish new benchmarks. Without a clear plan, your nonprofit will likely serve less people than you intend. Where do you begin?

Start with WHY.

The reason we say ditch resolutions is because they’re often not well thought out so they fail. We want your nonprofit to be successful in its mission. 

Simon Sinek reminds us to think about why we’re doing what we’re doing. Honestly, whether you’re in nonprofit or for-profit work, remembering the reason you’re serving a particular group is vital to moving the organization forward. 

What will you do differently this year? Review the mission statement - cure cancer, end homelessness, provide affordable housing for working families - whatever it is, ask yourself if the programs from last year helped the organization reach its goals.  

From WHY comes strategic planning and goal setting.

Develop and refine short-term and long-term goals. Working with key staff and board members, identify areas of improvement as well as past winning strategies. 

  • What are the short-term goals? These are measured in weeks or months and support the long-term goals. 
  • What are long-term goals? These are measured in years and originate in the mission statement. 

That’s why we recommend reviewing the mission, to be sure goals are aligned with the overall purpose of the organization.

If your nonprofit mission is to end hunger in Arizona, the strategy may be to identify the areas of greatest need and set up food pantries in those areas. The long-term goal would be to have one pantry in each city or town in the coming two years. The short-term goals are the steps to get funding, food and/or money donations, and pantry locations. It sounds fairly simple but it’s easy to get lost in the details. 

As you’re planning, ask yourself, key staff and board members:

  • Is there a particular area that needs improvement? Donor or volunteer engagement and participation may be an area of improvement. 
  • Is the nonprofit facing a specific challenge? Perhaps politics has played a role and you need to develop a plan that doesn’t involve government funding. 
  • Are key staff members and the board engaged in the mission? Now is the time to make changes. Maybe someone was hired for a specific campaign and the campaign is underperforming. The strategy may be to remove the staff member and replace them with someone with different experience - or maybe a better attitude.  

As a leader, the goal setting for your nonprofit should include activities like:

  • Networking with other nonprofit leaders. Find out what they’re doing to attract and retain donors and volunteers. 
  • Building the brand. We often hear the word “brand” when referring to for-profit companies but make no mistake that your nonprofit is a brand. Review all communications to be sure there is similar style of messaging across platforms. This includes website, social media, traditional media, and communication with donors, volunteers, and vendors. Consider hiring a marketing company to create a brand manual so that marketing is similar throughout the organization.
  • Networking in the community. Get out and meet people, especially the people who are or who know your target audience. For example, if your target is mothers with small children, visit groups where they are meeting, perhaps as a speaker, to get the word out about your organization.
  • Consider hiring a consulting firm that specializes in developing strategies and training nonprofit executives. It could make all the difference not only to your career but to the nonprofit. 

Don’t take the task of goal setting for your nonprofit lightly as it takes planning, people, and resources to develop a plan that aligns with the mission. The beginning of the fiscal year is an ideal time to review last year, make changes, and move your nonprofit ahead. Cheers and Happy New Year! 

Jarrett started The Rayvan Group in 2009 and brings more than 15 years’ experience with international, national and local organizations, including Girls Golf of Phoenix, Habitat for Humanity, the Paraiso Project and St. Mary's Food Bank. She has successfully managed development and communications functions for more than 10 campaigns with a combined goal totaling $6 million. She is passionate about creating community, empowering others to see and exceed their full potential, and crafting compelling stories in support of mission-driven organizations. Jarrett holds an MBA in business from the University of Phoenix and Certificate of Grant Writing from The Grantsmanship Center Institute.  Awards include 40 Under 40, AZ Central Who's Next Nominee, Greater Phoenix Athena Nominee, AmAZing Women of Arizona recipient and the Global Women's Summit Leadership Award. 


ASU Lodestar Center Blog