Grant Writing Tip - How to Write SMART Objectives

One of the most costly (and common) grant writing mistakes is writing unclear, unspecific objectives. No matter how clear the rest of your proposal may be, funding agencies want to know what measurable change or benefit they are paying for among a population. Unclear objective statements leave the reader wondering what exactly the grant program plans to achieve.

Successful grant writing includes SMART objectives: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound - hence the acronym SMART. Writing SMART objectives can make the difference between success and failure in a grant proposal.

SMART objectives are:

    Specific: Poor grant writing confuses objectives with goal statements. Goal statements are broad. Objectives are highly specific and more precisely define a broader goal. For example, a goal statement might read, "Increase students' academic achievement." An objective to support this goal might read, "10% of students who participate in the program will increase their standardized test scores in math by one level by the end of one year." Note: Since goal statements are broad, they should be supported by multiple objectives. In this example, the goal statement might be supported by objectives that measure specific gains in math, science, and English achievement.
    Measurable: Poor grant writing tends to mistake activity statements for objectives. Objective statements do not describe activities, methods, or what is to be done. Instead, they are statements that measure the outcomes of your activities. Funding sources want to know what measurable change their money will support. For example, if your objective is to raise the mean score of participants on an academic test, tell how many points the average score will increase. If your objective is to change teenagers' attitudes about drug and alcohol use, state what instrument you will use to measure this and what score increase on a post-test you expect.
    Attainable: SMART objectives are realistic and within reach. If you write that a proposed after school program will eliminate all juvenile crime in your area code - you will probably arouse skepticism. The grant money will more likely be awarded to a proposal to reduce the incidence of juvenile crime in its area by 20%. Remember that grant writing is persuasive writing and you must persuade the reader that your objectives are possible.
    Relevant: SMART objectives directly support the goals of the proposal, and relate to the measurable needs of the population served by the project. Your objectives must be relevant to the mission statement or priorities of the funding source as mentioned in the RFP (request for proposal) or on the funding agency's website.
    Time Bound: Funding sources not only want to know what measurable change they are paying for, but also WHEN they can expect it to happen. Tell the reader when your project will accomplish each objective in your proposal. Funding agencies know that objectives without deadlines are seldom met. Also, make sure your dates for meeting objectives fall within the funding period. If you offer dates that come after the grant period, you could be perceived as trying to avoid accountability for results. Funding agencies cannot hold your project accountable for deadlines that come after the funding period ends.

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From Stephen Price, grant writing expert and co-owner of Educational Resource Consultants, central California's premiere grant writing firm since 1999.