Too often, some goals within nonprofits seem to conflict with other goals. In this webinar, Marc A. Pitman will show you how to bring some of your sanity back by getting goal in alignment (even if you’re not the top decision maker.)

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Marc, is it okay if I go ahead and get us started officially?

Marc: Let’s do it.

Steven: All right. Cool. Good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Goal Setting to Help Your Nonprofit Thrive.” My name is Steven Shattuck and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

Just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin. I just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation. I’ll be sending out that recording as well as the slides later on today if you didn’t already get them. If you want to leave early or you want to review the content later on, have no fear, we’ll be sending out all those goodies later on this afternoon.

As you’re listening today, please feel free to chat in any questions you have. We’re going to save some time for Q&A. So don’t be shy about that at all. Send in your questions and comments and we’ll try to get to as many as possible before the 2:00 Eastern hour. You can also send us questions and comments on Twitter. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter feed there. You can use the hashtag #Bloomerang and our username is @BloomerangTech.

And one last item, if you have any trouble with the audio through your computers, we find that the phone audio is usually a little bit better. So, if you can dial in and you don’t mind dialing in, try that before you give up on us completely. Usually the audio quality is by the computer is really dependent on Wi-Fi and all those good things. But phone is just the phone. So try that if you have any trouble and hopefully you’ll get a better audio stream that way.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar with us, I just want to say a special hello to you. We do these webinars just about every Thursday. We bring on a great guest like Marc for a super educational presentation. But in addition to that, we offer donor management software. That’s kind of our core business, what we’re most known for.

If you are interested in learning more about that or checking us out or maybe you want to switch some time in the future, visit our website. You can even download a quick video demo and see the software in action. You don’t even have to talk to a salesperson if you don’t want to. Who wants to do that, after all? So, check us out if you’re interested.

But for now, I am super excited to introduce one of my favorites. He’s my brother from a different mother. He’s Marc A. Pitman. How’s it going, Marc?

Marc: Hey, bro.

Steven: Thanks so much for being here. I’m going to brag on you, if you don’t mind, before I hand it over to you.

Marc: I wanted to give you space too because it sounded like you were open to that.

Steven: I do. I’m really open to it. You can see Marc is really a very accomplished young man here. He is the author of a great book sitting here on my bookshelf, “Ask Without Fear.” He is also the founder of the Concord Leadership Group and, a great website, great blog. Definitely check that out afterwards.

He’s also the Executive Director of The Nonprofit Academy, which I think he’s going to talk about at the end. It’s something you should definitely consider joining. He’s also an advisory panel member of Rogare, which is a really brand new and probably the most prestigious fundraising think tank. Marc, did you go to France and England for that meeting, recently?

Marc: I did not. No. Tom Ahern was tweeting me and emailing me throughout to let me know how much I was missing.

Steven: I know. I didn’t get to go either, but I’m not on the panel either. Marc has been helping nonprofits for many years. He’s been featured in tons of media outlets. He’s a frequent conference speaker, frequent webinar guest, way too many things to list here. You’re really going to see a lot of that expertise come alive in the next hour or so. He hails . . . he used to be in Maine, but now in South Carolina, right, Mark?

Marc: Yeah, #YeahThatGreenville.

Steven: Yeah, Greenville. He’s got a beautiful family. I tease Marc that him and his wife need to like freeze their DNA because he has these amazing children that are like geniuses and musicians and videographers. I think I’m done. I’m going to pass things off to you, Marc.

Marc: I’m just getting warmed up. This is great. My head won’t leave the room now. It’s so swollen up like the aunt on Harry Potter. I’m floating on the ceiling right now.

Steven: Good.

Marc: I am super excited to be here. As you know, Steven, you’re one of my favorite people in the universe. We have a little bromance going on here. But I think people are here to talk about content. So, ground rules for our time with all of you that are attending, please feel free to drop in questions in the chat. Steven is going to be checking them. He graciously said we’d leave time to the end.

I’m the kind of presenter that I want to help people in the moment too. I’ve given him permission to interrupt me with his own thoughts or if questions come in from the chat to interrupt me at any point. The only reason we’re here is to help you. There’s a lot of things you could do with your hour. We want to make sure that we give you skills and tools and a different mindset when it comes to running a nonprofit.

Running a nonprofit is pretty hard. I tell people . . . you can’t see my hands moving. My stepdad was Italian but somehow some of the DNA got to me. My hands move all over. Running a nonprofit . . . if you run a business. Let’s say you start a business, you’re the boss and you maybe have some staff and you take excellent care of your customers because they’re your revenue stream to be able to keep yourself in business. But a nonprofit isn’t like that.

If you’re the boss of the nonprofit, the founder, the CEO, the executive director, whatever, your first thought is you have the staff and you have your clients, but your clients tend to be not the ones that are funding your operation and your boss tends to be this group called the board even if you’re the head person in your organization, you have this board of directors.

When they’re the board, they’re your boss, not the individuals. Although, sometimes the individuals forget that and think they’re your boss. Then you have this fourth group, which is their funding stream, which are these donors. It can often feel like you’re torn between the board’s list of what to do and the donor’s requirements for what funding is and the clients and the staff thinking they know better than they often do.

It just is a hard, hard job. It often can feel like this picture here. You’re building the bridge as you’re walking across it. Part of the problem with building the bridge while you’re walking across it, if you’re doing that all in what Stephen Covey would call quadrant one activity, important and urgent, putting out fires, is that you may find out the bridge is going to the wrong shore. There’s a book from the ’70s, it’s called “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else.” It was written for seniors graduating from high school, but it was good for anyone in life. It’s really important to begin with the end in mind.

You’ll hear a lot throughout our time together, Franklin Covey speak and that’s because I am, in addition to having a master’s in organizational leadership, I haven executive coach training certification from Franklin Covey. “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is something that I find as very enjoyable reading, where a lot of people find it academic and dense. You’ll hear me drop a lot of those Q2, Q1s, but I’ll try to definitely explain them.

