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Application Components: Goals, Objectives, Outputs, and Outcomes

While you will want to match the funder’s definitions, it will be important to understand the difference between goals, objectives, outputs, and outcomes.

This is the twelfth article in a series on grant writing. Read the introduction to the entire series.

This section can vary from funder to funder. Sometimes they will simply have a “goals” or “outcomes” section. Sometimes they may have each term as a separate section In the grants world, these are generally defined as:

  • Goals: Overarching aims, generally not specific enough to measure.
  • Objectives: Specific achievements that contribute towards reaching the goal(s). When writing objectives remember to make them S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
  • Outcomes: Changes in behavior, attitudes, perceptions, knowledge, skills, and/or behaviors as a result of your project.
  • Outputs: Tangible deliverables from the project.

To better understand these terms, let’s imagine you are growing a strawberry patch in your backyard and you want to make a better one than the ones you have grown in previous years.[1] Your goal would be to “grow your best-ever strawberry patch.” It is not measurable, but it is your aim to have a better strawberry patch than you have ever had before. You may have several objectives that will contribute towards your goal. For example:

  • Increased survival rates of 20% compared to 2017’s strawberry patch.
  • By September 2018 attain .75 pounds or greater average plant yield of fruit.
  • Plant growth is 20% larger than prior
  • Better taste than 2018 store-bought strawberries as determined by neighbors.

While each objective follows the S.M.A.R.T. model, not every goal may be obviously achievable. You may want to explain why you think you will achieve 20% larger plant growth here or in another section. Maybe you researched more efficient ways to grow strawberries. Alternatively, maybe a neighbor is using best practices, and tracked their objectives, so you can reasonably expect the results are duplicable. Information like this helps your reviewer know that the goal is ambitious but reasonably achievable.

 Your outcomes for the best-ever strawberry patch might be:

  • Learn which strawberry varieties work best in my yard.
  • Develop practices for plant tracking to increase success.
  • Learn more about plant resiliency in order to improve care for the future. Note that each outcome relates to a change, naturally leading the reviewer to understand that the program will not only have an impact now but one that will last into the future.

Your outputs for the project might be:

  • Summary report and growth charts of test and baseline strawberry plots.
  • Summary rating data from taste tests.
  • Fruit production summary report.
  • After season assessments of project and methods with recommendations for 2019.

When you put all of these together, it is easy to see the impact the strawberry patch will have. Whether you are writing a proposal for playground equipment at a park, installing speed bumps to slow traffic, or establishing a neighborhood watch, you will want to make the impact very clear and meaningful to the reviewer.

[1] Credit: Aly Sanchez, Director of Projects, The Grant Plant.