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  • Writer's pictureNonprofit Learning Lab

A Quick Guide to Nonprofit SMART Goals

Updated: Jun 9

SMART is an acronym for a tool that helps you clearly define your goals, objectives, and strategies. SMART goals are easy to use and implement without any particular tools or training. Keep reading for a quick SMART Goals how-to guide.


Each of your goals should be:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time-bound


S - Specific

  • Your goal should be clear and detailed for more effective planning. Define your goal in as much detail as possible.

  • Some things to think about:

  • What needs to be accomplished?

  • Who is in charge of it?

  • What do we need to do to achieve it?


M - Measurable

  • Your goal should have concrete criteria for measuring progress and staying motivated.

  • Your goal should have trackable benchmarks to evaluate progress, which typically includes using metrics or data targets.

  • Some questions to ask yourself:

  • How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?

  • How much? How many?


A - Achievable

  • Your goal also needs to be realistic and attainable. It can be challenging, but it must be achievable.

  • Ask yourself: Is this goal realistic? Can I reasonably accomplish it, or does it need to be scaled back?


R- Relevant

  • Evaluate your goal and ensure it matters to you and/or your organization. Think about why you are setting this goal.

  • Take some time to think about:

  • Why am I setting this goal?

  • Does this goal align with our objectives and larger goals?

  • Does this goal align with the overall mission of the organization?


T - Time-bound

  • Every goal needs a target deadline. This part of the SMART goal criteria helps to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over your longer-term goals. By defining a deadline, you are keeping yourself accountable.

  • Ask yourself: When does this goal need to be accomplished? How long will it take?



SMART goals allow us to have clearly defined objectives, which helps us stay motivated when the going gets tough. SMART can be used in a variety of areas: your personal goals, your organization’s goals, or for setting goals toward a specific larger project.


Check out these downloadable guidebooks and activity sheets to help you brainstorm on a variety of topics!



If you are interested in learning more about goal-setting and planning, check out these upcoming trainings:


Program Planning & Scaling: How to Build, Scale & Manage Programs to Reach Your Goals

Learn more and register here!


Successful Project Management: From Idea to Launch to Sustainability

Learn more and register here!


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