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Setting Realistic Goals

Setting clear goals is one of the most important things an organization can do. A good goal provides vision, imagination, insight, and a challenge to achieve. It is quickly explained (slogan-able), and easily understood. A strong goal is one that people believe in, rally around, and individually help to achieve. Positive goals ("preserve the ancient rainforest") are usually more effective than negative goals. ("stop logging")

Here's an example of a useful goal:

Plant a million trees this decade.

And one that is more difficult to achieve...

Stop the industrialists! Save the earth!

Set achievable goals that lead in the right direction for positive change. When one goal is reached, then bring another forward. Step by step, building on success after success, we improve the world.

Maybe your organization is large enough to pursue several goals simultaneously. Many small NGOs are better off focusing on one winnable campaign at a time.

When impossible goals are set, the stage is set for disappointment, and the loss of enthusiasm and people power. Meaningful and winnable goals allow the whole team to feel accomplished, and invigorates them to press on for more.

Most non-profits need both short-term and long-term goals. For example, your long-term goal could be to elect the Green Party to govern British Columbia. Your short-term goal might be to promote proportional representation through a referendum, or to win a recall ballot against a sitting Liberal. Short-term goals should support and improve the opportunities for your long-term goals to succeed.

Unfortunately well-chosen goals will not always succeed. Some things are just plain difficult, or next to impossible, to achieve.

I've said a lot about the value of realistic goals, but there is also the danger of setting inferior goals, not worth pursuing. A goal should not be chosen simply because it is winnable; it must also improve on the way things were.

The art is to pick goals that make meaningful and valuable contributions to society, and that can be realized.

Goals, Strategies and Tactics


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