Imagine I hand you a small yellow square, a post-it note, inked with a number. It represents the sum a nonprofit has collected over the course of the year. If I tilt my head and ask, “How do you think this organization is doing?”—you’d furrow your brows, your mind would dart and dash like a hummingbird. And rightly so. It’s like handing you a single piece of the puzzle, yet expecting you to picture the whole image.

1. Goals

Numbers, like isolated words in a poem, are mere fragments until they are aligned with a purpose. Goals are the glue that binds these fragments into a solid mosaic. They are the compass needle, guiding you through the wilderness of opportunities, showing you which path leads towards your true north.

2. Priorities

Goals aid you in setting priorities—drawing clear boundary lines in the sand. Priorities act as your personal gatekeepers, giving you the power to confidently say “yes” or “no” to opportunities, preventing you from being swept away by the whims of the moment.

3. Progress

Progress is not a standalone measure but a relative term, like a moving target in the distance. It’s always tied to the twin points of “where you were” and “where you are headed.” It’s a dance between the past and the future.

Three steps to purposeful progress

  1. Set goals that mirror your mission, creating a symbiotic relationship between your aspirations and your capacity to realize them.
  2. Track your progress every month. It’s your compass, your roadmap. Let it guide you and help you trace your journey from where you’ve been to where you’re heading.
  3. Analyze and weigh the forces that are pulling you closer or further from your goals.

We can’t just glance at a number and make a judgment. We need the whole story. We need the goals, the milestones, the journey. We need to know where the starting line was drawn and where the finish line lies. Only then can we truly answer the question, “How are we doing?” Only then can we navigate the sea of possibilities and set sail towards a meaningful destination.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.