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SMART Goals for Arts Organizations

A hand holds a magnifying glass up over a highway at dusk. Everything is unfocused except for the view through the magnifying glass, which brings the distance into clarity.
Photo Credit: Yosef Futsum
A hand holds a magnifying glass up over a highway at dusk. Everything is unfocused except for the view through the magnifying glass, which brings the distance into clarity.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Organizations that express goals in this way stay aligned with their mission. This article helps you write SMART goals that can be applied across arts organizations.

Get where you’re going faster with a strategic approach to setting goals. Taking the time upfront to define your goals will guide your work and give you a clear way to measure your progress. A simple acronym makes all the difference.

Illustration of banners spelling out "SMART" as in: "Specific," "Measurable," "Achievable," "Relevant," and "Timely"
Illustration of banners spelling out “SMART” as in: “Specific,” “Measurable,” “Achievable,” “Relevant,” and “Timely”

When do you use it?

Arts and culture organizations benefit especially from using SMART goals. They can help your team stay focused, efficient, and aligned with the overall mission of the organization. The parameters and constraints can even result in more creative work, because your team will have to actively find innovative solutions that are in line with a shared common goal. The best projects for SMART goals are short to medium term projects where you have control over the variables. The less you can control, the less achievable the goal becomes, which is why SMART goals may not be as helpful in highly dynamic situations with lots of moving pieces.

How do you use it?

Writing a SMART goal involves thinking through five components.

  • Specific: Spell out exactly what you want to accomplish

    Begin by thinking about your goal as an observable action, not a broad concept. If your goal is vague, moving beyond this part of goal-setting is challenging. because it could be too generalized to measure or too wide-reaching to be attainable.

  • Measurable: Define the end result in quantitative or qualitative terms

    How will you know when you have achieved your goal? Or how close you are to attaining it? Think about the outcomes and what can be measured. Knowing what success looks like will help you maintain the outcome of the goal, or set a baseline for future improvement.

  • Achievable: Confirm that your goal is possible and reasonable to accomplish

    Do you have access to the skills and resources required to achieve your goal? What support or learning do you need to achieve it? Make sure you are set up to succeed when you establish your goal. This is a critical part of goal-setting.

  • Relevant: Make sure your goal is aligned with your organization and long term objectives

    Is your goal aligned with the strategic plan and direction of your organization? Does it advance the vision? How does it fit into other long term goals? To take this a step further, think beyond your organization and see if your goal is relevant in current times and with the larger market.

  • Time-bound: Identify an achievement date for your goal

    When does your goal need to be completed? A time-bound goal creates a sense of urgency. Even if the date identified isn’t the final deadline of the program or work, a time-bound goal helps to chart a course to completion.

Pro Tip: Managing timelines is easier with a project management tool!

Once you know your deadlines, you can work backwards to plan milestones and start assigning tasks. Getting the job done is easier when you use a project management tool. The Arts Midwest team uses Asana, which happens to have some additional tips on using SMART goals.

Learn more

Illustration of a golf hole and flag on top of a grass hill
Photo Credit: asana

Try it for yourself

Are you feeling inspired? It’s time to try it out using our worksheet. For your convenience, the worksheet is available in two formats: PDF and Word Document.

PDF Word Document

It’s easy! Use this Mad Lib structure to create your own SMART Goal:

A mad lib graphic reading, "In order to support [relevant strategy goal], we want to [change verb] [thing to change] of/by/for/with [who] by [how much] by [date], as measured by [metric]. To do this, we need [resources needed for achievability."

Feeling stuck? Here are a few examples to help get you going:

  • To meet our programming expansion plans, we will hire 2-3 additional staff members, and recruit an additional 25 part-time contracted teaching artists from the East Side by the end of 2022. To help make this happen, by March, our team and board members will need to identify candidates, and we will need to work with an HR consultant to assist with the hiring process.
  • In support of a strategic goal to empower our leadership team, by the end of September 2022, we will expand our board to include representatives of the student body that we serve. For the next three years, we will hold an annual retreat to co-create a clear understanding of board goals, responsibilities, and expectations.
  • To create more financial stability and autonomy, at the end of 3 years we will have grown our individual giving from 5% to 20% of our annual revenue mix. This will require hiring a development associate and working with a fundraising consultant in the first year to develop a strategic fundraising action plan.

Resources used in developing this tool: