The In Depth Guide to Goal Setting for Nonprofit Marketing Campaigns

Tips and tools for setting achievable goals

You’re in the planning stages of your next nonprofit digital campaign, exciting! The planning stage of your campaign is such a thrilling time when the possibilities and outcomes seem endless. Your campaign’s result can change your nonprofit’s trajectory, unlocking additional funds, changing policy or improving the lives of your beneficiaries. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed with the possibilities of what you can do! 


However, it’s essential to be realistic about what impact you can make and the outcomes you want. One of the first steps you need to do is to determine what you hope to achieve with your campaign.

But how do you come up with realistic and achievable goals?

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Article by Mark Locki

 Don’t worry. This article will help you through the vital goal-setting process for nonprofit marketing campaigns, breaking down various campaign types and utilizing the SMART framework for precision. We’ll also delve into the power of Facebook Ad Manager in estimating audience size and reach, helping you make informed decisions for maximum campaign effectiveness.

Why Set Goals for Nonprofit Marketing Campaigns?

Before diving into the specifics of goal-setting, let’s explore why nonprofit marketing campaigns must have well-defined goals.


1.    Clarity and Focus: Setting clear goals aligns your team’s efforts and keeps everyone focused on the same mission. It ensures that every decision made throughout the campaign journey contributes directly to achieving those goals.


2.    Measurable Impact: Goals provide a tangible measure of your campaign’s success. They offer benchmarks against which you can evaluate your performance and make informed decisions about adjustments or improvements.


3.    Resource Allocation: By establishing goals, you ensure that your resources – time, budget, and human resources – are allocated efficiently. You can prioritize efforts that directly contribute to reaching your desired outcomes.


4.    Stakeholder Communication: Clear goals enhance communication with stakeholders – from team members to donors and supporters. When everyone understands what you’re working towards, they’re more likely to rally behind your cause.


5.    Strategic Growth: Goals set the stage for strategic growth. They allow you to track your progress and identify areas for improvement, thereby optimizing your nonprofit’s impact over time.


Now that we understand the significance of goals let’s delve into how to set them effectively across different types of nonprofit marketing campaigns.

Determining What to Measure

For each campaign you run (if you want a recap on the difference between the four campaign types, visit my previous article here), you’ll need to determine what precisely to measure. Here, we break down some potential Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each campaign type:

  Awareness Campaign: KPIs you may want to focus on for Awareness Campaigns include reach, impressions, website visits, link clicks, email signups, Likes, Follows or Subscribes on your social media platform of choice.

 Impact Campaigns: As these are designed to make an impact, results are much loftier… and sometimes harder to quantify. Some KPIs you can measure include email open and clickthrough rate, petition signatures, views and shares. But don’t limit your Impact Campaigns to just these KPIs. Perhaps your goal with an Impact Campaign is to protect an environmental area or change policy. Maybe you want to help change opinion around a certain stigma. Don’t be afraid to think big with your impact campaigns!

 Engagement Campaigns:  These campaigns are looking for action. We want to see shares, comments, event signups and other signs of activity among your target audience!

 Fundraising campaign: This one is all about the money. KPIs you can track include total donations, average donation per donor, percentage increase in donation amount per donor, percentage increase in donors, new donor acquisition, and, of course, ROI.

Applying the SMART Framework to Goal Setting

Now that we know what we can and should measure for each type of campaign, let’s explore how to set goals using the SMART framework – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.


1.    Specific: Your goals should be clear and specific. Rather than aiming to “increase engagement,” specify a percentage increase or a target number of engagements.


2.    Measurable: Goals must be measurable to gauge your progress accurately. Define metrics that can be quantified, such as the number of new social media followers or website visits.


3.    Achievable: Set goals that are realistic and achievable. While it’s essential to challenge yourself, overly ambitious goals can lead to frustration and burnout.


4.    Relevant: Goals should align with your nonprofit’s mission and campaign objectives. Ensure that achieving the goal contributes directly to the desired impact.


5.    Time-bound: Attach a timeframe to your goals to create a sense of urgency and structure. For instance, set a goal to achieve a specific number of donations within a month-long fundraising campaign.


An example of a SMART goal may be:


Increase the nonprofit’s email subscriber list by 25% within the next three months through an online awareness campaign.