As a nerd, I wanted to do some leadership training or leadership research. So, a couple years ago, through Bloomerang and the generosity of a lot of people getting it on their list, we had over 1,000 people take a leadership survey. Where compass point and board source and all these others work with boards and executive directors in leadership, I really wanted to look at leadership all the way through the organization.

I think the stat is 10,000 boomers reaching retirement age every year for the next 18 years that Pew Research put out. So, we know that retirement age doesn’t equal retiring. There’s an enormous cohort of people that are moving closer and closer to no longer being on the planet. All of us are moving toward . . . the great gift of life is that we die, one of the great gifts, one of the certainties is that we will no longer be here at some point.

There’s going to be this tremendous shift in leadership. We need to be training people in all areas of our organization to be able to take on that leadership should that happen, and should that need arise. We have been able to do that. I’ll remind you too that we just sent out the second link went out today. We’re going to be doing this every other year to collect trends. Steven, maybe we can give out that link when you send out the slides.

Steven: Yeah. That’s great.

Marc: Okay. Adrian Sargeant, we’re working with University of Plymouth, the Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy this time. They’re conducting the survey. But that would be good.

All right. So one of the questions we asked is do you have strategic planning. Do you have a strategic plan? Sixty-eight percent of the people that responded said, “Yeah, of course we have a strategic plan.” Twenty-nine percent said, “No.” And got to love the 3%, “I don’t know.” One of the reasons . . . when I shared this with Jen Chang, who’s a PhD in philanthropy psychology at the University of Plymouth, she said, “So what, Marc? So, what if they have a strategic plan or not? What does that matter?”

So that caused us to dig a little deeper. We asked, “Do you have a strategic plan in writing?” All of a sudden it went from 68% that said, “Yeah, we have a strategic plan,” to 51% say, “Yeah, we have it in writing.” Apparently, the other 17% just had it in their head.

When you do the data sifting, you find out that it was a lot of executive directors and CEOs that were the ones that said, “Yeah, we have a plan, but we don’t have it in writing.” I was sharing this with one group and they said, “That explains our board meetings. All of us have a strategic plan in our head but a different strategic plan because nobody’s put it on paper. We all think we’re going to the same goal, but we have these weird fights and weird inferences going on.”

So that was interesting, to see the number of people that didn’t have it in writing made it, so it was almost half the nonprofits responding didn’t have a strategic plan or didn’t know if they did. Sixty-two percent said that the didn’t have a sustainable fundraising plan. Our colleague, Bill Littlejohn, who’s going to be joining us at the nonprofit storytelling conference a few weeks after this recording asked me to put that in there.

Traditional strategic planning, you’re supposed to have your revenue model in there. How are you going to fund what you’re doing? Sixty-two percent of the leaders said more than half the nonprofits said, “We have goals, but we don’t know how we’re going to fund it. It’s kind of going to happen, I guess.”

Then 58% said that it wasn’t checked at least quarterly, which any of you that have been in a strategic planning process know that it is a real wonderful time of dreaming and energy and vision and we can take on the world and rainbows and unicorns. And then it just gathers dust on a shelf in a binder and it gathers digital dust on a shared drive in some organization’s shared drive space. There’s no regular checking going on in the majority of nonprofits that responded to the survey.

And then 70% said no benchmarking occurred with peer organizations when they did this. When they’re thinking about, “What are we going to be? What’s the best thing that we can be?” There was no looking to see who else is doing this too. What are some of the . . . there was no awareness of their environment, which is a pretty important part of strategic planning.

That’s why at Concord Leadership Group, we say most nonprofits are doing strategic wishing, not strategic planning. They don’t put it in writing. They don’t know how they’re going to resource it. They haven’t checked to see who else is doing it in this space. There’s just a lot of, “We hope we can do this.” We’re not even going to check it regularly when we get it done.

The reason this matters, thanks to Jen Chang’s question, is communicating a shared vision, it turns out, is directly attached to having a strategic plan in writing. She said, “So what, Marc? They don’t have a strategic plan. Big whoop.” Any of you that have been in leadership for any period of time know there’s this huge war going on between whether you should have a strategic plan or not.

Is the strategic plan just an exercise that consultants want you to do so they can get consulting fees or is it something that’s really important to your organization’s success? I’ll share with you through the course of this how to do a very functional strategic plan without having to bring anybody outside. It can be really helpful to get a third-party perspective, but you can do it yourself. It just takes a discipline of doing it again, which is where a lot of the rub comes in.

There was a question about shared vision and you can see it there, “Are there systems in place to ensure that all stakeholders clearly share the vision ad brand of your nonprofit?” When we sliced up the data to have the people that said, “Yeah, we have a strategic plan in writing, you could see 77% of people agreed, “Yeah, we have more than three-quarters of responders said, “Yeah, we have that.” There are people across our organization, volunteers, board members, community people, staff, they get it. There’s a shared brand, a shared identity. There’s a common understanding of where we’re going.

But when we look at the people that didn’t have it in writing, it was less than half said, “Yes, we have this common understand of where we’re going. So more than half the nonprofits of that strategic plans in writing are kind of not even clear to themselves what they’re trying to accomplish. You can see this. Think about organizations, probably not your own, but organizations that you may have visited, where different departments are passionate about what they do, but they do it in almost isolation of the rest of the organization.

Their entire work could happen without coordinating it all with any other part of the organization. We know that’s not realistic when we take a step back to look at it, but without some common touchpoint, which I’m calling the strategic plan, people just forget that. Their universe orbits around their own work and so their own work becomes exactly what the nonprofit is doing in their mind.

That doesn’t work well when it comes to goal setting and leading a nonprofit and helping your nonprofit thrive because that becomes like herding cats. It’s like a bunch of little pieces moving off. The picture I just got in my mind that caused me to chuckle was a bunch of wind-up toys moving around in random patterns. They’re not actually going anywhere at all. They’re not pulling together. What we need as human beings, we need our nonprofit sector to have organizations that have teams that are pulling together, both volunteer and paid pulling together for the common good.

