Bill Shore of Share Our Strength is arguably one of the top five leaders in U.S. nonprofits. For years he has set big hairy audacious goals, gotten hordes of people in business and other nonprofits to throw their strength behind execution of those goals, and then set new goals.
So I was paying attention when Bill Shore blogged about goal-setting on Harvard Business Review.
The piece is interesting — Bill lays out both how things did and did not work, and acknowledges that setting and sticking to tough goals is not easy. He also points out the painfully obvious, which is that now more than ever, nonprofits will need to know what success looks like and communicate it clearly to their stakeholders. What he didn’t acknowledge as a specific factor is something that Share Our Strength already has that many other nonprofits would kill for: Tremendous credibility, leverage and funding support in the corporate sector.
Over the next few years many — if not all — nonprofits are going to see all their funding drop as need for their work rises. Nasty pinch. So one could argue that now is the time for bold action. But if the funding relationships with those who favor bold, bottom-line-friendly action — the business sector — are not already there, the funders one has — individual donors, foundations expecting a certain scope of work, government contracts with strict deliverables — may constrict said bold action. (Share Our Strength ran into this thinking when they laid out their big goal to 50 partner organizations.)
Don’t let that thinking stop you. Set up a board-staff task force to consider what a clearer set of organizational goals could be, and how you might measure them. Charge that task force with talking to key funders about their hopes and fears for the mission (you may be surprised at what you find). Then lay out a sustainable, focused plan that has a very sharp illustration of success.
And keep in mind that Share Our Strength, one of the most entrepreneurial nonprofits in the country, took years to come to this current big clear goal. Sure, it would have been great if you had started five years ago. So start now.
You can read Bill Shore’s thoughts on goals here.