Non Profit Marketing takes “S.M.A.R.T.’s”

A Case Study

A couple of years ago while performing a “Market Study” for a well established Non Profit, I learned of yet another way to utilize the SMART Goal methodology.  This Market Study Project had multiple steps that were designed equally for discovery and for future planning purposes.  Discover who the current supporters were, identify opportunities to reach new audiences AND analyse the existing Communications Plan and aide in developing a new, more targeted approach to plan for messaging.

First, we needed data….

For the first phase, three surveys were designed and well received by the region which provided excellent information of current users, lapsed membership, and of non members.  Multiple avenues were used to reach each base and we had nearly  a 40% return rate (which is very good).  Once compiled we had lots of information to use to determine Attitudes and Motivators.

Many reports and presentations later, our clients were still having a difficult time determining who to target and what to say.  They had never looked at this from the scientific side and didn’t know how to generate goals using this data.  Long story short, I realized the group had a very difficult time creating goals because they had never used the “SMART Goal” technique.

Previous goals were to “increase Volunteers” or “Donations”, but with no details on how to know when you achieved them, or even How you achieved them.

My Corporate Trainer background makes me assume everybody knows and uses the Smart Goal technique, but that simply is not so.  Further more, the entire Board of Directors didn’t use this either and as a result created some unattainable goals in past years.  For those unfamiliar SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant(realistic)& Time based.  The methodology is that SMART is used as a project plan to create a goal.  If you can’t think of a way to answer one of these headers, then you risk setting a bad goal that is not achievable.

The Answer?

I offered to Facilitate a “Goal Setting” session with the Board to help create more concrete, achievable goals that the Marketing team could then build a campaign from.  In one afternoon we were able to unite many different thoughts of what direction this NP should focus based on using the data provided by our firm AND by using the SMART methodology.  As an exercise, I used some past goals and illustrated how if even one component is left out of SMART when forming a goal, that it is likely not achievable.  Then I referred to the notes taken in our initial assessment and proved what they were presenting then as problems were the result of poorly written goals.

Wait, ..Written Goals?

Yes, it is very important when first using this model to write down all thoughts and to then present it to the group for discussion.  SMART is an exercise that helps embed this process.  After time, it will become an integrated behavior or way of thinking, but at first give it it’s due diligence and write them down.

Closer investigation showed that certain goals had been too “lofty” and not Realistic.   The end result sounded nice, but how to get there hadn’t really been planned out.  As a group we broke these down to smaller goals that could be accomplished, once that happened it was easier to attach Measurements to them.  Specifying action steps to help achieve each goal were discussed and they realized that “SMART” is also a management tool to determine what progress they were making.

 Our interviews showed that both the ED and the Board had shown some frustration to each other because the previous goal hadn’t been accomplished.  

By following the SMART technique; Management has direction from the Board and the Board has a way to gauge progress.  There had also been a confusion when setting goals for the organization on the relationship  between time and resources.  Most Executive Directors I have met take on far more than they should.  If the Organization needs it, well, they will find a way to get it done.  This creates a problem over time and literally empowers a BOD to take the Time factor out of goal setting.  If the Board doesn’t  know how to assess the ED’s ability to manage time vs resources, then how can they apply it to goal setting?

Time-bound vs Resources?

This may have been the biggest takeaway of our meeting; the need to insure a goal is achievable with in a certain time frame.  Many do not put timelines with goals for a variety of reasons, and I think I have heard them all.  Understanding that time lines must be part of the foundation of a goal is what makes it a goal.  Otherwise it is simply a dream.  Time lines and accountability make it real and coincidentally, they also make them happen.

Our Results

Over the next month, utilizing the SMART goal method this group was able to develop 3 distinct goals to then ask the Executive Director and the Marketing team to complete.  Each goal gave Specific details of what would be accomplished, it defined how it would be Measurable with both metrics and timelines, it outlined Actionable steps similar to a project plan, the entire team felt these were Realistic steps given the mission of the organization and the new data they had from our Market Study and lastly , the Marketing team felt they could accomplish this goal given the Time they were given and resources that were made available for it.

WHEW!

This Board session also highlighted the need for the organization to budget money on an annual basis to support the ongoing needs of Marketing.  Previously no money was budgeted(common), but the ED spent it when needed(also common).  How is this good planning? Budgeting and goal setting should be done at the same time.  Money is a key resource when considering Marketing tactics.  General guideline is 5-10% of annual Revenue.

Almost 3 years later that Non Profit has a dedicated Marketing Manager with an annual budget.  Other non profits in the area are looking to them for advice on Marketing and Membership has grown.  They have an annual process of Goal setting before the Budget is determined for the following year(yeah!).  This has also opened communications between the ED and the BOD.  Our facilitation that afternoon featured the SMART Goal methodology which certainly had an impact on the way this group does business.

Click here to read my blog on how to build a Marketing Plan or Communication Strategy   LearnMore-Red-Primary-16

For a look at other Case Studies  –Click here

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