Kind of looking at this not having a strategic plan forces you to look at short-term things. You start looking at payroll, “Are we meeting payroll?” which you’re going to have to look at anyway. Quadrant one is urgent and important. It’s important we pay the people we employ and it’s urgent that it gets done. I know there are some people listening here that are struggling payroll to payroll. That can really create myopic thinking. That can be like whack-a-mole. Every couple weeks, the payroll mole pops up and I’ve got to whack it down. Then there’s an angry board member or an angry donor or angry community person, all these different issues come up.

Then there’s the work of your nonprofit too, which we tend to separate from the people work of board members. If you’re an executive director, I strongly encourage you consider 30% of your time dedicated to board work. You need to set goals for your board members about what you want them to learn about running a nonprofit and being a governance of a nonprofit. You need to set goals for their fundraising, what you think they need to know about fundraising and how to communicate with donors, what it takes to resource a nonprofit.

There could be relational goals. You shouldn’t be just seeing them at the board meetings. If you’re going to be an effective executive director of your nonprofit, you need to have some sort of relationship so there’s trust. There’s money in the emotional bank account. We all have bank accounts and if we’re making deposits in the emotional bank account, then it helps smooth out all of our operations.

When things go wrong, they’ll trust you because they know you. There’s a cushion to trust you. So that leads to the short-term planning and that’s really easy to do if you don’t have a long-term vision of a strategic plan. Strategic planning is usually still three to five years. Some people like to do ten. I don’t know how you do that in today’s culture.

But it’s more that aspiration of where are we going and how are we going to get there. What’s great about that is that helps us . . . I was talking to, I can’t even remember who it was. I think it was Chris Davenport, about tightrope walking. The most rational seeming thing to do if you’re going to walk on a tightrope is to look down because you want to make sure your feet are moving down.

That’s like the short-term planning, “I’ve got to just see what am I doing today and I’ve got to get through the day. I can’t worry about the next day until I put my foot down on today. Then I’ll put my foot down on tomorrow’s part of the rope tomorrow. But anybody that I’ve listened to that is successful at tightrope says that’s a surefire way to fall. You will fall if you’re looking down at your feet.

What you need to do is look straight ahead. You need to look at your end goal. As you’re focusing on the end of the rope, the other side, your feet fall in the right place. Kind of like driving a car. If you’re only looking right in front of the car, you keep swerving little swerves that make you very dangerous as a driver, but if you keep looking much further ahead, you stay in your lane, you stay between the lines and you’re able to drive in a much safer way.

So how do we create that long-term vision? How do we have something that even when we’re in the midst of trying to make sure our feet do fall in the right place, we can look up and be reminded of where we’re going. Fortunately, as tough as running a nonprofit is, we’re not going to plummet to our death in a canyon if we do focus on our feet and try to get today’s to-do list done. We have this flexibility of having a mix.

We can easily overcomplicate this process. If you Google strategic planning, long-term vision, goal setting, organizational development, you’ll get millions of hits, millions of results. What we try to do is limit it to four questions. We’re going to look at these four questions and I’m going to show you something about organizational goal setting that helps you incorporate these goals in all levels of your organization and then we’re going to take a look at a goal planning tool that you can use individually, whether you have a title of leadership, a position of leadership or not. You’ll be able to use this magnet goal setting program and be able to set your own goals and create your own leadership.

As you become more . . . as your personal leadership grows, your ability to influence others grows as well. That’s where you start getting the positions of leadership, keeping commitments yourself and setting your own goals and moving forward in your own goals, becoming the barometer . . . the thermostat, not the barometer. The barometer reflects the atmosphere around it. The thermostat sets the temperature. That’s the kind of leader you want to be. You want to be able to walk in the room, know there’s tension going on and be the one that diffuses it and moves forward on another goal.

How do you do that? Through the three steps. Strategic planning, personally or organizationally, cascading goals and then magnet goals. So let’s look at these four questions of strategic planning. You can see them on your screen. This is just a simple way . . . you can take yourself on a retreat. Hole yourself up in a hotel room, get a bunch of Post-It pads and write this stuff down. The what are you doing and why are we doing is the first question.

This is where a lot of people will get into mission and vision and guiding values and you should get into those here. The reason we don’t focus on that is and we don’t focus on that at Concord Leadership Group is that people start nitpicking about the vision. What’s the vision? What’s the definition of a mission? Yes, it’s good to have the terms clear, but usually that doesn’t help your organization move forward at all.

So a way to think about it is that vision is your horizon. What will the world look like when your cause isn’t needed anymore? What are you working toward? The mission is how you do it. Your guiding values are really incredibly important, something that I don’t think was stressed enough in planning this because as you set goals, you need to look back to your values.

If it’s something as simple as picking up the phone or finishing your grant proposal, you need to know what the organizational values are. Is it more important that people hear a live person on the phone rather than getting voicemail or do you put the weight on getting your grant proposal in by deadline. What is the value? What’s the guiding value?

The other reason you need to know your guiding values is because you need to empower your team or have a team that’s empowered to make their own decisions. You don’t want to be the bottleneck whatever level of leadership you are. You want to have authority and oversight and you want to be able to discipline and take responsibility for bad decisions, for sure, but you don’t want to have every single tedious decision have to be approved by you. Life is too short for that.

So, as you exercise them and grow them up in building trust with you but also knowing what the guiding values are, they can come to you and say, “Look, our value is taking care of our clients and I think I might have crossed the line on this.”

My 12-year old daughter is going through this right now. A parent asked her after an acting class to help her daughter. So she took an extra 20 minutes after the class after the theater had closed down helping explain where they were going the rest of the semester. She crossed the line. She should have said, “That’s great. Why don’t you talk to the adults?” She knows that now, but it was for the right values. It was the right reason of caring for this kid and caring for the parent and wanting to serve.

That is a different conversation than somebody who embezzles money or does something that’s like a crime. That should be a beyond the pale. You should know that right up front. Express that. What are your guiding values? Is it freedom and independent of employees or is it bureaucracy, which is usually a bad term but can be a really good term because it can be steadiness. It can be stability in the organization. It can be everybody knows what their part is or what they’re calling in the ship. So get those out. Clear those out. Really, allow yourself to dream.

