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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 organisation.

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 organisation’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?

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 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 goals:

  • Schedule time for setting 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.

Jill Holtz

Jill is a Content Strategy Manager at Diligent. Her strategy background and content expertise working across a variety of sectors, including education, non-profit and with local government partners, allows her to provide unique insights for organizations looking to achieve modern governance.

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