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How to Set Nonprofit Goals, Objectives, and Outcomes in Your Grant Application

After you’ve described a need in your nonprofit grant proposal, the next step is to introduce what the nonprofit intends to achieve if it takes on the proposed project. You haven’t yet described the project activities, but this section jumps ahead to show what can be accomplished if the project is a success. Why?

First you pique the reader’s interest and concern (in the statement of need), next you show him the possibility of a better future (in goals, objectives, and outcomes), and then you explain how to achieve that vision (in the methods section).

Goals, objectives, and outcomes are related but different terms. The following points give a brief overview of these terms:

  • Goals are broad, general results. They may be somewhat lofty.

  • Objectives should be measurable results. What degree of change do you want to achieve in what time frame, involving how many people (or trees or race horses)?

  • Outcomes relate to your objectives, answering the question “So what?” So what if you provide anti-smoking classes to high-school students, reaching every teen in four school districts? The outcome isn’t the number of teens attending a stated number of workshops, but it may be that a lower-than-average percentage of those students begins smoking in high school.

You want the outcomes to be significant, but you also have to be careful not to overstate how much the project can claim or measure. If a grant proposal says a nonprofit intends to achieve a long-term outcome, for example, the organization had better be prepared to follow up with participants in the future.

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