This SMART goal is well-structured for several reasons. It’s specific, outlining the precise objective of increasing the email subscriber list by 25%. The goal is measurable, as the 25% increase offers a clear benchmark to determine success. Moreover, this goal is achievable; while challenging, it’s feasible within three months, especially with a focused awareness campaign. Of course, this will depend entirely on the resources available to your organization.

The relevance of the goal is evident – growing an email list aligns perfectly with the awareness campaign’s aim to expand the nonprofit’s reach and connect with a larger audience. Finally, the time-bound aspect of the goal ensures a sense of urgency and prevents procrastination. Achieving this goal within three months indicates a successful awareness campaign that engages the target audience and encourages them to join the nonprofit’s email list.

Developing Realistic Yet Ambitious Goals

We know we need to use SMART goals, but how do you develop achievable goals for your nonprofit’s campaigns? There are two methods we like to use to determine realistic goals:


1. Past Campaign Performance:

The insights gained from previous campaigns offer more than a mere glimpse into the past; they can be a compass guiding your future marketing. By delving into the nuances of success metrics, engagement levels, and the response of donors and supporters, you embark on a journey of strategic refinement. These insights allow you to not only acknowledge the successes you’ve had but also identify areas for improvement. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of what resonated and what could be optimized, you’re ready to set your goals for upcoming initiatives. This strategic evolution ensures that your nonprofit marketing campaigns are rooted in experience and primed for progress. As you leverage the lessons of the past, you are well-positioned to craft campaigns that resonate more profoundly, amplify impact, and nurture lasting connections with your audience.


For example, your previous awareness campaign netted you an additional 250 mailing list subscribers. If you want to improve that performance, maybe you’ll want to set a goal of 300 mailing list subscribers for your next campaign. You can then review your metrics and your creative to see where you can improve to reach your new goal. Maybe it’s creating a stronger, more emotional story in your creative or allocating more budget to your ads. It could be rethinking your audience journey to get them to sign up for the mailing list. You won’t know for sure unless you review the performance of your past campaigns. 


2.    Estimating Audience Size and Reach Using Facebook Ad Manager

Another way to estimate potential outcomes for nonprofit marketing campaigns is to understand your audience’s size and potential reach. Most advertising platforms (Google, LinkedIn, Facebook) can provide you with estimated reach and results based on your keywords, geographic location and estimated ad spend. For this example, we’ll focus on Facebook Ad Manager, a valuable tool for estimating these parameters. Here’s how:


1.    Access Audience Insights: Use Facebook Ad Manager’s Audience Insights tool to explore the demographics, interests, and behaviours of potential supporters. This can help you understand the size of your target audience.


2.    Customize Audience Parameters: Define specific criteria such as location, age, gender, interests, and more to narrow down your audience. Facebook Ad Manager displays the estimated audience size as you make selections.


3.    Reach Estimates: When creating an ad campaign within Facebook Ad Manager, the platform estimates the potential reach for your ads based on your chosen audience parameters. This estimate can give you a rough idea of how many people you could reach with your campaign.


4.    Budget Impact: Adjust your ad budget to see how it affects your potential reach. This exercise can help you understand the relationship between budget and audience size.


Below is an example of Audience Insights and estimated reach for a hypothetical environmental NGO based in Calgary that knows its audience is interested in landscape photography, outdoor adventure, hiking, and wildlife photography. Using Audience Insights and Facebook Ad Manager, we can come up with an estimated audience size and reach at different levels of ad spend.

Play with the different campaign and performance goals to generate potential outcomes for your campaign. And remember that the average clickthrough rate across all industries is 0.9 %, so refine your overall campaign goals with those numbers in mind.


Setting goals for nonprofit marketing campaigns is essential in driving impactful outcomes. Through the SMART framework, you ensure that your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. By segmenting campaigns into awareness, impact, engagement, and fundraising, you tailor your goals to fit the unique objectives of each initiative. Diving deep into your past campaign performances and harnessing the power of Facebook Ad Manager to estimate audience size and reach empowers you to make data-driven decisions for campaign planning. With well-defined goals and a clear roadmap, your nonprofit marketing campaigns are poised for success, leaving a lasting impression on your audience and driving positive change in the world.

What is your biggest challenge in setting your campaign goals?

Let me know in the comments section below!

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