I have been doing some work with some really amazing NGOs lately. Part of what I am helping them with is strategic planning. I have found a pattern in the few NGOs that I’ve worked with so far. These organizations lack an alignment between short- and medium-term goals and their long-range goals. In fact, many don’t have short- or medium-term goals at all! Those that do, often don’t have a defined sense of how to determine whether these goals were reached. For example: if you want to spread awareness about sexual and reproductive health you know your end goal –- that everyone in a given community can make informed and empowered choices about their own health. However, what might your intermediary steps be? Perhaps it is to forge a certain number of new partnerships with organizations or schools per time interval, or perhaps it is a certain amount of increased foot traffic at a health clinic or increased attendance at a peer-education group.
If we haven’t conceptualized how to measure progress, it is hard to make any progress at all. I have found the people who found and run NGOs to be very ambitious and have big ideas. They are inspired by a particular vision. This is great, but it needs to be accompanied by a nuts-and-bolts sense of how to achieve this vision. If you have large and abstract goals, ask yourself the following questions:
I am a big proponent of these indicators being measurable, but by that I don’t mean necessarily in quantitative terms. There is a danger in putting too much trust in numbers, since not all meaningful things can be measured quantitatively. So, I recommend a combination of qualitative and quantitative means to assess an organization’s interim indicators.
I'm a writer and freelance consultant based in Providence, RI. I also am the managing editor of the peer-reviewed, academic journal, the Journal of African History. When not writing, you can find me spending time outdoors, playing music, or drinking copious amounts of coffee.