Goal Setting for Your Nonprofit

Updated: Jul 18, 2018


HAPPY NEW YEAR! July 1st 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.

How many times have you made resolutions only to fail? According to Business Insider, resolutions fail up to 80% of the time because they’re not realistic goals. Ditch the resolutions for your nonprofit and instead focus on the WHY and goals to make your organization successful in the New Year. 

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.


In our blog post Demonstrating Impact as Your Program Year Comes to a Close, we write about specific ways to evaluate programs and progress including whether you’re measuring qualitatively and quantitatively, purpose of the evaluation, and if you’re hiring a consultant for the evaluation.   

From WHY comes strategic planning and goal setting.

Once the evaluation is complete, the team can 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 the nonprofit mission is to provide school age children with backpacks of school supplies, the strategy may be to identify the areas of greatest need and provide to those children first. The long-term goal would be to have backpacks for all children while the short-term goals would be to get funding and/or donations and volunteers to pack and deliver. It sounds fairly simple but it’s easy to get lost in the details. 

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

  • Is there a particular area that needs improvement? Board training in development and fundraising 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 includes government and private grants. The Rayvan Group offers grant writingalong with consulting services for nonprofits. 

  • 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.  

If you’re not sure where to start or need guidance in a particular area such as planning for the new program year, a specific Board issue, or Board training in development and fundraising, consider scheduling a Strategy Session

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 and get an understanding of the talent that is available should you need to make staffing and/or board changes. 

  • 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.

  • Speaking to organizations in the community. One of the biggest challenges for nonprofits, especially in Arizona, is simply that the community does not know they exist. Part of the strategy for the organization may be to do more speaking engagements. For example, if your target is mothers with small children, speak to groups of mothers at their networking events to share your organization programs and objectives. 

  • Consider hiring a consulting firm like The Rayvan Groupthat 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! 

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