Since this is the 5th installment of our strategic planning series, we aren’t going to walk through the first four blog posts. But if you want to learn about organizing for strategic planning, conducting your environmental scan, or drafting your mission, vision, and core values, the first four posts are worth reading.
At this point in the planning process, the work group has spent two to three months to research and fully understand the organization’s history, constituencies, strengths, challenges, and opportunities.
So now it’s time to focus on strategic goal setting. Specifically, the work group needs to identify one or two strategic goals – you might call them big bold goals, big hairy audacious goals, or cathedral goals.
These are very long-range goals that might take 15 or even 30 years to accomplish. It’s important that these be ambitious and inspirational goals that give you and others goosebumps.
Let me give you a great example: in 1985, Rotary International set a long-range goal of eliminating polio from the face of the earth.
When Rotary set this goal, there were thousands of active cases worldwide and polio was endemic in 125 countries. Public health professionals thought these do-gooder Rotarians were naive and could not achieve the goal.
But Rotary kept this big bold goal in mind through it’s leadership changes, multiple strategic plans, and the ups and downs that any organization experiences. And over the ensuing three and a half decades, the effort gained steam: the World Health Organization and philanthropists like Bill Gates signed on among many others.
Today, polio is only active in two countries on this earth – – – and in those two countries there have been less than 5 new cases this year.
The big bold goal doesn’t just drive your programs and management, it also drives your fundraising. Four years ago a leader within Rotary told me something powerful. He said, “Your gift of $1,000 will guarantee that 1,000 children will never get polio”. I thought back to my time in India and the many people that polio turned into beggars. At that moment I thought “I live a comfortable lie in America and have an extra $1,000 to give; how stingy would I have to be to not make this contribution and guarantee that 1,000 children will not get polio and the planet will be one step closer to erasing this scourge”.
Eliminating polio from the face of the earth is a good example of a Big Bold Goal, but let me give you a few more:
- House 100,000 displaced people (International Rescue Committee)
- By 2030, all students in Higher Achievement cities will graduate from high school, ready for college (Higher Achievement)
- By 2023, at least 80% of students in schools where City Year serves will reach the 10th grade on time and on track each year (City Year)
- All children have a playground they can use (Kaboom)
- Close the hunger gap in Orange County by providing 30 million goals annually by 2025 (Second Harvest Food Bank)
- Land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth (JFK/NASA)
- Eradicate the Kerosene Lamp from Africa (Solar Aid)
- Ensure a bone marrow donation match for every patient in need (Gift of Life Marrow Registry)
- End Childhood Hunger (Share our Strength)
- A grocery store within 1 mile of 75% of Atlanta residents (City of Atlanta)
What are the signposts of a big bold goal?
- They seem impossible at first
- They require the organization to rethink how it achieves its mission
- They can’t be achieved in just 3 or 4 years
- They relate directly to your vision statement. If you envision a community without hunger, then your big bold goal should relate to no one being hungry in your community.
- They inspire others to action
Sometimes at this stage of the planning process, work group members will propose incremental goals, such as:
- Serve 10% more clients
- Expand to two additional sites
- Purchase a new building
These are all good goals, and they might even contribute toward a big bold goal – – – but they aren’t a big bold goal. So when work group members suggest less ambitious goals, write them down and promise to revisit them when the big bold goal is selected.
Finally – a small organization shouldn’t have more than one big bold goal and a large one shouldn’t have more than two big bold goals. A shopping list of 5 or 10 big bold goals is simply not achievable: after all, achieving the big bold goal requires laser-like focus and you only have one or two lasers.