This is the third in a series of articles about using SMART as a checklist to help get better outcomes for you and your team. I recommend you read my intro to this series for more information about the background of SMART, clarification of what the letters mean, and a general pep talk on why you should set aside any ambivalence you have for SMART and read on.


While all the letters are important – in my experience, it’s the M that gives the SMART checklist real muscle, and it’s that muscle that gives you higher quality and more complete outcomes. Setting and meeting measurements is really how you get things done.

Measurable helps you set expectations around quality and productivity, and it helps you choose language with more precision. It also helps you pinpoint problem areas—if something is always falling short of the measurements you’ve set, dig into that to understand that better.

You might be asking yourself if every single thing even is measurable. My answer to that is yes. If you can’t measure it, how can you say that you’ve accomplished it?

Let’s look at some examples.

Goal: Establish relationships with potential funders.

On the surface, this seems like a terrific goal for a nonprofit. But ask – how will I know this is done? What does an “established relationship” look like? Does “establish” mean call them? Have coffee? And how many funders? In other words, think about how you are going to measure completeness for this work.

A revision could be:
“Meet with at least 2 potential funders this month.” There is no ambiguity – either you met with two or you didn’t.

OR, you could keep the goal as written above, but break that down into steps that become the means to measure completeness.

Goal: Establish relationships with potential funders.

    1. Call at least 10 potential funders this month.
    2. Meet with at least 4.
    3. Get a commitment from at least 1 to attend one of our events.
    4. Follow up with that person to get their feedback.

This goal is done when all of those measurable steps have been completed.

The idea can apply to tasks as well.

Work task: Publish social media posts

Here, Measure can add both quantity AND quality to this work task.

Create and publish at least 3 unique social media posts 4 out of 5 days that have no spelling, punctuation, or grammar mistakes.

Measure makes the other letters stronger as well, but Specific and Measurable are especially good friends. If you can’t figure out how you’re going to measure the work you’re defining, it likely isn’t specific enough.

The key to creating good measurements is to ask yourself – how will I know without a doubt that something is complete. And this is the real muscle. I use Measurable for almost every thing I do. If you only master ONE letter… make it this one.. and then use it as often as possible.

But, before you decide this is all you need, you should take a look at Achievable – the realist at this party. Don’t forget to check out Specific too.