Another way . . . we were just talking about it at a training I was doing yesterday in Greenville is what would happen if your organization weren’t there anymore. What would the world miss? Hopefully you’re not going to say nothing. Hopefully there is something that would be missing and lacking if your organization didn’t exist anymore and that could also inform your mission and vision.

Then the second question is we have this glorious vision. We love what we’re doing. You can wordsmith that. First, just get the general gist out. It’s great to have a mission that people can memorize or can fit on the back of a business card or whatever, but you need to figure out how do we get that done? That’s all fun. It sounds great. But what are we actually doing? This is where we can get into goals.

You can think of objectives. If it’s a public health objective of reducing the consumption of fatty milk in a certain period of time, like Katya Andresen talks about in “Robin Hood Marketing.” That can be an objective and then you can set up sub-goals. You can have a goal to get your effectiveness up to a certain point or your donor retention up to 80% and then have sub-goals underneath that of this is the stuff we’re going to do to make sure you’re going to have an extra thank you call.

Within 90 days of the first gift, we’re going to show an impact report and we’re going to ask for a second gift sooner than we feel comfortable, but because we’re doing it out of gratitude, we’re going to experiment with doing that and making sure they make a second gift. If you hear Jay Love talk about the research that he and others have done with Amy Eisenstein, you know that if your donor gives a second gift, your likelihood of retaining them skyrockets into the 60% versus the 19%.

So these are where you set those goals up. The people that love the visioning process don’t necessarily love this because this is much more task-centered. But this is also where you want to look at your situation assessments that most nonprofits are not doing. SWOT analysis is something that is pretty standard, strengths, weaknesses, obstacles and threats.

There’s this PESTLE that we’ve started doing with Rogare. I learned about it from where I work with Rogare in the UK. PESTLE, it’s more of an outward focus thing. So what’s the environmental . . . it’s an environmental scan. What is the environment like politically, economically, technologically . . . I don’t know what each letter stands for. It’s still new to me. But it was interesting to see what’s the political climate, like? What’s the social climate like? What’s the technological climate like? What’s the economic climate like?

Then as you start taking in to assess all those areas from your own opinions and the opinions of people in the room, then you can move to a SWOT analysis, which is usually much more of the organization. What are our organizational strengths? What are our organizational weaknesses? What are some of the obstacles that may happen? What are the threats that are coming toward us? There I go negative. O is opportunities. What are the strengths of the organization? What are the weaknesses? What are the opportunities? Where can we really see some opportunities and what are some threats that are happening in our space. That’s where you go into the second question.

The third question is, a majority of nonprofits aren’t asking this. Many people would say, “How do we fund this?” We at Concord Leadership Group say, “How do we resource it?” It can be fundraising and by in large, it will be fundraising. You may have [inaudible 00:27:12] for some of your things. But strategic collaborations are often overlooked. If you’ve done your situational assessment of, “Who else is doing stuff like us? Who else cares about things similar to what we care about?”

You can find some amazing collaborations like Hildy Gottlieb talks about when she did the diaper bank. They were looking for a warehouse. They were looking at the cost of the warehouses and then they said, “What if there were a nonprofit that would donate it?” Fortunately, they cultivated a board that was diverse enough that the thought processes weren’t all the same. The group think wasn’t allowed to happen the same way. Somebody immediately said, “What do you mean nonprofit? Why are we restricting it to nonprofit? Maybe there’s a company that has a warehouse.”

That’s exactly what happened. They found a company that had a warehouse that was thrilled to be able to use part of their warehouse to house the diapers. Then they brought into the mission so much that they let the diaper bank use their van in the off-hours to deliver diapers. They even, I think, volunteered, employees volunteered to drive the vans. They developed this wonderful strategic collaboration, which was real dollars and cents value as well as emotional and community value. The diaper bank didn’t have to pay rent for that.

So you can resource it in all sorts of different ways. I don’t think we think collaboratively enough on this. I’ve rather have you, as a leader, think collaboratively from where you’re sitting rather than having a grant foundation saying you must have a minimum of three organizations working together. Those usually become really weird projects. But when you’re organically coming and saying, “Who can we collaborate with?” then you have a much stronger place to go to funders that enjoy seeing that collaboration happening.

Then the fourth question is, “Who do we tell about it?” This is a question that doesn’t tend to come up in the strategic planning research I’ve seen, but if you’re not doing this step, you’re just the best kept secret in town. Nobody knows what you’re doing. You’re probably under resourced. Your fundraising is probably not effective. Your staff retention is probably minimal. You’re probably not retaining staff very well. It’s got to be internal and external marketing, as you see in those bullet points.

What are the assessments you’re doing to figure out how you’re doing well? We live in a really cool time where a lot of organizations are able to create our own report card. People want us to have a report card. They want to know there’s return on investment. But there’s not a standard yet. If you’ve ever tried to quantify nonprofit work, you know how complex it is. There doesn’t seem to be yet an overarching standard for many industries.

I understand there are some in like healthcare when I worked in hospitals. There are some metrics out there already, but for a lot of us, we get to make up our own report card. So, as long as we make it up and keep it consistent and do it with integrity, I shouldn’t have to say that, but we get to report back on what donors are doing through us in a way that we get to write the rules in a large part. So take the opportunity now before it gets forced on us from some other entity.

The advocacy aspect of this is who are the fans? Our volunteers, our board members, but it’s also our community officials. We need our elected officials at the local, state, regional, and federal levels to all know what we’re doing as individual organizations and as a collective nonprofit sector. If they don’t, other voices will rush in to fill the void. If you have questions about that, we can talk about the Olive Cook debacle in the UK, where a woman died, and the media created a fictional story that charities hounded her to death.

Even though the family said that wasn’t the truth, it caused the entire government to just wipe off all the privacy laws that were on the slate and create this fundraising preference service, they call it, that originally was going to be that you couldn’t communicate to anyone who was a nonprofit until they said, “Yes, I want you to communicate with me.”

