How to Write Objectives for Your Grant Application

Successful grant writers know and understand the three types of objectives (also known as milestones or benchmarks). Just as important, good grant writers know when to use them on grant applications:

  • SMART outcome objectives: Measurable steps or benchmarks to reach a stated goal

  • Process objectives: Activities or tasks

  • Impact objectives: Benefits to end users that continue after the grant funding has ended

Using the right objective at the right time can help you rack up peer review points, which can also help you win big bucks for your program.

Although you should definitely provide at least one objective for each goal and year of your funding request, some program designs have more than one objective for each goal. If this setup is the case with your design, make sure you number and alphabetize the objectives (for example, 1a, 1b, 1c, and so on) to eliminate confusion for the reviewer.

How to create SMART outcome objectives

How do you recognize an outcome objective? It’s an objective that shows that the project has accomplished the activities it planned to achieve. Always create outcome objectives for your programs or projects. They’re the most common type of objectives funders ask for in their grant application guidelines.

When writing your own outcome objectives, use phrases that imply some sort of measurable change, such as to increase or to decrease. For example, you can write about an increase of 50 percent in the number of organizations receiving project services by the end of Year 1.

The easiest way to write outcome objectives is to use the SMART acronym:

  • S: Is the objective specific rather than abstract? The objective must point out who will benefit and specify what will be measured.

  • M: Is the objective measurable? Can it be tracked easily with valid measurement tools, such as surveys, pre- and post-needs assessments, and more? Use measure-indicating words such as increase, decrease, reduce, improve, lower, or raise. Also include a percentage benchmark.

  • A: Is the objective attainable? Can your organization really pull off the objective?

  • R: Is the objective realistic? Can the measurement actually be attained for the target population in the given time frame?

  • T: Is the objective timebound? Can your organization accomplish all the required tasks to achieve the objective in the given time frame? Make sure your objective contains a timebound phrase, such as by the end of Year 1, or the first semester, the second quarter, the grant-funding period, or whatever time segment your project will occur in.

The following are some sample SMART outcome objectives:

  • Objective 1a: By the end of Year 1, increase the number of residents inquiring about fitness events in the community room by 25% or more as demonstrated by pre-grant and post-grant award comparisons of incidences of interest among the target population.

  • Objective 1b: By the end of Year 1, increase the number of residents participating in one or more fitness activities by 25% or more as demonstrated by pre-grant and post-grant event attendance records.

  • Objective 1c: By the end of Year 2, increase the number of residents participating in two or more fitness activities by 50% or more over Year 1 as demonstrated by a comparison of Year 1 and Year 2 event attendance records.

In order to accurately measure any percentage increases for your target population (like measurements built into the example objectives), you need to know the baseline numbers (the starting point) for each type of measurement. You need a starting point in order to establish a reasonable (attainable) measurement.

If you don’t have baseline data, write that in the program design narrative. Explain to the funder that your data collection will include a pre- and post-assessment of the high-risk indicators to demonstrate that your intervention/implementation strategies will/did work.

If the program you’re requesting funding for is new, you may not have baseline data to help guide the development of outcome objective targets. In this case, be sure to build baseline assessments into the program enrollment process whenever possible.

How to produce process objectives

Process objectives are the implementation-related activities or tasks needed to reach your goals and meet or exceed your SMART objectives for your grant-funded program. For effective process objectives, write about the actual, chronological activities that need to occur from the time you receive grant funding until the monies have been spent.

The best way to present your process objectives is in a table format. Make sure to follow the funder’s guidelines when setting up your timeline segments.

When writing process objectives, quantify your activities in numbers rather than percentages or words.

Following are two sample process objectives:

  • Process Objective 1: Marketing outreach to 300 elderly residents in Brentwood Highlands.

  • Process Objective 2: Enroll 75 Brentwood Highlands elderly residents in one or more fitness activities.

How to identify impact objectives

Impact objectives demonstrate the achievement of the goal of the project or program when you or anyone steps into the future and then looks back at what was accomplished and the differences that were made. In other words, what will the grant’s impact on your target population be in three to five years?

If you come across a grant application in which the funding agency asks you to write about benefits to participants, respond by using impact objectives. Benefits to participants are really presumptions of how the funded program’s intervention will change your participants.

Impact objectives are easy to identify because they’re written in past tense. They’re futuristic glimpses into the past, your vision for what the program’s future impact may be. Unlike process objectives, you don’t have any common words to cue your writing. The funder is just looking for signs of significant change.

Here is an example of an effective impact objective:

Impact Objective: Brentwood Highlands residents who participated in Year 1 of the fitness activities have reported lower incidence of hypertension and a reduction in chronic disease progression.

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