Episode 142 | What’s Better…Stretch or SMART Goals?

The last couple of episodes we’ve been talking about the new year and goal planning.  Today I want to go over the difference between stretch and SMART goals and how you can incorporate them into the work you do. 

Most of you have probably heard of stretch and SMART goals but may not know how to utilize them into your goal planning.  A stretch goal is a goal that allows you to go above and beyond what you think is possible.  Some would describe these sorts of goals as aggressively ambitious – they are radically beyond either you or your organization’s current capacity.  You want to focus on extremely difficult challenges that require innovative approaches so you can actually achieve them.  Under the right conditions, you’re hoping it will inspire you to whole new level of commitment.  That’s really what a stretch goal is all about – going above and beyond what’s even possible to achieve.

A SMART goal, on the other hand, is one that is much more attainable.  The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.  This is a commonplace formula for goal setting.  Today, I want you to consider throwing this formula out the window.

Some of you have heard me talk about how I set really crazy goals, and these are stretch goals.  In the book, Good to Great, these are known as BHAG (big, hairy, audacious, goals).  These are the pie-in-the-sky goals that seem completely impossible to achieve.  The thought is, when you are only focused on attainable goals, you lose sight of the overall mission of what you’re trying to accomplish and you’re less likely to share that mission with others.  You may come across a donor who could write you a really big check, but they don’t because they don’t even know you need it since you haven’t been talking about it.  If you need to raise $1 million dollars, why would you set your goal as $500,000?

(Go listen to episode 103,where you’ll hear an interview I did with the master of creating stretch goals, Bridgett Myers.)

I’ve been studying and researching high performers because I would consider myself a high performer.  I like setting goals and I like achieving big goals.  But one of the things I’ve learned, is that we (high performers) like the challenge of actually working through the process just as much as we like achieving the goals.  Every single high performer who is making really good money in their businesses and in the work they do are sitting down and working through their own stretch goals.  Any guesses on what the driving force is?  It’s so they can give more money away!  They are strategically planning out their year thinking about how they can be more generous.

I will say that I believe very strongly in stretch goals because I don’t really care to fail.  I know there are a lot of people who don’t even want to go down that path.  They don’t want to put that number down on a sheet of paper because if they don’t obtain it, they believe they have failed.  When it comes to fundraising, you either raise it or you don’t.  In the end, I feel like there’s really no way to fail here.  Let’s say you set a million-dollar stretch goal and you don’t reach it, but you get close.  Is that really a failure?  In my opinion, it’s not because you were able to raise way more than if you had just set an attainable SMART goal.  So, what’s stopping you from putting those big stretch goals down on paper and going after them?  I would encourage you to not allow your own fear of failure get in the way of setting the goals of what you really, really want for your cause and for the work you do.  Start with your stretch goals first and then work backward incorporating some SMART goals to help you along the way.  That way, you’re building your system out to withstand the growth you need to do the work you do.  I challenge you to think bigger – what is it that’s going to get you excited?  Look for what will create the urgency you need to propel you toward the dreams of your cause.

Connect with Mary:

Mary Valloni



Fundraising Freedom Roadmap

Nonprofit Executive Club

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.