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3 Types of Objectives for a Winning Grant Proposal

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If you’re thinking, “What? There are three types of objectives?!”  then you’re not alone. Most grant writers or those charged with writing grant applications often confuse the types of objectives and don’t know where to write them in the program design’s narrative. This can cause your grant application to lose peer review points! (This post was updated on May 5, 2018)

Three Classifications of Objectives

  • SMART objectives: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timebound - S
  • Process objectives: tasks or activities - P
  • Impact objectives: benefits or outcomes for targeted populations post-funding - I

In your mind, fill in the correct letter for each of the three types of objectives written below.

  1. "Hire 10 new law enforcement officers."
  2. "Neighborhood block watch groups have bonded with members of the community policing teams, incidences of felony crimes have been reduced in the targeted census tracts, and the satellite police station has become a nucleus for community meetings."
  3. "By the end of Year 1, the City will increase its community-level police presence by 25% as demonstrated by pre- and post-grant personnel levels."

Okay, let’s see how you did!

Number 1 - Process Objective

Why? It’s a task or activity that can be assigned a specific start and end timeline in your project’s workplan (a part of the program design narrative section). Here are some more examples of process objectives:

  • Recruit 200 new neighborhood block watch volunteers.
  • Schedule 12 meetings in Year 1 with new community partners.

Process objectives appear in your implementation plan component (a part of the program design narrative) and in your workplan (landscape columnar chart with timeframes and personnel responsible by month, quarter, and year—for multi-year projects). See page 3 of this example of a workplan with process objectives.

Number 2 - Impact Objectives

It answers the question that all grantmakers ask when they read your grant application’s program design: “What impact will your project make on its target population when our funding is gone?” Well-written impact objectives are written in a present-perfect tense (e.g., "crimes have been reduced," "police station has become a nucleus") and have optimistic language. As the grant writer, you must be able to visualize the future impact of having your grant application funded. You have to step out of the present and imagine the high level of change and greater good that the grant award created for your community.

Impact objectives appear at the end of the logic model graphic; usually in the final row. For more on the logic model, you can read this eCivis blog article or visit the website for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Number 3 - SMART Objective

It meets all requirements in the definition for SMART. The objective is very specific (about what will increase); it is measurable (must always be written in percentage terms); it is attainable (low percentage based on existing number of community policing personnel versus the grant-funded level for the same personnel group); and finally, it is timebound (by the end of a specific timeframe). You can write SMART objectives in monthly, quarterly, or yearly timeframes.

SMART objectives appear immediately after each goal statement in your program design narrative. Here’s a tutorial on how to write SMART objectives and match them to each of your goal statements.

If you’d like to practice more on distinguishing between the three types of objectives found in a program design, please visit my website. I’ll send you a 50-question quiz on these objectives and I’ll give you the answers for self-correction. And as always, you're welcome to join this discussion by leaving a comment below.

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