Matt McDonnell

How to Draft OKRs for Your Nonprofit Organization (With Examples!)

Effective goal-setting is a crucial component of any successful organization, but it’s not easy to write goals that will actually lead to the results you desire. On one hand, you want your goals to be aspirational and ambitious, but on the other hand, they can’t be so overwhelming and far reaching that you don’t take them seriously.

Goals should dictate how you allocate resources, prioritize your work and use your time. When done correctly, they can help you and your team stay focused on making the biggest impact possible!

As you set goals for your organization, consider using Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs.
OKRs are extremely popular in the startup world, but more and more nonprofits are starting to utilize OKRs to achieve their own successes. OKRs allow you to set stretch goals that energize you and your team, while also establishing clear metrics to let you know whether or not you truly accomplished those goals.

To draft OKRs for your nonprofit organization, follow these three steps:

1. Write a Compelling Objective 

Objectives should be ambitious, qualitative and a little uncomfortable. They are a bite-sized way to achieve your overarching or long-term organizational goals. 

Spend some time thinking about the top priority of your organization. OKRs should not function simply as a to-do list, but rather push your organization to think bigger.

Let’s take NotleyEDU, whose mission is to provide nonprofit leaders with the knowledge, resources and community they need to accelerate transformational change, as an example:

Example Objective: NotleyEDU becomes the go-to digital platform for social impact innovators and nonprofit leaders nationwide.

This Objective is ambitious, inspirational and challenges NotleyEDU to push the boundaries. Try to avoid writing “business-as-usual” Objectives that maintain the status quo (e.g. NotleyEDU continues to deliver valuable content).

Objectives should inspire. Key Results should deliver.

2. Hold Yourself Accountable With Your Key Results

Now let’s move on to Key Results. While Objectives should be qualitative and inspirational, Key Results should be quantitative and specific. 

If we go back to our NotleyEDU example, how can we best measure NotleyEDU becoming the “go-to” digital platform for social innovators and nonprofits? How will we know we’ve achieved our Objective?

Example Objective: NotleyEDU becomes the go-to digital platform for social impact innovators and nonprofit leaders nationwide.

Key Result 1: 500 users join the digital platform by end of Q1
Key Result 2: 50% of users come from outside Texas
Key Result 3: 25% of users complete at least 3 NotleyEDU courses

Key Results should describe outcomes, not activities, and make it as unambiguous as possible to tell whether or not you’ve achieved them. In general, you should aim to have about 3 Key Results per Objective, and no more than 3 Objectives total. 

Finally, understand that it’s okay to fail. You should have a 50% chance of achieving the goals you set, with excellent teams only achieving about 70% of their goals. If you’re achieving 100% of your goals, they probably aren’t challenging enough!

3. Revisit Your Goals Quarterly

This may sound shortsighted, especially if your nonprofit is used to thinking in 1-, 3- or 5-year increments, but by breaking your goals into quarterly segments, you allow yourself the flexibility to learn quickly, take risks and pivot when necessary. It’s also a great way to break your big, audacious, North Star goals into manageable, attainable chunks. 
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Let’s say NotleyEDU has a 1-year plan to offer a paid certification program to nonprofit leaders and social innovators nationwide. Quarterly goals can be a great way to break down the steps needed to get there.

What needs to be achieved in Q1 to enable that growth? How can we optimize the digital platform with that North Star in mind? And isn’t it better to learn these lessons in 90 days rather than 1 or 3 years?

Just because you’re a nonprofit, doesn’t mean you can’t embrace lean goal-setting techniques that will enable you to learn quickly, adapt readily and ultimately, accelerate your impact.

There are a lot of great tools out there to help you manage OKRs across your organization, with NotleyEDU’s personal favorite being Small Improvements. Check it out and consider implementing OKRs with your organization!

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