The basics of goals and objectives

Some grant applications will ask specifically for a project goal and a list of objectives, and rarely will the foundation take the time to explain what they mean within the instructions. And there is an industry standard for writing these, so it’s important to know what you’re doing.


Other times, grant guidelines may give different definitions of what they define as goals, objectives, outcomes, etc. than what I’m about to tell you here. So if that happens, go with what’s on that specific grant’s guidelines/application. Not every foundation is exact with their requirements, but if they do ask you to outline a project goal and objectives, here’s what you’ll need:


Goal: A goal is an overarching, long-term statement  of achievement for a project or program. It’s a brief, general statement outlining the long-term effect of your work. Projects generally should have only one goal, with many objectives supporting the accomplishment of that goal. (Unless, of course, an RFP gives a different definition.) Goals should be only one sentence.


Objectives: Objectives are the specific means of measuring and accomplishing a goal. It’s acceptable to have multiple objectives for a proposal, but don’t get carried away and promise the world. Each objective should list very specific information on what will be accomplished and when. How many people will change their behavior, and what’s your deadline for accomplishing this? Do you plan to raise the test scores of 80% of your participants by the end of the two-year grant period? Give each outcome a separate objective; don’t try to make compound objectives with multiple things to accomplish in each, because that makes one single objective more difficult to measure or report on.


What are your ideas for writing goals and objectives? Share them in the comments below!



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  • ashley

    02.11.2011 at 12:40 Reply

    Great article. This will come in handy for me one day.

  • Leah O

    02.11.2011 at 12:40 Reply

    I agree that your objectives should have an action and a deadline for that action. For me this is the best way to keep from getting distracted by all the actions I need to take to achieve each goal I set.

  • Pam Moore

    13.05.2012 at 14:42 Reply

    I just went through this goal/objective/outcome drill for a grant app for my organization. It’s a worthwhile mental drill–others in the organization will not truly appreciate it!

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