So all of your direct mail, all of your marketing is gone, and you have to go door to door asking people, “Can we talk to you? Is it all right if we talk to you?” We never ask that of Apple or Walmart or your cable company, but they were forcing that on nonprofits because there’s this bad narrative and people weren’t doing the advocacy work apparently at the different levels.

But the internal and external marketing are so important. We need to tell our staff what a good job they’re doing. We need to let them know . . . I found this out as a fundraiser working in a hospital. I started hearing great stories from donors, “Why did you start giving to the organization?” “Oh my goodness, let me tell you about the care this nurse gave. She was just such a hoot. She was great,” whatever it was.

I realized after a while I’ve got this great story, I might as well deliver it back to them. I thought they knew it, but then I started sharing it with the staff. I asked them, “Is it all right if I share that back with her? I think she’d really love to know that.” “Yeah, please. We always think about that at family reunions.”

As we started reporting that back to the staff, they started getting super excited because they realized somebody cares about our work. That became not only you could see them walk taller and walk with more purpose and confidence, but they also started being able to say, “Hey, have you talked to this other person? I was talking to this person and I said, ‘Can I share your name with Marc because he’s doing fundraising for us and I think that’s something he may have a project going for?'” They just become this wonderful internal advocacy for you.

Then of course the external marketing, which we normally think about fundraising and communication, where we’re trying to get the word out. So these are all in the fourth step. As you can tell, we can go on for that. But I want to honor the fact that we’re going to look at goal setting in two other ways now.

The reason we want to do the strategic plan is that if you know where you’re going, if you know what the other end of the canyon looks like, you’re then able to set goals that actually move you forward and don’t self-sabotage you. Often, we self-sabotage ourselves because we try to raise for the next dollar instead of raising for the full year. We try to raise for the next small goal instead of looking at the big picture.

So a donor that may have given us $50,000 or $100,000 is “only” giving us $10,000 because that’s all we’re asking for. But it sabotages itself because it becomes really awkward to go back to that person ten times for $10,000 a year when it would have been maybe natural to say, “Would you consider giving $100,000 in shares to support the work?” So having that long-term focus allows us to make better decisions.

It also allows us to assess our skills personally and as an organization. To be that kind of organization, to make that kind of impact, what skills do I need to have? What skills do our team need to develop? Is it better people skills? Is it learning more about their personality traits like through DiSC or Highlands or Myers-Briggs? Is it learning communication skills so that they can talk to each other in a more productive way? What is it? Is it technical expertise in a certain area? Is it going back to college for research and statistics because we’re not doing that as accurately as we could do.

Whatever it is, you now know because you know where you’re going. Then it also helps with the fundraising. As I said about not only being able to make the more accurate solicitations but think about all the costs that are involved. Donors are not just investing in the sandwich that you’re handing to someone or the acre of land that you’re preserving or the cat your spaying or neutering . . . I don’t know which cats get what.

But they’re also investing in your being able to be smart about doing that and your being able to know where your community is going and what’s keeping up on the current research and your being able to employ people to be able to carry that out. It’s the overall mission. So you want to have all costs that you’re accounting for, not just individual project costs in your fundraising. You can do that with having a strategic plan.

You can set goals for that by running through a gift range calculator, like That gives you the different prospect levels to ask people at and then you set up the number of prospects. If you’re going to raise $100,000, you need to have three to five people that are able to give a quarter of that in the range of 10% of 25% of that. You can start setting your goals that way.

One last thing on fundraising goals for running a nonprofit. I really encourage you to think about learning three to five-year averages. I’m seeing a lot of boards that are saying, “Wow, we doubled our fundraising last year. We’re going to double that again this year.” That’s not realistic or right. Unless you’re going from like $10 to $20, yes, you can raise $40 the next year. That’s probably realistic.

A saner way to do this is to look at a three or five-year rolling average. If you’re a fundraiser that’s having these pie in the sky fundraising goals just shoved on you, one way to report back to them may be, “Over the last five years, our fundraising has grown this much.” So I think that it’s reasonable to stretch goal would be to raise it based on the historical data to raise it this much more, but not the 100% that’s being reported. You can start educating well on that. Hopefully you can see the other side clearly as you’re looking forward and you can make better steps as you go.

Once you have those goals, this is the fun part of the presentation for me. As you can tell, I’m pretty enthusiastic about this whole thing. So I’ve had fun up until now. This is something that I learned from a client in Northern New England, a concept that has just transformed organizations that I’ve been able to work with because the typical way of running a nonprofit . . . think of the typical executive director.

I call them CEOs because board members don’t know what an executive director is, but they do understand viscerally what a CEO is, and I want board members and volunteers to esteem the leader of the nonprofit as much as they deserve to be esteemed. So I say CEO, even though most of our titles for our organizations are executive directors. The typical CEO of a nonprofit gets this list hoisted on them from the board. It’s random.

In our survey, we found that over half the CEOs aren’t getting annual performance reviews. So it’s not based on any . . . usually the data isn’t based on anything other than, “Here’s our budget line items. We need to make x-percent more. Let’s raise 10% more. Let’s have employee satisfaction go up 12%.” It just kinds of seems like this mish-mosh casserole of a to-do list that gets shoved on them that was cooked up in some board meeting.

The CEO being a good leader wants to own that. She owns that as her personal, “This is my list to do. This is my boss’s objective for me for the year.” Then she turns to her staff and asks them, “What do you need to run the finance department and do the fundraising? What are the things you need to be able to excel at your job?” She’s a good facilitative collaborative leader. So she’s asking that. What happens is she gets crushed between the board’s expectations and the leader’s expectations. When she’s working on her board’s goals, her leaders are saying, “Why aren’t you helping me?”

Even if you have staff reporting to you, when you’re working on your board goals, you feel like your staff is wondering where you are and when you’re working on your staff goals, you know you’re not fully present with them because in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “This isn’t on my report card. My helping this person do this stuff isn’t something the board’s going to ask me about if I get an annual review next year.” It just grinds you, crushes you down.

