bold goal nonprofit bhag audacious goal

Bold Goal —

a Superpower!

Does it matter whether whether we have a bold goal? That what we’re trying to do is ambitious? Absolutely! The superpower of a bold goal is its ability to focus and align thoughts and actions over time. Without a bold goal, even good organizations with talented leaders and staff are doomed to wander in the land of mediocrity. They may be doing good work but a great opportunity is lost. Having an audacious goal doesn’t mean you’ll know how you’ll reach it. It’s a statement of intent, an organizing point. Everyone is focused, asking, “How do I help us get there? What must we do next?”

John Doerr: Why the secret to success is setting the right goals. 12 min.

How the Appalachian Trail began. 7 min.

The Power of Bold Goals

It will take a village to reach
The nonprofit KaBOOM builds playgrounds with community participation. To reach their goal of placing a playground “within walking distance of every child in America,” they will have to join with all kinds of local partners. Engaging the help of many people for a bold cause can increase your odds of success.
It has to be believable
A goal focuses your energy on a vision, as well as you can imagine it, of what you want the future to be. It can lookimpossible, but it’s got to be achievable. Bill Foege, who has spent a lifetime pursuing bold global health goals, said that an important ingredient of eradicating smallpox “was simply the belief that it could be done. In fact, in retrospect, the belief that it could be done seems like the most important factor in the global eradication effort.”
Your bold goal is part of a historic continuum
Malala Yousafzai struggles for the right of children to have education. For that effort, she is the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Her goal is to ensure that every girl in the world has access to twelve years of free, safe, quality primary and secondary education by 2030. She didn’t invent the priority of educating girls. In fact, she benefitted from others who sought to make sure she had an education. Our goals build on decades of accomplishments of those who have gone before us.
Your goal is connected to other goals

Even if the scope of your bold goal isn’t global, it will likely contribute to other greater goals. Citizens in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh recently set a world record of planting almost fifty million trees in twenty-four hours. This effort was part of India’s larger goal of increasing its forested land from 192 million acres to 235 million acres by 2030. And that goal is one more step toward an even greater goal of restoring more than 800 million acres of forests worldwide. A number of groups are now calling for the planting of one trillion trees (there are about three trillion trees on earth today). This could be nested in an even larger goal of fighting climate change, and so on. It’s all part of the ultimate Big Hairy Audacious Goal of saving humanity’s ability to live on the planet—as soon as possible!

Your goal can be about filling in gaps
The Y2Y vision is a two thousand-mile interconnected system of wildlands and waterways that will stretch from Canada’s Yukon to Montana’s Yellowstone National Park to ensure the survival of animals such as caribou and grizzly bears. The East Coast Greenway is a three thousand-mile off-road bike trail from Maine to Key West, Florida. Both efforts are literally about filling in gaps in our landscape from point to point. And both find local partners to help fill in those local gaps. While not always so literal, the giant gap between where you are presently and your ambitious goal can be broken down into many smaller gaps. Each one will be filled in through persistence and creative energy.
Reaching the goal will be messy
No great accomplishment was achieved without stumbles. Some worse than others. Many people died building the Panama Canal, trying to sail around the world (including Magellan himself), and freeing India from British colonial rule. There’s no easy, smooth path. You hit dead-ends and have to back up and try another way. There are never enough resources. Shortcuts, mistakes, and sometimes even disasters occur along the way. Do what you think is best at the time. At the very least, you’ll learn something to help you take another step.
Ambitious goals transform
An organization committed to doing something great will never be the same. It will be stretched and reinvented. Your goal may be local, like making sure all veterans in your city have housing, bringing a dying neighborhood back to life, or radically increasing high school graduation rates. You may not send someone to the moon, but as you strive to reach your bold goal the lives of those involved will be transformed.
reframe problem

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras ask what makes some organizations exceptional. One thing they found, a Big Hairy Audiacious Goal.

The term “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) was coined by business scholars Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in “Built to Last.” A BHAG is a long-term, audacious, and often ambitious goal that a company or organization sets for itself.

It’s also a strategic tool that helps organizations focus on achieving something truly remarkable, something that may seem impossible at first, but is achievable with dedication and hard work. It is usually a clear and compelling vision of where the organization wants to be in the future, typically 10 to 30 years down the road.

A BHAG should meet four criteria:

  • It should be “Big” – something that inspires and excites the organization and stakeholders, and that is beyond the realm of what is currently achievable.
  • It should be “Hairy” – something that is challenging and difficult to achieve, but still feasible.
  • It should be “Audacious” – something that is bold, courageous, and daring.
  • It should be a “Goal” – something that is specific, measurable, and time-bound, with clear targets and milestones to track progress.

Examples of BHAGs include:

  • “Landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”
  • The Child Survival Campaign’s goal to reduce the number of child deaths worldwide in half
  • Half Earth’s goal of setting aside half the world’s land and sea for nature

Overall, a BHAG is a powerful tool for organizations to articulate a compelling vision for the future, motivate staff and stakeholders, and drive progress towards ambitious long-term goals.

New Book from Tom Peterson

reframe problems reframing problems