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Colleague Explaining The Difference Between Short-term Vs. Long-term Goals.

Understanding Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals (Examples Included)


Every board needs directors who are great visionaries, and understanding the difference between short-term vs. long-term goals can help bring your nonprofit’s vision to life.

Beyond the obvious, knowing the differences between short-term and long-term goal planning can help nonprofits navigate a course from the present to the future while showing demonstrated progress toward achieving their goals.

Here, we will:

  • Define short-term and long-term goals
  • Explain the differences in short-term vs. long-term goals
  • Provide examples of both types of goal setting

What Are Short-Term Goals?

Short-term goals are objectives your board wants to achieve in the very near future, which you can interpret to mean within a few weeks or months. Typically, goals you anticipate taking longer than a year to fulfill fall into the long-term goal strategy.

There are generally two purposes for short-term goals:

  • To take on a small project
  • To make measurable progress toward a long-term goal

Depending on the complexity of a long-term goal, it can take a series of short-term goals to pave the way for a long-term goal.

board management solution is a valuable tool to help your board keep both types of goals on track.

What Are Long-Term Goals?

Long-term goals are strategic by nature. As such, they help to shape the overall direction of the organization.

Long-term goals are typically big goals that cannot possibly be achieved in less than a year. Boards can expect long-term goals to take five to ten years or even longer. As far as the timeframe is concerned, the important thing is to set a date to accomplish the goals and create achievable milestones along the way to keep the plan on track.

To stay the course, long-term goals require:

  • Planning
  • Setting milestones
  • Monitoring
  • Accountability
  • Compliance

Boards play an essential role in strategic management. Many nonprofit boards find that the best way to set more significant milestones is to establish a long-term goal and work backward to today. That will help you to set smaller goals that can be achieved in a shorter timeframe.

Overall, because long-term goals take time to achieve, nonprofit boards will have a great sense of reward at the end of the line.

Difference Between Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

Beyond the length of time it takes to achieve goals, there are a few other notable similarities and differences between short-term goals and long-term goals for your board to consider.

Similarities: Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

  • Short-term and long-term goals should both be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely)
  • Both types of goal setting provide a path toward achieving the organization’s mission and vision
  • Short- and long-term goals work in tandem with one another

Differences: Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

  • Short-term goals require immediate focus and attention; long-term goals focus broader strategy
  • Short-term goals are specific and can be measured in the near future; long-term goals are often general and ambitious
  • There is little room for flexibility with short-term goals, whereas there is time to adjust long-term goals as needed

Determining Whether a Goal Is Short-Term or Long-Term

A good way to determine whether a goal should fit into the category of a short-term vs. long-term goal is to set aside time for your board to discuss answers to the following questions:

  • Can it be achieved with minimal effort?
  • Can it be completed in less than a year?
  • Does it require commitment?
  • Does it require multiple steps?
  • Is the goal strategic in nature?
  • Does it require deliberate planning?

What Are Examples of Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals for Business?

The following examples of short-term goals vs. long-term goals will enable your board to better understand what each type of goal looks like and how they work jointly to help your nonprofit make progress.

Examples of Short-Term Goals

  • Apply for at least 10 grants
  • Raise $5,000 at the annual fundraiser
  • Purchase a board management solution
  • Arrange for quarterly board member educational opportunities

Examples of Long-Term Goals

  • Lease a building in a new geographical area and hire staff
  • Double the number of donors
  • Establish a program to feed the homeless one meal per day
  • Increase website traffic by 50%

Tips for Setting Long-Term and Short-Term Business Goals

Over 1,000 studies have made the connection between setting specific goals and increasing task performance, motivation, and persistence.

The following tips will help your board set achievable business goals:

  • Schedule time for setting business goals during your strategic planning meeting
  • Educate your board members on how SMART goals work
  • Break short-term goals down by quarters
  • Establish a system for tracking your results
  • Add progress toward your goals to your board meeting agenda quarterly
  • Celebrate milestones and achievements

Final Thoughts on Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

In wrapping things up, board members should be aware that newer board members may not fully grasp the importance of setting short-term and long-term goals relative to your strategic planning. As part of your board orientation, be sure to include information on short-term vs. long-term goals and explain why both are essential tools in achieving your nonprofit’s mission.

In considering short-term vs. long-term goals, one is not more important than the other, and both effectively help to make progress toward your nonprofit’s overall objectives.

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