How can nonprofits effectively track whether they’re achieving their goals or not?

Who should do this?

A strategic plan should have measurable outcomes (or “metrics”) as a key component of content. These will vary widely depending on your goals, but a few common measures include:

  • Increased number of clients served.
  • Lower cost per service.
  • Increased revenues from fee-for-service.
  • Increased percentage of clients transitioning from the program due to self-sufficiency.
  • Increased media mentions.
  • Growth in monthly website users, time on site, pages/downloads accessed, etc.
  • Increased awareness in the community served or among specific target populations.
  • Growth in corporate sponsorships.
  • Number of policymakers briefed on objective research and analysis.

Whatever your metrics, your plan should establish realistic goals over time that can easily be referred to and assessed. For example, an online education provider might seek to have a 10 percent increase in users requesting more information over six months, and a 20 percent increase in the conversion rate (meaning that 20 percent more people seeking information ultimately subscribe as compared to today). If the provider has laid out strategies to achieve that (e.g., through marketing, advertising, social media campaigns, etc.), then these may well be realistic goals. And, these are easy, cost-efficient and realistic to measure (for more information, see Evaluation).

The individuals responsible for measuring your progress are likely to vary. For example, those involved in online marketing would measure web analytics, while development staff would report on sponsorships, and finance specialists would be best positioned to track trends in fees for service.

Of course, a smaller nonprofit may not have the benefit of dedicated departmental staff. Fortunately, there are still plenty of cost-effective tools available to you, such as:

  • Google Analytics ( is a free service that allows for a detailed analysis of your Web traffic, including, among other things, numbers of users (new and returning), where they are from and how they are getting there.
  • Your bookkeeper (even if it’s you) should be able to run reports on financial metrics from standard bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks or Peachtree.
  • Awareness and opinions can be measured through in-person and online surveys (SurveyMonkey – – is one free resource) and discussion groups conducted at your facility.
  • Google Alerts ( sends free real-time updates of media and Web mentions of keywords you set via email.

Strategic Planning FAQ

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