In today's fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, having a clear strategy is crucial for organizations to thrive. A non-profit’s approach is laid out in a three- to five-year strategic plan that outlines defined goals (direction) and objectives (measurements).
What exactly is a strategic plan?
A well-written strategic plan is purpose-driven, long-term, forward-focused, actionable, and measurable. Prepared carefully by the Board of Directors, it aligns with the non-profit's values and vision and sets direction for three- to five years by establishing clear and concise goals and objectives. These goals MUST align with the non-profit’s vision and mission as they work together to create a roadmap. Further, it’s up to the Board to define the exact measurable results they want to achieve – the objectives.
For example, a Board of Directors may determine that the goal for the next five years is to diversify funding streams and reduce reliance on government funding. The related objectives might be as simple as decreasing reliance on government funding by 25% (option 1). A more comprehensive objective would include decreasing reliance on government funding by 25% by increasing donations from corporate sponsors and launching a social enterprise that brings in profits by year 3 (option 2) of the strategic plans’ duration.
Either objective enables the management team to understand what the board asks them to do; the difference is simply in the level of detail provided.
The simple objective of decreasing reliance on government funding by 25% provides the management team with the challenge of figuring out how they will do this (increase sponsorships, introduce a fee-for-service model, etc.). For some Boards and Management teams, this is enough direction.
Other Board and Management teams prefer greater clarity when writing objectives (as with Option 2). In this case, the more comprehensive option that delineates how the Manager is to decrease government funding may be preferred. The second illustrated option is concise and provides a clear picture to the management team of what they need to do to achieve success (increase donations from corporate sponsors and launch a social enterprise).
It doesn’t matter which type of objective your Board sets if the Management team understands what they are to do and has a measurable result to work towards. It comes down to the Board and Management team interactions, level of trust, and the Board’s preference for providing direction.
Goals and Objectives work hand in hand
What is clear and undebatable is that goals and objectives work together; having a goal without an objective is not practical; having an objective without a goal is not adequate. Whether you are a Board member or part of the Management team, evaluating success is difficult when a goal is not written and can be interpreted in several ways. It is also easier to know how successful you are in reaching organizational goals if you have a clear metric against which to measure your success.
By defining the goal and objectives, the Board of Directors provides the Executive Director and management team with a clear picture of where they want to go. Then, it’s up to the management team to determine how to get there and deliver the desired results.
Check out our blog posts, "Committing to Action: The Missing Step in Strategic Planning" we and "From Strategic Plan to Daily Action: Non-Profit Strategies in Motion" where we elaborate on Action Planning in more detail.
What thoughts do you have on how goals and objectives interact? What have you seen work well? Where do you think greater clarity is required in your organization? Share your thoughts below in the comments.