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Every association needs a road map of goals to get closer to its purpose or mission. But a successful association sets these goals by being crystal clear about expectations and creating ways to monitor progress.

You may have heard of the SMART goals. The acronym stands for  specific, measurable, achievable, relevant,  and time-bound.

It’s an easy way to remember the considerations that must go into your goal-setting strategy.

For a better idea of how to set SMART goals, here’s a breakdown of each letter:


Business coach John Spence often says, “Ambiguity breeds mediocrity.”

If your goals are ambiguous, the work your employees put towards them will be subpar. To create a specific goal, answer these questions:

  • What are you hoping to achieve?
  • Who/what department(s) is going to achieve it?
  • What steps do we need to take in order to meet the goal?


How will you know when a goal has been achieved? 

Your measurements need to be binary -- either you met the goal or you didn’t. 

Quantifiable goals work best. If you say you want to improve member satisfaction, make sure you have a way of measuring that.

Do you have a survey or form where members can leave reviews? If not, maybe shift your focus to member retention which you can measure in a percentage.


Employees won’t be motivated if the goals you set seem impossible to achieve. 

Be realistic about your capabilities as a team, budget constraints, your position in the marketplace, and any other factors that might play a role in determining what is attainable for your organization.


Why is the goal important to your organization? What will it help you accomplish? What role does it play in the bigger picture?

Stay away from including vanity metrics in your goals. For example, instead of setting a goal to have 1,000 more Facebook followers by the end of the year, aim to have more email subscribers because those are more likely to convert to actual members/customers.


Set deadlines for every milestone that leads to the completion of your goals. 

Creating timelines ensures goals are met in a timely manner and helps with budgeting and ensuring your team is on track to achieve longer-term goals. 

Setting a goal without a deadline is unhelpful because there’s no sense of urgency. Without deadlines, there’s no way to schedule all of the work that goes into achieving the goal.

Once you’ve set a SMART goal, track your team’s progress. Project management tools like Gantt charts can help with this.

Spence also recommends checking in on the health of the project by marking each milestone with the colors of a stoplight -- red, yellow, and green.

SMART goals will help your association stay on track and remain highly competitive. 

But even the best goal-setting doesn’t help if you don’t have the right people on your team to help you achieve them. 

Heather Nolan
Post by Heather Nolan
August 20, 2020
Heather a skilled communicator with expertise in social media and marketing strategy, brand management and journalism. She uses storytelling and audience growth skills to help companies showcase their brand and expand their reach.