Campaign Bootcamp: Module 2 - what's in a goal?

What’s your marketing goal?

Is it something like “empower young people to be active citizens”? Or “defend the right to a safe home”? Or “increase awareness of our work within our local community”?

If it is, you would be in-line with many other non-profit goals: big, ambitous goals are common place in the third sector!

The problem with these sorts of goals is that they can be very tricky to translate into good marketing goals.

Rate your goal

A good marketing goal tends to have some helpful characteristics. These include being:

  1. specific

  2. bite sized

  3. appropriate to available resources

  4. measurable

Also, a good goal will make a clear link between cause and effect. By this I mean it’ll be obvious that the action will create the intended result. Easy you’d think? Actually, in the confusing world of marketing, this last characteristic can often be hard to achieve.

So, do you have a current goal you are working on? Can you assess it versus these characteristics? Here are some examples of less helpful and more helpful goals to illustrate what I mean.

Is your goal specific?

An example of a less helpful goal might be: “we need to raise awareness of our work”. That’s a good general aim, but it’s a bad marketing goal. A better example would be: “we need to increase donations to our Christmas appeal”; or “we need to recruit 5 more local volunteers to help run our events”; or “we need to sign up 30 more members to make regular donations via standing order”.

How specific do you think your goal is? Can you see a way to get more specific?

Is your goal ‘bite sized’?

Unhelpful goals are not ‘bite sized’ enough. That is, they don’t seem achievable or realistic; they do not start from where you are. For example: “we need to raise £100,000 towards our new building project”.

If you have a program of fundraising activities that already raises £50k pa, pushing it to £100k is a stretch target that’s potentially achievable. But if the most you’ve raised before is £200 through a raffle you would do better to break your goal down and start with something like: we need to identify 5 other charities who raised £100k + for building projects and ask them how they did it, and then identify what might work for us.

Is your goal ‘bite sized’? If not, are you comfortable with that - or can you see a way to add in some bite sized milestones to achieve to help you make incremental (realistic) progress?

Is your goal deliverable within your current time, money and expertise resources?

Sometimes it seems tempting to think that setting a stretch target will help you maximise the results you get from limited resources. And sometimes that can work - but often it doesn’t. People can end up feeling deflated. Not a great place to be.

An example that has tripped a lot of people up since May relates to GDPR. Eg if you are aiming to send out an ebulletin to promote your fundraiser, do the people responsible have the skills and time (or budget to buy-in help) to ensure that your database is GDPR friendly?

If not, then it might be better to find a different route to promoting your fundraiser, until your GDPR compliance issues are tackled.

What time, expertise or money do you need to fulfil your goal and can you see where that is coming from?

Is your goal measurable?

This is not a must have - but if you start with a fairly specific goal, you may be better placed to measure progress. Ie “grow our subscriber list by 20 new people a month” is easily trackable. If you can track results, you are better placed to make amends / improve next time. Eg in the months we ran a competition, we exceeded our target for new sign ups - are there other competitions could we offer next year?

What measures could you use to track progress with your goal?

Cause and effect

Is there an obvious link between what you do, and the result you are seeking? Here are a few examples of less-than-great links between cause and effect I’ve come across this week:

Eg A national charity invests in creating an ebulletin that local branches can use to send out to their local supporters. However, this initiative often fails because many local branches still don’t have the expertise needed to export the email addresses of their supporters in the right format.

Eg A local health and wellbeing charity invests some scarce resources in an advertising billboard outside a school. It is expensive and only gets seen by the school community. This is not such a great fit with the wider community they want to attract to use their services.

Eg A vocal trustee on the board of a small conservation charity insists that (the very limited) staff time is spent on running a Linked In page – although the main B2B (ie business) target audience is farmers, who are not such keen users of Linked In.

More positively, there are lots of great examples of well thought through links between cause and effect, like the local recycling charity that is partnering with charity shops to put tags on recyling bins reminding people to check they aren’t throwing away recyclable items.

Why have a goal?

Coming up with a goal for your promotions helps a lot. It’s a bit scary, as you won’t necessarily feel confident that you’ll meet it… but it’s a good antidote to overwhelm because, when faced with multiple priorities, it helps you to narrow down what you need to be prioritising based on what will help you achieve your current goal.

Goals can change – so don’t be scared by the idea that you haven’t got exactly the ‘right’ goal to start with.


So, to recap, a good goal will be specific, ‘bite-sized’ enough, and linked to the ‘who’ will do what. It will allow you to measure success and it will show a clear link between cause and effect.

If it has these characteristics, it stands a far better chance of being a goal that helps you get results (as opposed to a goal that ends up making you all feel deflated, burnt out and generally a bit disinclined to try again!).

If you’ve reviewed your current goal against these characteristics you maybe suprised at quite how tricky it is to knock your goal into shape :) It can take a bit of practice.

In general, it may better to start smaller and make incremental progress - accumulating small wins .. on your way to a bigger, more spectacular win in the future!

Sophy Hallam