How to create annual operating goals from the strategic plan (Part One)

How to create annual operating goals from the strategic plan (Part One)

Following your strategic planning workshop or series of leadership strategy meetings, the outtakes should result in strategic, longer-term, “SMART”[1] goals in four key “pillar” areas – Programs, Products or Services, Financial Strength, Operational Effectiveness, and External Outreach including marketing, branding and collaboration.

Now what?  How does this translate into an “annual operating plan” for your organization?

  • For each strategic SMART goal, your staff must assess what can and should be accomplished in the next twelve months – your fiscal year ahead.
  • Each pillar will feature strategic goals.  For every single strategic goal, your organization’s leadership team and accountable staff can then shape twelve-month annual operating goals to support each three-year strategic goal.
  • Each 12-month goal will deliver incremental progress to support achievement of a strategic goal.
  • The annual plan should be tracked at least monthly by the executive team, and at least quarterly by the organization’s board of directors.
  • Annual goals will be updated in years two and three, with focus on accomplishing each strategic goal at the end of year three.

For example, a nonprofit organization may want to raise $6 million in three years. The fundraising goal for year one might be $2 million (one-third of the total). If the organization raises the entire $6 million in the first year, the executive team can celebrate success. Then, they can revise the strategic fundraising goal to an elevated level, increasing the goal for years two and three.

See more details in Parts Two and Three of this article.

Carol A. Poore, Ph.D., MBA, is President of Poore and Associates Strategic Planning and author of Strategic Impact: A Leader’s Three-Step Framework for the Customized Vital Strategic Plan, published by Fast Company Press in January 2021. See her blog at CarolPoore.com.


[1] SMART is an acronym that refers to Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Time-Based.

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