The cascading goals are different. First of all, it starts with a strategic plan. You have a common, agreed upon, publicly agreed upon . . . publicly at least in the sense of a group. It’s written down. It’s not everybody singing from their own song sheet. That influences the conversation with the CEO and the board to create the list of the goals for the year, but it’s not the CEO’s to-do list that’s the organization’s goals for the year. In order to get to our strategic plan, in order to do what we’re trying to accomplish, these are the things in the next 12 months that we can do that will help us get further to our strategic . . . the objectives in our strategic plan.

Then the CEO is empowered to go to her staff and not say, “What do you need?” but, “Here’s the board’s objectives for the organization.” Where do you see yourself fitting in each of these? I think that’s a really important question because you might assume that the CFO or the director of finance sees themselves as fitting in the finance goals, but they may also see themselves fitting in another goal. You want to find that out.

If you can have more cross-training within the organization, you may get stronger. Not that you’re usurping authority or anything like that, but when a CFO is helping the fundraising or helping the programs people and not staying in a silo, you get a much better overall organization.

So the first question you say is don’t frame it as my goals. These are the board’s goals for our organization for the next 12 months. Where do you see yourself fitting into those? Then you ask, “In order to do your job well, what do you need from us? Not that I can promise to do this, but what do you need? How can we make it so you can excel in your position?” Can you see that if you do that, the cascading effect of the board and CEO conversation becoming organizational goals and it kind of spills down through the organization.

All your daily work starts working naturally with your strategy. It all is informed by your overall goals. Is it going to be perfect? Of course not, we’re human beings, we mess up. We get twisted attitudes and we stub our toes and our egos get hurt and bruised. There’s this integrity that comes in the organization because it’s integrated. That’s cascading goals.

It only really works well with a strategic plan but I would say to you guys and gals listening to this that if you were to take your list as an executive director or as a senior leader right now and turn to your direct reports and say these are the organizational or departmental goals for the year, how do you see yourself playing in those and what do you need to get them done, you might have an amazing start working a mini-cascade within your organization even if you don’t have the strategic plan and the collaboration with your board yet, that language can really help you.

Now, let’s look at magnet goals. How do you figure out what goals are the important ones to work on? I’m going to do this from an individual level because as I alluded to before, we need to start with our individual leadership. The only place to build trust is as Stephen M.R. Covey, Stephen Covey’s son says, “In the speed of trust, the best way to build it, even if you don’t have a position of leadership, is by keeping commitments to yourself.”

If you say you’re going to do something, just start with saying you’re going to get to work at a certain time each day or make a commitment to the exercise or make small commitments. And the more that you continue to fulfill promises to yourself, the more you grow to trust yourself and your commitments and that has this ripple effect on the way you do your work, same with goal setting.

So I’ve been doing this for about 15 years now. The first time I did this was just life goals. You list out 100 goals and dreams that you want to accomplish. I try to push myself to do that each year. I don’t always hit those numbers. Trust me, this isn’t for everybody, but I encourage everybody to try it at least once. The idea of building processes is too challenging. But even if you try it one time, you’ll find the first ten pretty quick. There’s dollar goals, family goals, work goals, travel goals. Then the next ten are like pulling teeth. They are so hard. But then you get into a flow of goals and dreams and visions. Be goofy with these.

I had Oprah being positively interviewed, I firmly believe in writing down goals and I firmly believe in writing down the right goals. So I didn’t want to just be interviewed by Oprah I wanted to be positively interviewed by Oprah. So I had that on my list long after she took her show off the air. It popped up on my list this year because she’s still doing powerful interviews that have impact. Is that ever going to happen? I have no idea, but this isn’t the place for, “This can definitely happen.”

It’s pie in the sky stuff. If you need help with this, there will be a link at the end of how you can get a free copy of this, but you can list health goals, money goals, relationship goals, travel goals, lifelong learning goals, just list them out. It takes a few days to do this and once you’ve done that, put it in the drawer and let it rest for a few days.

Now, if you only were to stop there and not look at it for 12 months, you’d be amazed at how many of the goals you’ve accomplished. There’s I don’t know if it’s [inaudible 00:45:14] talks about how our brains are goal-seeking machines and when we give them a focus, they will work to help that focus come into being. That’s why you’ll hear me be very careful about my words. I tend not to say negative things because I don’t want . . . I will not say, “I keep forgetting that.”

What you’ll hear me say is, “I’m not remembering that.” I want the remembering to be what my brain is trained to think of. I’m a guy that remembers instead of a guy that forgets. According to Maxwell Maltz’s writing and the other writing in the 20th century, that the goal you give your brain, your brain will be a good clerk and try to make that true. If you keep saying that you’re forgetful, you’ll forget a lot of things. But if keep saying, “Good things tend to happen to me. I love that people like to do nice things to me.”

You’ll be amazed at how often you see that. Sure, it’s confirmation bias, for those that know that term. It becomes the story you tell yourself. If you just let that go and put it in your drawer, you’d accomplish far more than you’d have expected. You wouldn’t know you’re accomplishing it. But we’re not done.

What you want to do next is take out a sheet of paper and write what I call a history of the future. Review the list of 100 or however many you were able to get down. You project yourself 12 months into the future and say, “What would life be like? How would I feel? What would people be saying about me? What would be happening? What would the impact be because these things were accomplished? You assume that everything was accomplished on the list.

Just do a creative writing exercise. Tell the story. What is it like? I find that to be incredibly encouraging anyway even though it seems hokey. Once you get past the hokiness, it’s fun. Then you let that rest for a few days also. This isn’t a process you rush. The special kind of secret sauce of the magnet goals process is the next step. You can’t do it until you’ve done the 100 and the history of the future.

But the next step is rereading the goals and looking for the magnet goals. These are the ones that pop out at you. I know this is going to sound spooky or whatever, but some of them are going to make sense, some of them, “If I accomplish this goal, six more on my list are accomplished as well. I have to do those six to get this goal done.” This becomes a central goal for me. This becomes one of my magnet goals. Rationally, it makes sense. You’ll be shocked. There are others that will pop off the sheet at you. Circle them when they do.

