Nonprofit organizations saw explosive growth in 2020 and 2021 thanks to a rise in charitable giving and donor retention. While all signs point to continued growth, nonprofits must remain driven and committed to their mission. However, setting the goals of a nonprofit organization to meet its mission is one of the biggest challenges nonprofit leaders face.

Clearly define your mission, goals, and objectives; it’s important to differentiate between the three. Your nonprofit’s mission statement is your overall purpose for starting your organization and serves as a guide to continually refer back to. Out of the mission statement comes your goals or the specific aims you complete to achieve your purpose. These goals are measured and tracked by objectives to help manage your progress. 

Developing and effectively communicating your nonprofit’s goals helps increase the number of donors, volunteers, and investors who become dedicated to your cause. This guide will explore how you can discover, create, and market your goals to help with your nonprofit’s continued success.

Benefits of establishing goals for your nonprofit organization 

Establishing goals for a nonprofit organization comes with numerous benefits. Firstly, they give your organization areas of focus. Often, nonprofits launch an ambitious mission without a concrete idea of how to achieve it. With the help of objectives that are backed by facts, data, and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure, goals make missions doable.

Securing funds to pay for overhead costs is another focal point for nonprofits. Clear and organized financial goals keep your organization afloat and maximize the monetary potential to give back to the community. As a result, goal-setting greatly benefits your bottom line and, on a broader scale, impacts the community you’d like to help.  

How do you set goals for your nonprofit organization?

Setting goals for your nonprofit requires interdepartmental communication and introspection about where your organization is now and where you’d like it to go. Below are the best tips to get you there.

Begin with an evaluation of where you are

Before coming up with goals, it’s important to discuss how your organization is currently faring in terms of finances, volunteers, donors, and your mission. Bring together key members of relevant departments to get an update on each of these topics. 

Look back at your mission and ask if your current actions align with your purpose. Where are you succeeding, and where could you improve? Your goals are informed by both your successes and any outstanding issues. 

Likewise, look at the current markets of your nonprofit sector. Are there any evolving trends? Does your target community have different needs? How about your donors, volunteers, and partnerships? Have any of their motivations shifted, and, if so, how can your organization change to meet them? 

Draft SMART goals

After your organization has discussed where you are, it’s time to develop goals that focus on where you’d like to be. The most efficient and effective way to do this is with SMART goals. Countless organizations use this acronym to create specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals. The SMART strategy helps you define nonprofit goals that are structured, clear, and motivated. 

Indeed infographic on SMART goals
The SMART goal strategy uses these five steps to provide direction when setting goals. Image source: Indeed.

Specific

Your goals should be as specific as possible, and numbers can often help provide clarity. For instance, your goal may be to “increase donations by $10,000 before the first of next year.” Here, you have a numerical target and a specific timeframe to aim for. 

Measurable

Your goals should have measurable objectives to gauge your progress. Decide how you will track the success of your goals. For example, you can use data report software to receive necessary email metrics. Also, choose designated times to check your progress, such as completing monthly or quarterly checks. 

Attainable

While your goals should be ambitious, they should also be realistic. Does your organization have the resources, time, and staff requirements to meet your goals? Are there other organizational needs that may get in the way? Knowing your limits ensures you are not pursuing an unrealistic mission.

Relevant 

How do your goals relate to your mission and organizational values? Are your goals relevant to your long-term plans? Thinking about how your goals fit into the bigger picture can determine if they are important or irrelevant. 

Time-based 

Establishing goal deadlines helps avoid procrastination or loss of motivation. Aim for shorter deadlines over longer ones, but give yourself some leeway in case you hit any roadblocks along the way. 

How your nonprofit goals fit into your marketing plans 

Setting your goals is the first step toward success. The next is marketing the goals of a nonprofit organization. Marketing raises community awareness of your goals and, ultimately, your organization’s entire vision. It’s also a great way to build strong relationships with volunteers, donors, and partners. 

While nonprofits typically have tighter budgets compared to for-profit organizations, digital marketing offers an effective marketing channel at little to no cost. With 63% of donors preferring to give online, there’s a higher chance that your company will also receive more financial donations. 

As for how to market your nonprofit, you have a few options that complement each other and work well together. 

Email marketing

Over 60% of consumers enjoy reading weekly emails from organizations they follow. Nonprofit email marketing allows you to update, educate, and entertain your subscribers. In turn, they can lead to more donations, volunteers, and partnerships. You can send email newsletters that track your goal progress, so subscribers see that you are finding success and making a difference in the community. Doing so also helps strengthen your organization’s reputation. 

Social media marketing

Social media is a powerful tool for nonprofit and for-profit organizations, as there are nearly 4 billion social media users worldwide. You can share goal-oriented milestones with your followers via text, photo, or video on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media also helps with brand management and portraying your organization to the world. You are in control of your voice and can introduce and speak about your goals in the manner you’d like. 

Content marketing

Content marketing is a popular strategic plan that focuses on crafting and distributing relevant and valuable information across various channels. It gives you the ability to emotionally connect with audiences so that they become more invested in your mission. 

Common content marketing materials include articles or blog posts. For example, you could write a post that explores your goals in-depth, including why you chose to pursue them and what they mean to the community. You can tie all of your marketing strategies together by sharing your posts on your social media pages and in your email campaigns.

Best examples of nonprofit goals and objectives

To get inspired to create your nonprofit goals and objectives, look at the following examples of nonprofits that get it right.

Humane Society International

hsi.org 7 goals on about us page
Humane Society International lists seven goals on its “About Us” web page that promote its values.

Humane Society International is famous worldwide for its mission to end animal cruelty and care for animals in crisis. However, the organization delves deeper into what that mission means with a list of several specific goals, as outlined on their About Us page.

These goals reflect the company’s mission and pave the way for certain objectives, such as meeting a yearly target number of animal adoptions. Followers of the organization understand that the nonprofit can measure its goals and therefore better achieve success. 

Feed the Children

Feed the Children - About page with strategic plan
Feed the Children provides a five-year strategic plan on their About page with goals that vary depending on each specific country’s needs, demonstrating their awareness of local and global struggles.

Feed the Children is a large nonprofit organization whose mission is to “provide hope and resources for those without life’s essentials.” While this mission statement may initially seem broad, its specific goals help break down the mission into understandable and achievable objectives:

“In the United States we distribute product donations of food and other items from corporate donors through our network of local community partners, we provide classroom support and school supplies to students in vulnerable areas, and we mobilize resources quickly to aid recovery efforts when natural disasters strike.” 

Feed the Children takes these objectives a step further by creating an annual list of every target met in the last year and posting it on their website. This tactic is a great way to show potential donors that their money is being well spent. 

The goals of a nonprofit organization help make mission statements achievable

Thanks to charitable donors and motivated volunteers, nonprofit organizations have enjoyed a rise in success in recent years. At such a pivotal time, it’s more important than ever to clearly outline your organization’s goals so that both current and potential donors can see — and support — your initiatives. 

To begin crafting your nonprofit goals, complete an internal review of what your previous goals have achieved thus far. Get your entire team on board so that your goal process remains transparent and open to communication. After this, you can begin formulating goals that exemplify your mission for years to come.