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Targets....friend or foe?

Updated: Apr 2

Over the years the word 'targets' being muttered in a training or coaching session has produced some interesting responses. Some organisations are very pro-target, while others consider targets, KPIs and other performance measures to be an anathema to the VCSE sector.


At CAP we believe that good targets drive good behaviour, can positively improve performance and almost certainly improve outcomes for clients, whereas bad targets encourage bad behaviour in staff and volunteers and the needs of the client gets lost.


Whether setting targets is a good idea for a social enterprise depends on several factors, including the nature of the enterprise, its mission, and its goals. Here are some considerations to help you assess whether targets are appropriate for your social enterprise:

  1. Mission Alignment: Targets should align with the social enterprise's mission and values. If the targets support the organization's broader social or environmental goals, they can be beneficial in driving progress toward those objectives.

  2. Relevance - Choosing targets that measure impact (outcomes) rather than measuring activities (outputs) could encourage staff to focus more on the client's needs and objectives and less on how that client needs to be supported.

  3. Measurability: Targets should be measurable and quantifiable. It's essential to have clear metrics to track progress effectively. This might include metrics related to social impact, environmental sustainability, financial performance, or other relevant areas.

  4. Accountability: Targets can help create accountability within the organization. When individuals or teams have specific goals to work toward, it can foster a sense of responsibility and motivate them to perform at their best.

  5. Adaptability: Social enterprises often operate in dynamic environments where conditions may change rapidly. Targets should be flexible enough to accommodate shifts in circumstances or priorities while still providing a sense of direction.

  6. Balancing Profit and Purpose: Social enterprises typically aim to balance social or environmental impact with financial sustainability. Targets should reflect this dual objective, ensuring that the organization remains financially viable while also advancing its social mission.

  7. Stakeholder Involvement: Engaging stakeholders in the target-setting process can enhance buy-in and support. This might involve consulting with beneficiaries, employees, investors, and other relevant parties to ensure that targets reflect their perspectives and priorities.

  8. Ethical Considerations: Targets should be set in a way that avoids unintended negative consequences or unethical behaviour. For example, setting overly ambitious targets that incentivize cutting corners or compromising on ethical principles could undermine the organization's mission in the long run.

  9. Transparency: Transparently communicating targets and progress toward them can build trust with stakeholders, including customers, donors, and the broader community. It demonstrates the organization's commitment to accountability and impact.

  10. Achievement - Some organisations are working in particularly challenging environments - supporting clients with particularly complex needs, under financial pressure, overwhelmed by demand, pressure on staff wellbeing - so having met a target can generate much needed positivity and celebration. Let's face it, we could all do with an injection of that from time to time.


Ultimately, whether targets are beneficial for a social enterprise depends on how well they are aligned with the organization's mission, values, and broader goals. When set thoughtfully and implemented effectively, targets can be a valuable tool for driving positive social and environmental change while ensuring organizational effectiveness and sustainability.




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