When I first did this in 2003, one of them was ballroom dancing lessons with my wife. It had nothing to do with my professional life at all and it seemed bizarre that it was there, but ballroom dancing lessons with my wife got circled and became one of my magnet goals. These goals are then your 20%, the whole Pareto principle, 20% of the work results in 80% of the impact. These are the 20% you want to make sure you’re working on because other things will come on, but these are the ones that will really move the ball down the field in your life.

You can read in the magnet goals workbook how that whole goal ended up sharing in a very transitional time in my family, and in our life and our work, it showed my wife that she was still more important than my work because I was trying to figure out, “I’m not sure we can afford a babysitter and a class,” where we were at that point. “What if we had a dance teacher come to us? How would that look? Who are dance teachers that do that?”

There are a lot of fun ways that you can start thinking creatively when you know what your magnet goals are. Then you create a roadmap with those. You write your magnet goal at the top. You write out what has to happen in order for that goal to be accomplished. You think when does that have to be accomplished? Having that deadline makes it a goal. Otherwise it’s list a wish. When does it have to be accomplished by? Who are your allies and resources that are going to help you get that done?

Then the counterintuitive one that Zig Ziglar introduced to me to and I didn’t like this because I’m a positive thinking guy. I don’t like thinking about obstacles. I don’t like focusing on the negative. In his goal setting work, he said to think about obstacles. That made a lot of sense after a while. They’re going to happen. This is life after all. If you are planning for your obstacles, then you’re also able to know who can help you get over those obstacles. So, writing down what are some of the things that might get in the way of me accomplishing this goal or our organization accomplishing the goal and then you can write who you can turn to in that moment if that roadblock actually does come up.

Then study after study shows if you have a coach or an accountability person, someone that has permission to ask you, “How are you doing on this goal?” That’s when you’re going to get your goals really accomplished because for me with my coach, even if it’s 20 minutes before if I call in my coach and I emailed the people I said I was going to email two weeks ago, at least I’m emailing them and getting the things in motion. Having that deadline and that accountability can really force you do that.

So the big thing is as we’re wrapping up, I hope there’s some questions and answers to get some time here. I hope there are answers, that would be on me. I hope there are questions too. I’m encouraging you as you’re listening to this, don’t go do this whole thing alone. We live in an amazing time of connectivity where we can find people like us either in our community or around the world.

So, if you’re in a toxic situation and you can’t really talk to people in your community or organization about the goals you want to set, find it somewhere else, join AFP, join AHP, join YMTN, join some group and start volunteering for the board of trustees or directors so you can have some peer level group that’s able to give you good honest feedback from outside yourself. Oftentimes we color the water and we aren’t really the best interpreters of the event that happened to us. That will help you be able to make sure the bridge you’re building as you’re walking across it ends up where you hope it will go, not in some place totally other.

There’s a link for the magnet goals if you want to get a free copy of that. Steven, how are we doing with questions? The chat is really tiny in my window, but it looks like there are a lot of words there.

Steven: We have some questions. Do you want to dive into them?

Marc: Absolutely.

Steven: There are some good ones here. Here’s one from Cam. Cam is asking what do you recommend when a developmental committee request the goals be raised well beyond what they’ve done, so more than double, 150%, perhaps? Only because that committee thinks that’s where the organization should be, regardless of whether it’s attainable or historically possible. What do you think?

Marc: Cam, my heart goes out to you. That is a sucky situation to be in because you get competitive people in a room. The only way you make . . . there is a reality to the fact of setting those big hairy audacious goals gets you much further along. Scott Harrison, Charity:Water had the guts, the intestinal fortitude to stand up in front of 3,000 of us fundraisers at an AFP conference in Vancouver and say, “I can’t hang out with people like you because you guys get excited over a 1%raise in donations over the year. I have to hang out around tech giants that say my IPO just tripled, 300% growth, why aren’t you?”

So there is a reality of we need to be putting ourselves into those conversations. If you can, if I were talking to that development committee, I would first say if you’re setting that goal, you’re saying you and your board members are going to write the check to fulfill that. You’re taking responsibility for that. What are you going to do that’s 150% more work than you’ve done? We have a staff. We’re going to do our goal.

We’re going to work hard for this because we love your passion. If we’re going to triple our effort, what are you doing to triple your effort? How many more people are you calling to thank for the gifts that were being made? How many people are you asking to make double gifts? Are you each willing to give 150% more than you gave last year? Putting it back on the personal responsibility of . . . it’s really hard.

You have to practice this in advance because you don’t have want it to be emotionally, “Show me the money.” You don’t want it to be that kind of thing, but you want it to be a great, awesome, love the passion. To do 150% more, it will take each one of us giving 150% more and challenging others to give 150% more and talking to 150% people than we did last year. So, how are you doing with your assignment list? What? You didn’t talk to anybody last year?

Steven: You don’t give yourself?

Marc: You’re not contributing to our organization? Yeah.

Steven: Board giving, as you know, is abysmal. It seems like there’s this huge disconnect between aggressive leadership, including the board setting these big goals but then less than half, I think, according to the surveys I’ve seen of boards actually give. So it’s just . . .

Marc: Part of that’s our fault. Part of it, we lie to board members, “It’s going to be a fun and won’t be a lot of work,” and it’s neither. It’s usually a lot of work and it’s not usually fun. “You’re not expected to give. There’s no expectation.” Part of it is on us. I always am a believer that if they’re not doing the behavior that we want them to do, we haven’t communicated well enough.

Part of the reason I believe that is because I don’t want to ever be a victim. I don’t want to ever be powerless. I’m empowered to change the way I speak if they’re not having the outcomes that I expect them to have, then I’m clearly not speaking a dialect yet. My heart goes out to you because it can get to this group think of, “We’re going to be part of that. We are going to ride the coattails of this organization that did amazing work.” Well, no, you’re actually going to have to roll up your sleeves and help.

