Proposal Toolkit


Section 6: Project Description - Goals and Objectives

Nowhere else in the process of grant development is there as much confusion about the use of terms as there is with "goals and objectives." The first rule of thumb is to check what terms the funding entity uses and how they define them.  Mission, purpose, goals, objectives, outcomes, outputs, deliverables, activities...all have been used with related or overlapping meanings.  Always use the language and definition of the funder in this section.

The grant writing process began with recognizing and defining a problem, so the goals/objectives should be directly related to solutions to the problem.  Goals are expressed in broad terms and depict a desired outcome that solves or alleviates the problem identified--your long-term vision.  Many grants will have one goal; larger grants--especially high dollar federal efforts--may have four or five goals.

To achieve the vision your goal suggests, action is needed.  Objectives are expressed as measurable, time delineated actions to be taken to make your goal a reality.  One of the popular methods of defining objectives is SMART--Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound.  Links in the Examples section explain how to construct SMART objectives.

The Foundation Center, in its free online grant writing course, defines different types of objectives as Behavioral, Performance, Process, and Product.  Learn more about these definitions here.

The next level of specificity is Activities/Tasks.  Unless the funder explicitly requests these, it may be best to exclude them.  Ultimately, that will allow greater flexibility in how the objectives are achieved.

Writing SMART (and SMARTER) Objectives
Smart Objectives

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