How to Set Your Social Impact Goals

Strategy & Execution,

If you’re like most Corporate Social Impact or CSR teams, you’re probably starting the process of setting goals for the year. For some organizations, goal-setting is a well-oiled machine and their people feel motivated and well-equipped to achieve those goals. But for most companies, goal setting can feel like a necessary evil –work that executives require every year that ends up forgotten by February as the daily whirlwind distracts us from our goals.

Goal setting can also feel ineffective because:

  1. We set too many goals (turns out, our human brains can only focus on a few things at a time!),
  2. We set unachievable goals or move the goalpost along the way,
  3. We don’t do a good job prioritizing and revisiting our goals and/or
  4. We don’t remove other tasks from our plate to enable us to actually accomplish our goals.

But don’t despair! Not all is lost – goal setting CAN be an effective way for your team to accomplish true social impact greatness IF you have the right tools. This blog post will be a quick primer, but if you want to get serious about doing goal-setting right this year, be sure to watch the recording of our latest Real Talk webinar (free!) where we spend more time digging into each of these steps.

Here are the key principles to keep in mind when setting goals:

  1. If we’re not playing the same game, we’re not a team.
  2. If we don’t care about the game, we won’t play our best.
  3. If we don’t know the score, we won’t know how to win.

If you’re the team leader, you’ll set the overall vision or direction for the year ahead, but it’s critical to empower your teams to set their own goals and pressure-test them (see below!). By doing so, you give them agency to care about the game and the power to play their best. (We’ve got lots more to say about the importance of empowering your team, here).

Here’s the general framework we’ll use both to set goals and to “keep score” of how you’re progressing against these goals:

Starting from the top:

The Vision

The vision must be compelling. It must be a “Hell, yes!” for the whole team. It must feel like it belongs to you. It must be something to which the teams in your department can track and measure their contribution.

Megan Strand

Director of Strategic Consulting

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Team Overarching Objective

Once the vision is set, each team needs to create an Overarching Objective by asking themselves, “What’s the one thing that will make the greatest difference to our clients and to our company this year and contribute to the overall vision?”. It’s critical that senior leaders step out at this point and empower teams to decide upon their objectives independently.

Teams should brainstorm this objective together by asking each member to silently write down the answer to our guiding question: “What is the most influential thing our team can do to contribute to the CSR Team’s vision this year?” and then read everyone’s contribution aloud and ask the team to reflect on any patterns they heard.

This part can get a little messy and getting your team objective right may take a little time, but be patient! The result is worth it.

Teams (and leaders) can pressure test the overarching objective by asking:

  1. Is this Overarching Objective essential for achieving our CSR Team vision? Talk about that as a team. Make sure you can articulate the reason why it is essential.
  2. Is it achievable this year?

Contributing Goals and Lead Indicators

From here, all teams have to do is organize next year’s priorities under their Overarching Objective. First, list all the things you think your team wants to do next year – or you’ve been told you have to do – and ask two things:

  1. Which ones are actually priorities for next year? You’ll know they’re priorities because they are absolutely essential for achieving your Overarching Objective. You’ll call these Contributing Goals.
  2. And which ones are not priorities on their own? – they’re actually just activities that are required to make the Contributing Goals happen. You’ll call these Lead Indicators.

Goal Setting Example

To illustrate this a bit more clearly, here’s an example:

Let’s assume your Overarching Objective is to “Increase meaningful participation in volunteering and giving programs by training 1500 new Volunteer Champions by EOY.” What do we have to do to make that happen (i.e., what are our Contributing Goals)? Well, probably:

  1. Launch Volunteer Champion Training by March (Q1)
  2. Increase Benevity usage from 20%-50% by EOY
  3. Design metrics for meaningful participation and begin tracking by September (Q3)

For our number 1 above (Launch Volunteer Champion Training by March), what are the Lead Indicators to ensure we will get there?

Something like:

  1. Collaborate with key stakeholders to design the content
  2. Socialize and gain approvals
  3. Produce and launch training content

If we achieve these lead indicators, we can be confident that we will achieve our Contributing Goals! Now, obviously each of these lead indicators will have its own mini project plan that shows what all the steps are to achieve each lead indicator, what the next step is and who “owns” each step.

Pressure Test Questions

So how can you be sure you did this right? By asking pressure-test questions. For every set of goals, at every layer, ask these questions:

First, do your goals contribute directly to your team’s objective?

  • In what way will failing to achieve each goal affect your team’s objective?
  • Can you articulate why each goal is essential to achieving your team’s objective?
  • Could other goals or activities more effectively contribute to your team’s objective?

Next, are your goals achievable?

  • How many goals did you set?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of what “done” looks like for each goal?
  • Do you have the resources required to achieve each goal?
  • Do you have the headcount required to achieve each goal?

Finally, have you clearly defined any potential barriers?

  • Does your timeline allow for delays and setbacks?
  • Are you (overly) dependent on other teams to achieve your goal?

Putting It All Together

From here, we convert all these objectives, goals and lead measures into a dashboard that we can use year-round to ensure we’re staying on track and on target (be sure to check out the webinar recording for an explanation of what that dashboard can look like!). If you want your own copy of our goals dashboard and tools to help you execute on your goals, be sure to check out Social REV!

How does this approach track with your goal setting process? We’d love to hear! Reach out to us at to share!

Realized Worth helps you take a transformative approach to volunteering. We work with companies to create scalable and measurable volunteering programs that empower and engage employees, focus on empathy and inclusivity, and align with your most important business objectives. Talk to us today to learn more!

Strategy & Execution

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