Setting Strong Goals for a Board of Directors

Setting strong goals is one of the most important directives a board has throughout the year. We’ve put together a collection of ideas and strategies for setting strong goals.

Use the SMART Approach

Business.com has a great article in which they describe the S-M-A-R-T approach to setting goals:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Realistic

T – Time bound

Specific means using language or picking a goal that isn’t vague. “Raise $7500 at our fundraiser this year” is more specific than “improve our fundraising.”

Measurable means setting a goal that you can compare to metrics along the way. Again, “Raise $7500 at our fundraiser this year” offers an easy measurement: $7500. Are you on track to reach that goal? Did you achieve the goal? How close were you?

Attainable means choosing goals that will take you further than you have gone before, but are still within the club’s ability and control to achieve. If last year your first fundraiser raised $5000, then setting the next goal at $7500 means you can push your organization to do better, but you’re not expecting to double fundraising.

You want to hit your goal by picking the goal deliberately, instead of setting a goal that is unrealistically difficult.

Realistic and attainable relate to one another, in that setting a realistic goal pays attention to the context of what you’re trying to do. But, keep in mind your board’s resources, past success, community involvement, etc.

Putting your goal in context of how previous achievements have gone will help you decide that your current cookout festival fundraiser (which raised $5000 in the past) can probably raise $7500 with a few adjustments and marketing. That’s instead of scrapping your cookout and setting out to find corporate sponsors who can donate $10,000 in the first year of your new fundraiser.

Time-bound means setting deadlines. Deadlines serve as checkpoints leading up to your goal, and help to keep your organization on track. Deadlines also serve as the final goalposts: did you reach your goal by the date of your first fundraiser?

This is opposed to setting a goal of a vague goal like “improve stakeholder involvement.” Instead, set a goal of “providing 2 annual stakeholder surveys, one in June and another in November.”

Leverage Your Board’s Talent, But Keep Pacing in Mind

Members of boards can be talented professionals, but they are also mothers, fathers, spouses, and may very possibly serve on more than one organization board at a time.

Here’s a quote we really like:

“Burnout does not occur from working hard. Burnout occurs when we recognize an unacceptable disparity between our efforts and the rewards of a given situation. The more your organization acts on its stated goals, the more validation members receive for the time and energy they contribute.”

Put another way, if board members are pushed to achieve goals that they don’t feel line up with the club’s mission, or with their ability to contribute, they’ll start withdrawing their energy. That goes double if those goals aren’t eventually met, as it means that the energy put into a project isn’t validated.

Be clear (and deliberate) with your goals. Be clear with expectations for each person’s role in a given project. And, do your best to keep the project on track along the way.

Flexibility plays a big part in that: board leaders should help members address issues as they come up and be open to shifting responsibilities around to balance workloads.

Measure Your Success and Share Information with Stakeholders

FitSmallBusiness has a list of 20 potential SMART goals and metrics for different organization sizes and purposes. Revenue, profit, skills attained, etc: measurable and time-bound metrics can serve as powerful evidence of your board’s contributions.

It’s important to note that how you publish your results can make a big difference in recruitment, cooperation from the administration, and more.

FitSmallBusiness suggests talking about the most important metrics, such as net profits from a fundraiser, or a particular piece of new equipment that has been purchased. You can send this information out via email, through your communications platform, or make sure that everyone knows that they are a talking point at upcoming events.

Posted in General Board Topics, Leadership.