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The holidays have passed, the end-of-the-year fundraising rush has subsided, and now it’s time to make sure you and your organization are prepared to take on and make the most of the new year.

You may be feeling pressure to hit “reset” in every area of your life– and that certainly may feel overwhelming. But as you’re thinking through goals, resolutions, and plans for 2024, make sure to save some of your time and energy to do this for and with your organization.

We’ll look at a few ways you can kick off the new year for your nonprofit on the right foot, considering reflection points, goal setting, and strategy development. Let’s jump in.


Reflecting on the Prior Year

Before you begin any planning for the new year, it’s critical to spend some time reflecting on the one that’s just wrapped up. With the whole year ahead and a mounting to-do list, it may feel difficult to carve out time for you and/or your team to do this, but it will significantly enhance your ability to move on to the next steps in the process.

So, once you’ve created the time and space to do this, ask your team members to consider some reflection questions, and then come together to reflect and discuss as a group. Below is a list of just a few suggestions. Of course, you know your organization best and can add to, subtract from, or make edits to this list as needed.

  • Generally speaking, how did last year go? Did you meet the goals you set?
  • If yes, what led to that success? If no, what stood in your way?
  • What was the most successful thing (initiative, event, campaign, etc.) that your organization completed last year?
  • What are a few tangible ways your saw your organization live out its mission, vision, and values?
  • What are some of the obstacles that consistently stand in the way of your mission, vision, and values?
  • How did fundraising go last year? Did you meet your goals? Did you have any particularly big wins or losses?
  • How is staff culture and morale? How is everyone doing and feeling as we enter a new year?


Creating Meaningful Goals

Once you’ve taken the time to think through and discuss how last year went, it’s now time to start considering the goals you’d like to set for your organization. Your goals will probably fall into a range of categories, from outreach/fieldwork to fundraising to staff culture. There’s no set template you need to follow, but you’ll want to make sure you’re considering all of the important aspects of your organization.

As you choose goals, you’ll want to be selective. A list of 100 goals will likely not be achievable. Rather than setting yourself up to feel like you’ve failed come the end of this year, make sure you’re setting a relatively small amount of reasonable goals from the get-go.

There are many ways by which to measure the effectiveness of a goal, but we’ll stick with a classic. When setting your goals, make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. You’ve likely heard of this principle, but it is a clear and simple rubric by which to judge your goals. As a refresher, here’s a bit more information.

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After you’ve created your goals, make sure they’re communicated clearly and consistently to the relevant people. Great goals that are not shared with your team or that go forgotten come Q2 are not great goals at all, so they should stay front and center throughout the year. Creating some sort of dashboard for monthly or quarterly “check-ups” is another way to make sure your team is headed for success and achieving the goals you’ve created.


Developing A Winning Strategy

Lastly, once you know what you’re trying to achieve, you need to decide how you’ll do it. This is where strategy comes in. Again, there is far too much to be said about the wide variety of strategies available to you and your nonprofit for us to adequately address all of those options here. We simply want to encourage you to spend time intentionally developing a strategy that works for your organization. Strategies will vary depending on the goal you’re trying to achieve. For instance, when thinking about how to grow your outreach, you may be considering a new event or volunteer acquisition strategy. But when it comes to fundraising, you might be thinking about reevaluating your donor pyramid, or even how a budgeting software change may benefit your organization.

You get the point – we can’t prescribe the exact strategy that’s needed for your organization, but we can encourage you to spend the time and resources determining that for yourself. Heading into the year with a clear plan will benefit your organization, your team, and the people you hope to serve.


Starting off on the Right Foot

Though reflecting on last year and planning for this new one can take many shapes and forms, the most important part is simply that you do it. Without a plan, it will be difficult for your organization to live out its purpose – its mission, vision, and values. So whatever goal setting and strategy development looks like for you, try to embrace it as a critical part of your nonprofit’s success, and even allow it to be fun – dreaming about the future successes of your organization. With a little bit of planning, there’s so much you can achieve in 2024.