Steven: Here’s a similar question . . . I’m going to have the questioner remain anonymous for privacy reasons because it’s kind of a tough question. This is coming from a development director who feels like their CEO treats them like an ATM. They’ve got their own goals but the CEO doesn’t really take ownership of those goals. Any advice for this struggling development director?

Marc: Struggling development director, I’m sorry that I’m going to say this first, but I would start dusting off my resume. Life is too short to be treated that crappily. If there are any executive directors listening, you cannot subcontract your fundraising. Your responsibility as a top leader at the nonprofit is the resource development of your nonprofit as well as the programs because you do not have programs if you do not have resources.

You need to get your butt in gear and talk to donors and thank donors for gifts and make the uncomfortable hard ask and understand that there’s no instant return, that it’s organic, it’s not mechanical. You’re not invoicing people, you’re developing human relationships with people that are going to let you don’t and people that are going to surprise you with generosity. You’ve got to get into the fight.

If you’re the development director that’s in that spot, part of it could be setting goals for if you were the executive director having to set goals for board members, maybe it’s setting goals for what you want the executive director to know about fundraising? They’re not going to listen to you, unfortunately. It seems like what nonprofits are. We hire the best and then we stop listening to them. Boards do this to CEOs. CEOs do this to staff.

So it’s looking at the fundraising effectiveness data that Bloomerang is so good at putting out there. It’s looking at the critical thinking from Rogare, they have some special events stuff that’s going on. It’s a little bit headier and academic. We don’t have the popular distillation of this stuff yet. But it’s becoming the best expert in fundraising that you can. Is it all right if I plug something of mine?

Steven: Please plug away. You’ve given us an hour of your genius.

Marc: Here’s a whole bunch of resources. Join the Nonprofit Academy. It’s only $19 a month and you get access to over 80 trainings of the best people in the space teaching you how to do stuff 24/7 plus live coaching calls and new trainings every month. Go to the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. Watch movie Mondays, we always have great people coming in there. There’s a ton of different tools out there. Join the AFP chapter if yours is an effective one. There’s all sorts of ways to learn how to tell the dialect of the CEO that’s not realistic.

Part of the passion comes from having sat in that seat. I was no longer invited to the hospital’s board meetings. My position wasn’t. It was before I was there. They said the board meetings were getting too full, which is just ludicrous because then you have to learn the . . . sorry, we’re at the top of the hour, so I’ll say it, you have to learn the bullshitting skills of when your board member comes in the office and says, “I’m so glad you’re going to raise an extra $100,000 in addition to your annual fund.” You’re going nuts screaming like, “What are you talking about?” And you have to calmly say things like, “What’s exciting about the project?” You’re trying to figure out what the heck he’s talking about. Real life example, did happen to me.

It’s also training your board. It’s not just dollars in the door. It’s how many visits are being made, how many thank you calls are being made. Cultivation, solicitation and stewardship, you have to sow the seeds as well as reap the harvest as well as tend the soil so you can sow the seeds again. It’s a long gain. It’s definitely doable within an organization. But the way it was expressed by Steven, it sounds like it may also be good to start looking. There’s a dearth of really good fundraisers out there and most organizations that have a job opening are in the second or third round of looking because they’re not finding the candidates they want.

Steven: I can attest to that questioner is a high-quality person. Hopefully it won’t come to that. On that note, this was awesome, Marc.

Marc: Are we done? What an hour. You’ve done it, you’ve wasted a perfectly good hour.

Steven: No, not a waste. I would just echo Marc’s sentiments of checking out all these great resources, especially that Nonprofit Academy. That’s a bargain at that price. I’ve seen those resources, really good stuff. If you want to go to the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference in San Diego next month, Bloomerang is giving away some coupons to offset that cost. So, check that out, send me a message, reply to the survey, you’re going to get at the end if you’re interested in that. It’s a great event, for sure.

Marc: We’ve seen people double and triple their fundraising coming out of that. It’s probably like the diet commercials, results will vary, but it’s pretty remarkable what’s going on there. It’s taken us by surprise and we love being part of it. It’s really cool.

Steven: That might be the best conference in the sector. I know this is being recorded, but I don’t think I’ll regret saying that. Check it out.

Marc: I’m getting a recording so I can play that too?

Steven: This was awesome, Marc. Thanks.

Marc: Thank you guys so much. Is there another slide about what’s coming up next?

Steven: Yeah. Actually, we’ve got BloomCon, which is the second-best conference.

Marc: I would say second and third.

Steven: Phoenix in February, special pricing going on now, great speakers, great lineup. We’ve got some great webinars coming up, including today. That is not a typo. We have another webinar today in one hour with Claire Axelrad. This one with Marc is part one of a doubleheader. So, if you’ve got the rest of the afternoon free and you’re not already registered for that, check it out. We’re going to be talking about yearend fundraising appeals. It’s not too late. I know it’s mid-October when we’re doing this, but not too late if you haven’t gotten those out the door. Check that out. It will be fun. One hour from now, 56 minutes from now.

Next week, back at our regular time slot, we’ve got Sarah Durham from Big Duck, which is one of my favorite branding firms in the nonprofit sector. We’re going to talk about how to bridge that gap between the brand, the logo, the mission statement, all those things that make up a brand and the programs, the services offered by the nonprofit. You’re going to want to align those. If you’re not aligned, check out that webinar. Maybe you’re not sure you’re aligned, Sarah will tell you. It’s going to be a really good one. She’s an awesome speaker.

We’ve got some others scheduled into November already. Check out our webinar page. Hopefully we’ll see you in an hour if not next week. We’ll call it a day for now at least. Look for an email from me with the recording and slides. Check out all Marc’s goodies and tell us what you thought. There’s going to be a short survey there. You won’t hurt my feelings. I don’t think you’ll hurt Marc’s either.

Marc: No.

Steven: We’d love to hear from you. Marc, I’ll see you in a couple weeks, my friend.

Marc: All right. See you in a couple weeks in San Diego. Thanks, everyone. Have a great rest of your afternoon.

Steven: All right. Talk to you all soon.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.