Your Step-by-Step Guide for Setting Goals with REAL Results

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When you’re starting a nonprofit, all of the moving pieces can be overwhelming and cause you to stop in utter frustration.  Setting honest and realistic goals provides focus so you don’t have anxiety about what’s missing or drift too far away from your original plan.  That’s why I’ve developed a system for setting goals that’s failure proof. Below is a step-by-step guide to develop your personal goals to finally launch your nonprofit and to get it up and running successfully.   There will be many plans you will develop as a nonprofit - strategic plans, fundraising plans, marketing plans, etc.  Instead of focusing on the details of the type of plan, this method can be used to develop the personal goals you need to execute any kind of plan.  As a part of the system, I have developed 4 worksheets to walk you through the process.  Click the image below to access the worksheets.


FULL DISCLOSURE:  I am currently working on a startup of my own, which includes building up Boss on a Budget within its first year.  I have 3 major goals I’ve developed that are up against a full-time and a part-time job, as well as one other business.  So you’re not alone, and I can relate to whatever pressure you’re feeling to get up and running.  We’re in this together! Now on to your goals


Begin your process with a brainstorming session.  Get in a comfortable place, free from distractions and seriously think about what you want to accomplish in the next year.  What do you want to be different this time next year?  If you’ve already incorporated your business, how do you want it to improve?  Made leaner?  More successful?  More visible?  More legitimate?  When you envision your nonprofit, what kind of growth do you expect to see one year from today?  Start out with just phrases and words.  Don’t get bogged down with using proper grammar or sentence structure.  Write as many words that come to you.  Write the vision and mission of your nonprofit up top so your thoughts are targeted on the success of your new nonprofit.  Once you’re done, decide on 3 major goals you’d like to see by the end of the next year.   The attached worksheet will give you a template you can use for your brainstorming process.

Here are a few phrases that I used:

  • Expert

  • Thought leader

  • Community champion

  • Need mentor

  • Accountability

  • Disciplined

  • Well-known


Now it’s time to upgrade your goals.  Transform them into BIG goals.  Turn them into affirmative statements that describe how you will be one year from now.  Go bold and think broader.  Use uncommon or ridiculous words that motivate you.  By being bolder, you take a step back and consider the entire landscape of possibility of achieving your goal.  You give yourself permission to not be limited by what you THINK you can get done.  In going BIG, don’t forget to be specific enough so you’re clear on what will change and how you’ll be different.

Your BIG goals should be:

  • Boisterous - Audaciously bold, loud, & disruptive

  • Imaginative - Ideas that go past your everyday thinking

  • Gutsy - Goals that push and challenge you to take things up a notch

I have created 3 BIG goals for myself.  I want to:

  1. Be a Champion & Superhero for Small Nonprofits in My Local Community

  2. Obliterate My Fear of the Online Marketplace

  3. Skyrocket My Knowledge Base


Why are these goals important?  Why this goal and not something else?  Do a quick reality check with yourself before you go any further.  Often we make goals or create a plan that devolves into busy work or a meaningless goal that won’t have a major impact on anything.  So before you jump head first into a new goal, take time to reevaluate whether or not it has any true meaning.  Asking “why” helps examine your true motives and prevents you from going in directions that aren’t helpful.  This is a way to ground yourself, and not get so caught up in being bold that you forget that you have to actually get things done!  Though my goals may sound a little “pie in the sky”, they center around my own professional development, building a local following, and launching online tools for my business.


Now that you have BIG goals that are grounded in your “why”, the next step is figuring out how to get there.  These are your strategic goals, because they are the smaller, but still important, steps you need to take to fully achieve your BIG goal.  These are more manageable and break down the process for getting to your desired goal.  Think of 3 major steps you can take this year to reach your BIG goal.  Use worksheet #2 to record your BIG goals and the associated strategic goals.



The S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound) method is used in many fields to refine your goal planning process.  This method is an incredibly useful framework for narrowing your focus.  Your strategic goals should be:

  • Specific: The more specific you are, the easier it is to measure whether or not you reached your goal.  It also helps when developing an action plan for accomplishing your strategic goal.

  • Measurable: Quantify, or place a number on your goal so you know how to determine if you were successful at the end of the year.  How will you know if you’ve reached the finish line if that line is never drawn?  Quantifying your goal also makes it clear the amount of resources and effort you will need to reach your finish line.  A good formula for this is Achieve/Reach (or another verb) (number) of (services lines/events/occurrences) by (time).

  • Actionable:  Include direct action verbs to help kickstart the strategies that need to be implemented to accomplish your goal.

  • Realistic:  I’m all for having a larger than life goal to inspire you to be bigger and greater, but beware the trap of developing an impossible goal or one that doesn’t really align well with your mission.   Walk the line between common sense and fantasy.  Having a goal to go from 0 to million followers on Facebook in six months is not only unrealistic, but it’s setting yourself up for failure.  Through some incredible chain of events, you may very well reach 1 million subscribers, but imagine how much sweeter it would be if you reached it as a result of surpassing a goal, rather than meeting it.

  • Time-Bound:  Your BIG goals by their nature are meant to be lofty goals that may extend past a year.  However, the steps to get there should be outlined in discrete steps.  It’s easier to build milestones along the way in order to feel accomplished.  Always put an end date on your goals.

Now let's look at the old goals compared with the new applying all of the S.M.A.R.T. guidelines.


Obtain professional certifications for my business

Have a mentor

Take a master class


Obtain 2 certifications (Minority Business Enterprise and Women’s Business Enterprise Certifications) for my business in six months.

Secure a mentor by March 2017 and hold monthly meetings to hold myself accountable with business goals.

Take a master class targeted toward business consulting professionals by September 2017.


The next step is to write down your goals and transfer them to a to-do list. Research suggests that by writing things down you’re more likely to succeed.  Make copies of worksheet #3 for each strategic goal, and begin to plan how you will achieve that goal. Think through the preparation work that needs to be done, what’s needed while the goal is being executed, and any necessary follow-up.  Think through the resources (time, money, etc) and who will help you accomplish the goals. Don't forget a due date for each task!

See an example of a plan for one of my goals below:



Don’t make the mistake of crafting your goals for the year and not bother to check in to measure your progress.  The end of the year is way too late to look back in reflection.  Make a point to check in regarding your plan monthly, at a minimum.  During your monthly check-ins, think about lessons and failures, and how you can adjust your strategies.  Use it as a learning experience, not a blaming one.  In worksheet #4, write down strategies for each strategic goal and use the scale of 1 to 5 to rate your progress on reaching the goal.  There’s also a spot for notes, to reflect on what was successful and not so successful.

If you walk through this seven-step process, this time next year, you will have implemented a solid plan that gets you closer to reaching your BIG goals!  Comment below and let me know what some of your BIG goals are.  Click the link below to access the goal planning worksheets.