By Erin Weldon
A goal is a broad statement of what you intend to accomplish. Goals are typically general and abstract. They may or may not be completed during the grant cycle. This is the place for more inspirational or visionary language that will catch your reader’s attention. Goals often use the words that measure a change, such as increase, decrease, improve, enhance, expand strengthen, or promote.
Make sure you talk about what you plan to accomplish, not how you plan to accomplish it. For example, consider a program that provides GED classes to young adults who dropped out of high school, giving them the tutoring they need to earn their GED. Your goal is not “Provide GED classes,” but “Increase the number of students who receive their GED.”
- Improve the academic performance of low-income middle school students in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- Increase food security for seniors in King County, Washington.
- Promote and win state policies that protect the rights of LGBT individuals in Oregon.
- Specific: Be as precise as possible about what you are planning to do. Include details about what services you are providing, where or to whom. Don’t “provide food”—“serve at least 20,000 nutritious sack lunches to low-income students.”
- Measurable: Quantify your objectives. Yes, this means numbers! This could be a percent improvement, the number of rides given, or the calorie count of that nutritious lunch.
- Attainable: Do you have what it takes (resources, skills, or manpower) to achieve that goal? If your program provides math tutoring to high school students who don’t know arithmetic, don’t promise your students will be doing calculus at the end of the year. When thinking if a goal is attainable, ask yourself “Am I expecting too much?”
- Realistic: Objectives also need to be realistic projections of what you think you can achieve. For a school, 100% on-time school attendance may be technically attainable, but it isn’t realistic. It’s ok to give yourself a little wiggle room to account for reality.
- Time-bound: Include when you plan to achieve this objective. This could be completing a project by a certain date, or providing a certain number of meals in a 6-month period.
- Deliver over 25,000 nutritious meals to seniors in King County in 2013.
- The average student score on the state End-of-Course exam will be 90%.
- Release at least 20 condor hatchlings into their natural habitat by the end of the August.
In this section of a proposal, funders may also ask for information about program impact. Impact describes the effect your services will have on your target population. For example, if you provide GED courses, your impact might be that program participants successfully pass their GED exam. In turn, this may lead to higher employment rates, higher earnings, and a lower likelihood of incarceration. If appropriate, cite research that demonstrates the connections between your services and the promised impact.
You might be wondering…
Why do I have to come up with goals and objectives? My program is great, and the program description is enough to show it’s great!
Let’s be blunt: funders want to know what they’re getting for their dollars. As lovely as the program sounds, funders want to know what will be achieved, tangibly, to address the needs you’ve laid out before them. Many funders consider their contributions as investments in the effort to solve a problem; like any investor, they want concrete ways to measure the impact of their contribution. Don’t expect funders to give you the benefit of the doubt. Instead, do them the courtesy of laying out what they can expect.
How am I supposed to come up with these numbers? I don’t know yet!
A well-thought, strategically-designed program should include some measurement of what you expect to achieve. To start developing your objectives, you might consider your starting point (such as how many people your program reached last year, or what achievement level your students are starting at). If you really have no idea what your project will achieve, you may need to revisit your program design before you start applying for grants. Check out our next post, "Measuring Success & Impact," for more tips on this topic!
This is the fourth in an eight-part series on grant writing from Aril Consulting.