Worthy Goals

Good management practice suggests that goals should challenge an organization to reach higher.  Ensure your goals inspire your stakeholders to provide support.

It is hard to imagine a donor giving generously to an uninspiring goal.  It is hard to imagine reaching a goal without donor support.

With an uninspiring goal, it is hard to imagine staff, volunteers, or clients happily tolerating an inconvenience or providing enthusiastic support.  It is hard to imaging reaching a goal without support from staff, volunteers, and clients.

Many goals are uninspiring.  One nonprofit we know of set a goal of increasing the number of clients served by 50 (serving promises to accomplish very little).  It is a goal that is important to management, a challenge to achieve (10% increase), and important to the sustainability of the nonprofit.  However, after it was announced, it received very little support or attention.  If the goal was to provide 50 more families with a steady paycheck this year than last year, people would have been more inspired.  In management’s mind, the two goals are equal.  However, stakeholders think and hear differently than management.

Another uninspiring goal is to remodel your nonprofit’s bathrooms in the next 6 months.  Doing periodic maintenance is a requirement rather than a goal.  While the projected funding stream might make the remodeling fiscally impossible, making it a goal is unlikely to inspire anyone to give more. Thoughtful donors are likely to think that management should have foreseen the need and raised fees to cover the expense.  If donors see it as a lack of good stewardship, announcing the goal will reduce donor support rather than increase it.  The better approach is to announce an increase in the cost of serving clients and ask the donors to increase their generosity.  Concurrently, announce a new service or service enhancement that for the clients (this assumes that your nonprofit would only offer services that are mission centric).  Donors understand that costs increase periodically and they want the clients to receive the services necessary to achieve the results promised by the mission statement.  Knowing the clients will be receiving enhanced services will help to inspire donors to be generous.

When a goal is mission centric it is inspiring.  When it is about numbers, the budget, or maintenance, it sounds mundane, which means it should be handled out of sight of most stakeholders.  The activity still needs to be transparently accounted for (shows up in the budget) but it is unnecessary to discuss it with stakeholders.  Packaging the mundane (bathroom remodeling for instance) into a cost increase that includes the cost of new or enhanced services places the focus on what is important to donors (clients and mission).  The donors are happy to support infrastructure changes combined with program changes as long as the bulk of the support is for mission-centric activities.

Next Step:

Examine your nonprofit’s goals

Find a way to restate your goals so that they are mission centric

Gather support from a few leading donors before announcing the restated or new goals

Announce the goals and the early support of key donors for those goals

If you are unable to gather early support from your leading donors, you have a clear indication that your goals lack inspiration.  Your leading donors are among your most enthusiastic supporters.  Use the feedback and experience talking with your leading donors to refine the statement of your goals so that the less enthusiastic stakeholders will find the goals inspiring.  In addition, use the support of the leading donors to reassure the other donors that the request for support is reasonable.

Since your mission is the heart of your nonprofit, make it obvious that everything you do comes from your heart.

Take It Further:

Ensure that all communications are mission centric

Ensure your mission and client’s needs budget drive the budget development

Ask your board to build its planning and goals around the mission rather than the needs of your nonprofit (take care of the needs of your nonprofit as a byproduct of meeting the needs of your mission)


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