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How to Write SMART Objectives in Grant Applications

Updated on October 27, 2011
SMART Objectives Essentials
Include who and what, action verbs
Include how much change
Can be realistically accomplished
Include reasonable action
Indicates when activities will occur

The amount of money for grant funding has been steadily decreasing, making grant opportunities more competitive. A common mistake in grant writing is using vague, nondescriptive goals or objectives in your grant application. Your goals are your reasons for seeking funding- the outcomes you believe your project will achieve. Your objectives are annual targets that will help you attain the goals you set.

One way you can rise to the top of the applicant pool is to make sure you are using SMART objectives while grant writing. SMART stands for objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time Bound. SMART objectives assure your funder that your project is well-conceived and incorporates methods that will guarantee accountability.

First, you must make sure your objectives are Specific. Include who (the target population) and what (the action) will be involved. Do not use passive verbs, instead use action verbs that are easier to measure. Secondly, make sure your objectives are Measurable. Describe how much change your project expects to see. Actual numbers are useful here; they will provide ways to measure your success and indicate your objectives are being met. Make sure that your objects are Achievable. If you over-promise results in your grant applications, it will raise flags with potential funders and make them less likely to fund your project. Make sure you can complete your objectives with the resources and time at your disposal.

You also must make sure your objectives are Realistic. Include objectives that are relevant to the scope of your project and the issue you propose to address. Do not include any objectives that do not specifically address your goals. Finally, write objectives that are Time-bound. Indicate in your objectives when you will achieve them and when you expect to see your results. Including time builds accountability into your grant project and will help with your evaluation and demonstrating that you have met your objectives. Including time in your objectives also helps with planning and implementing your project and making sure you remain on schedule.

I’ve included a few examples of smart objectives here. 1) By June 30, the health educator will have delivered 20 anti-tobacco classroom presentations in middle schools in the district.2) In year two of the grant, the Project Director will survey 30% of people who come to the health clinic to receive HIV testing services. 3) In year three of the grant, the program coordinator will recruit 50 neighborhood residents to participate in banking workshops. These objectives describe who will be doing what activity, how many they will be doing, activities that are both achievable and realistic, and when they will be completed.

While it may seem awkward to write SMART objectives in your grant applications at first, with practice it will be easier. Soon you will start thinking in terms of SMART when you’re grant writing, and in time it will actually make writing your grant applications easier.


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    • profile image

      Indalecio Vallejos 5 years ago

      thank you!

    • LucysMom profile image

      LucysMom 6 years ago

      Thanks so much!

    • TeriSilver profile image

      Teri Silver 6 years ago from The Buckeye State

      Very useful, great hub! Thumbs up.