Grassroots volunteering in West Africa

Start a non-profit or NGO Part 2 Goals and Objectives

This second step looks at Goals and Objectives, which follows from Part 1, Vision and Mission.

This is the second post in our series about starting an NGO or non-profit in Ghana. At this early stage, these tips can be applied to starting a business, non-profit or NGO anywhere.

Establishing the goals and objectives of the non-profit or NGO is the next thing to do after determining the vision and mission. This is the same for any organization, small or large, and is fundamental to organizational development.

Let’s talk about the difference between goals and objectives.

Goals are the outcomes. Your goals might be stated in your vision statement. You know: World peace, eradicating extreme poverty, providing a community drop-in house, establishing a fair trade shop or setting up a soup kitchen.

Objectives are actions that lead you towards achieving your goals, one by one. says this:

“Poorly defined goals and objectives, or goals without objectives, pushes a project into overruns, territory battles, personality clashes, missed milestones, and unhappy clients. Goals and objectives must be clear statements of purpose that drives the end result of the project.”

Goals are the “What”: What you’re aiming for.

If playing football it would be: “Score goals.”

Objectives are the “How” you’ll get there: “Kick the ball between the goal posts.”

There’s no point attempting to reach your goal if you don’t actually do anything to get there. If you don’t kick that ball you ain’t going to score one goal.

Goal in Bawku

Goal in Bawku

It’s smart to start your objectives with action verbs. They are “actions” after all.

On the subject of “smart”, if you’re familiar with organizational development you would know that objectives should be SMART:






Let’s say your goal is to establish a fair trade shop selling products from Africa, starting with coffee, then one of your main objectives would look like this:

Identify 20 cooperatives producing fair trade coffee in East Africa by September 2010

“Identify” is a nice, strong action verb to begin with.

Is this a SMART objective?

Let’s see.

Specific? Yes. In other words, the opposite of vague. We identify the number of cooperatives, the location and the date. We will know if we do not meet this objective.

Measurable? Yes. “20” and “September 2010” are very measurable objectives and we will know absolutely whether we meet these or not. There is no scope for ambiguity.

Achievable? This is more subjective, but if it’s April now, this is certainly achievable. (This work is not for the lazy.) 20 might be pushing it, though. We might have to revise this objective.

Realistic? A goal might be achievable, but you need to ask do you have the resources—technical, financial, human—to realistically achieve it? If your objective is to identify 20 cooperatives and you have no access to the internet, a telephone or a fax, then it’s probably not realistic. If you do, however, have these facilities and the skills to use them, then it is a realistic objective. When you’re writing an objective, be honest with yourself about your limitations and abilities. If you need help, seek it.

Timebound? Yes. This means you put a date on it. Our objective is beautifully time bound and we will certainly know if, when September rolls around, we have not met it.

So, you have goals and your SMART objectives. Your goals will be few and your objectives will be many.

Doing good takes more than good intentions; it takes a lot of bad-ass planning too.

Objectives sketch

Objectives for NGO's

We could also put it like this:

Goals are the things your NGO will do in the medium to long term to achieve its mission while the objectives are the immediate and ongoing actions you will take to achieve your goals.

Priorities, priorities people!

It’s very important to learn to prioritise or else you’ll end up chasing your tail and surfing the net all day.

Priorities sketch

Priorities sketch

Prioritise in order of importance. There are many techniques you can use to determine “importance”.

One simple tool I learnt working at Traidcraft (that’s me with trainees) to help me evaluate what was most important and to teach others is a simple table with four squares that I usually write by hand on paper. It takes ten minutes to organize myself and I highly recommend you trying it once. (If you do it once I know you’ll like it so much you’ll do it again and it will make your life so much easier, no matter whether you’re starting a non-profit or employed or in school.)

In general, urgency, cost and time are major factors when determining priorities. Some of the criteria I often use are: Easy/difficult or Urgent/Not-urgent. It’s up to you to decide which criteria to use. Using our objective above, these are some of the actions I have to perform and where they would sit in terms of difficulty and urgency. Your situation will be different and I urge you to adapt it accordingly.

Organize priorities

Everyone has their preferred way of working, but when it comes to the difference between urgent and not-urgent, it would be wise to attempt the most urgent issues first, even though many of us spend time on less urgent matters.

When it comes to a choice between easy and difficult, my experience is that completing the urgent and easy tasks first is good for morale and a sense of achievement. I then attempt the urgent but difficult.

I don’t know about you, but I often find that what I think will be difficult turns out to be easy—except for physics, that never got easy for me. I delay something I think will be difficult until the last possible minute. I stress and lose sleep over it, I pretend it doesn’t exist, I drink copious amounts of tea, only to be annoyingly shocked by how simple it is when I actually try to do it. Doing my accounts is one example.

You can replace urgent/not-urgent or easy/difficult with other criteria such as expensive/not expensive or anything else that is relevant to your situation. Just be sure to select the two most pressing criteria for your situation and insert/replace when you copy the table here.

I think the smartest priority to attempt next is the not-urgent but difficult. (If only I took my own advice.)

The not urgent and easy tends to be the fun stuff. The stuff we do without trying or thinking. The stuff we enjoy. Like, surfing the net for research and networking in social media.

Social media priority

Social media priorities

So, let’s look at this again.

Goals: The “What” you plan to achieve

Objectives: The “How” you plan to achieve it. Be SMART.

And priorities: Learning how to evaluate what’s important and so you carry out your objectives and achieve your goals.

Revisit the first post, Start an NGO in Ghana, that focuses on vision and mission and consider, again, what your goals and objectives would be in order to fulfill your brilliant vision and ensure your mission is successful.

Essentially, the first two steps are useful for starting an NGO or non-profit anywhere, not just Ghana or Africa.
The next steps will relate specifically to Ghana.

In step 3, later this week, we will discuss how to set up a board of directors.

Objectives image by royblumenthal and Priorities by XKCD Social media image by GeekandPoke

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One Response to Start a non-profit or NGO Part 2 Goals and Objectives

  1. help me a structure of Board of Directors of NGOs!

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