12 Reasons Your Strategic Plan Should Have BHAGs

A BHAG, pronounced bee hag, is an acronym for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. The term was originally coined in the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. BHAGs are meant to excite and energize people in an authentic way.

Why should every nonprofit’s strategic plan include BHAGs? Below are twelve great reasons:

  1. During your strategic planning process, you should develop a vision statement that’s far reaching but attainable – hence a BHAG.
  2. If a nonprofit doesn’t push its thinking out far enough, you may become too tactical in your strategic planning.
  3. Leaders, board members, and staff all need a challenging vision and goals to stay engaged.
  4. Without BHAGS your organization will stay with the status quo.
  5. Your nonprofit will become a leader in your industry and community for thinking BIG.
  6. Prospective donors will want to join the driving impact your organization is making.
  7. Volunteers will want to help make the BHAGS become reality.
  8. The board and staff’s performance can be tied to the organization’s goals, making them high performing.
  9. BHAGs will pull a team together.
  10. BHAGs upgrade the desire and capability to achieve something that wouldn't have been possible without the shared commitment.
  11. BHAGs are clear and compelling targets for an organization to strive for.
  12. The community and your partners will rally around your nonprofit.

The litmus test of a true BHAG is how it answers questions like:

  • Does it stimulate forward progress?
  • Does it create momentum?
  • Does it get people going?
  • Does it get people's juices flowing?
  • Do they find it stimulating, exciting, adventurous?
  • Are they willing to throw their creative talents and human energies into it?

If the answers to these questions trend toward the affirmative, you may have a potential BHAG. Because seeing what other organizations aim for is always fun (and educational), below are some examples of BHAG vision statements:

National CASA: In changing the course of children’s lives, we envision a changed society. To achieve that vision, in partnership with the CASA/GAL network nationwide, we make two promises to every child who has a CASA or guardian ad litem volunteer: We will work with our network as a highly functioning team to ensure that every child finds a safe, permanent and nurturing home — with their own families where possible or if not, in adoptive families that respect their culture and connections. While we work together toward a long-term solution, we will make each child’s current well-being a top priority — at home, at school, and in their communities.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure: A world without breast cancer.

Novo Nordisk: To be the world’s leading diabetes care company.

Pershing General Hospital: To become the provider of first choice for our community by being a leader in rural healthcare and offering innovative technologically advanced services.

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic: For all people to have equal access to the printed word.

McDonald’s: To be the world’s best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.

Please email April at april@armstrongmcguire.com with any comments or questions.

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