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“A” Is For Achievable: The SMART Approach to Writing Your Proposal

My Grandmother used to call herself “jack of all trades and a master of none.” Her many interests and passions exceeded the time and energy she had to pursue them all, resulting in her being competent in many things, but an expert at few (in her own opinion). Without a clearly defined goal, your efforts will be scattered and burnout becomes inevitable. A clearly defined goal for your work filters out the extraneous activity that adds to your exhaustion and bleeds out productivity, and with an effective goal-setting strategy in place, you can avoid becoming a “jack of all trades” and be a master in a very important one

How to Set Effective Goals

Goal setting is an important part of your project’s success, but where do you start? How do you know your goals are appropriate for your work in the community? There are 6 things to consider when setting effective goals:

 5 Keys to Effective Goal Setting

Is it realistic for this community?

The first thing to consider is whether or not your goal is even realistic for your community. It’s wonderful, (and even important), to have a big dream, but if your goal is outside the scope of your reach, it won’t be realistic. 

For example, “We want to end world hunger.” It’s a huge dream and a noble, worthy goal, but is it realistic? Probably not. Consider a more realistic scale: “We want to end hunger in our community.” Now we’re getting closer! 

Is this goal attainable?

Next, consider whether this goal is actually attainable. Set realistic goals based on historical evidence in a practical time frame. Do not over-promise and then under-deliver!

What are our limitations/barriers?

Just because a goal is realistic, doesn’t mean it’s attainable. Sometimes there are limitations or barriers to meeting our goal. It’s important to know what these limitations/barriers are so that they can be addressed. 

List all the factors that may be a limitation for your organization. Do you have enough staff? Do you have the necessary partnerships in your community? Do you have the resources of time, manpower, authority, and skills to reach your goal?

How can we address these limitations?

Now brainstorm how these limitations can be overcome and sort them into an order of highest priorities. If you are short on manpower and need to hire more staff, but don’t have the funds to hire, then finding funding becomes high on the list of priorities. Don’t have enough time to research and write proposals for funding opportunities? It might be time to hire a grant writer. Hiring one person now to help get enough funding to hire more people later might be the most effective strategy to address some of these barriers. 

Always keep your main goal at the forefront of your decision-making. Keeping your “eye on the ball,” so to speak, will help you stay focused and avoid falling into the jack-of-all-trades trap. Remember, every decision you make should move you a step closer to your goal. 

What factors are out of our control?

Sometimes factors outside of our control can slow down our progress, but these factors only make effective goal setting even more important. Maybe a lack of funding opportunities means you can’t hire as many staff as you would like right now. Don’t give up, just adjust your goal for your present reality. Instead of feeling defeated because ending hunger in your community feels out of reach, adjust your goal: “We will reduce hunger in our community by 40% this year.” Even if you don’t quite meet that goal, chances are you have still made a significant impact on your community. 

Keep The Challenge Going

If you do meet your goal, congratulations! Now challenge yourself by increasing your goal for the next year. Even though your goals need to be realistic and attainable, they should still challenge and stretch you to meet them. Finding that balance is more art than science, so give yourself grace and credit for the difference you are making, just by continuing to show up!

Read more in The SMART Approach series:

“S” Is For Specific

“M” Is For Measurable

“A” Is For Achievable

“R” Is For Relevant

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