Goals are often an afterthought. I’ll admit, they aren’t the most glamorous part of a marketing project. It’s easy to get caught up in the features of a new website or the allure of a social media campaign. But diving into these things without solid marketing goals is like setting out on a trek without a map. If you don’t know where you’re going, there’s no way to monitor your progress or to ultimately know if you’ve arrived.

Marketing goals should be the kickoff to any nonprofit marketing project. But setting solid, helpful marketing goals can be a bit more difficult than it may initially seem. After all, they’re going to inform your decisions on how to use your marketing to ultimately help your nonprofit make the world a better place. They better be pretty solid.

But fear not! Here’s a process you can use to do just that. By walking through these steps, you’ll have solid marketing goals for your nonprofit in no time.

Start with Organizational Goals

When it comes to setting marketing goals, many nonprofits develop them in something of a vacuum. They think “what are the various ways my online marketing can help me?” But I’d recommend tabling this question­ for the time being.

Instead, start by listing out all of your organizational goals for the coming year. You most likely have specific fundraising goals. You may have goals around volunteerism as well. Or getting members of the community to sign up for your services. Or driving more people to attend your events. Or increasing your membership. Or distributing more downloadable resources and helpful information to members of your community.

Whatever your goals as an organization, write them all down.

Pick Out Those Goals that Matter Most

The next step is sometimes a hard one. But it’s crucial. Once you have a solid list of organizational goals, it’s time to pick out those goals that matter the most.

These are the goals that’ll keep you up at night. They’re the ones that if they go up it’s cause for celebration. They’re the ones that you’d sacrifice other goals to achieve.

For instance, many nonprofits will highlight website visits as a marketing goal. But if website visits were cut in half and online donations doubled, is that a tradeoff you’d make? Many nonprofits would probably take that swap.

Pull these most important goals into a list of their own. These will serve as your “primary goals” moving forward. That’s not to say the others aren’t important at all. But these primary goals should get the majority of your attention as we move forward.

Outline Your Current (and Planned) Marketing Tools

It’s time to give your goals some context. Write out all of the various things you do from a marketing perspective. You can also include what you plan to do in the future, but make sure to indicate it isn’t happening just yet. This list will lay out all of the tools you have at your disposal when it comes to achieving your marketing goals.

Examples could include (but aren’t limited to):

  • A website
  • An email newsletter
  • Social media channels
  • An active blog
  • Other active online communities like a forum or discussion board
  • Presenting at conferences or webinars
  • A library of downloadable content
  • Press releases
  • Earned coverage from media or other websites
  • Guest publishing on other websites or blogs

Don’t worry too much if you should or shouldn’t include a specific item on the list. If it comes to mind, jot it down. You can always cut it later.

Cut Goals that Don’t Tie to Marketing

Since we’re focused specifically on marketing here, it’s time to whittle the list of goals down a bit to only include ­those that have a tie to your marketing efforts. Depending on your goals and how much you’re doing with your marketing, it’s possible this won’t involve many cuts. But in some instances, there will be goals that clearly don’t relate to marketing in any conceivable way. For the time being, set those aside.

Set Specific Goals

Now that you have a solid list of marketing-related goals, the next step is to make them concrete. In our opinion, solid goals should have three qualities:

Be quantifiable – You should be able to set a specific value that you’re aiming to achieve

Be set in a timeframe – It’s important to express your goal in a timeframe, such as weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually

Be ambitious yet realistic – You want something to strive for, but also don’t want to set yourself up chasing something you won’t realistically be able to achieve

For instance, something like “raise $2,500 online per month” is going to be a lot more helpful than “boost online donations.” Setting specific goals will ultimately allow you to assess if you’re achieving what you set out to with your marketing efforts.

When developing your goals, you’ll want to factor in the following considerations:

Historical performance – How have you done over the last couple of years when it comes to the goal at hand?

Change in capacity – Has anything changed internally that should lead to a change in your ability to achieve this goal? Has anyone been hired into or left a role that would directly impact this goal?

Change in approach – Have you substantially changed your approach to achieving this goal? For instance, if you launch the ability for visitors to register for your services online, that would most likely lead to a substantial uptick in registrations (at least you’d hope).

You can always adjust these goals later if you need to. Even if it feels like a guess, quantify your goals and place them in a timeframe at this point.

Achieving Your Marketing Goals

Alright, so now you have these great marketing goals. But how do you go about actually achieving them? Well stay tuned for the next part of this series where we talk about just that. And if you want us to email part two directly to your inbox, you can sign up for our weekly blog updates.

Have anything to add to our process? Or do you have a process of your own that you’ve found helpful when developing marketing goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.