How to Use Nonprofit Goals, Strategies, and Objectives to Achieve Outcomes
Getting lost in all the terminology of nonprofit planning is easy. Goals, strategies, and objectives have been a part of planning for many years. Only in the past ten years or so have planning specialists put more emphasis on outcomes.
Here are brief definitions of the four terms, using a simple example of traveling from Chicago to New York to attend a professional conference:
Goals are things your organization hopes to achieve. Goals can be set at the organizational level, the program or department level, or the individual employee level. Using a road trip as an analogy, a goal is traveling from Chicago to New York.
Strategies are approaches or ways to achieve goals. Usually, more than one option exists. You can travel to New York by several methods: plane, train, automobile, or on foot. After considering the costs, your schedule, and your hiking ability, you decide to travel by car.
Objectives are smaller steps that one must accomplish to reach a goal, and they’re always stated in a way that can be measured. So on a trip from Chicago to New York, an objective may be to drive 325 miles on the first day. When you pull into the motel parking lot, you can check your odometer to see whether you’ve achieved your objective for the day.
Outcomes describe the result of reaching a goal. In this example you’ve reached the goal — New York — and have signed in for your conference.
To see how all four terms come into play, look at this example of a plan. Reading from top to bottom, you have the whole plan, from organizational goal to outcome.
|Organizational goal||Diversify income|
|Strategy||Increase individual contributed income|
|Strategic goal||Develop annual campaign|
|Objective 1||Compile prospect list|
|Objective 2||Create appeal letter|
|Objective 3||Mail appeal letter|
|Outcome||Organization is less dependent on a single funder|
Don’t get bogged down in terms. How you label the different steps in the planning process doesn’t really matter all that much. The important thing is to understand that goals, strategies, objectives, and outcomes are a good way of talking about what you’re trying to accomplish and how you’re going to do it.