Developing SMART Objectives

Developing specific and measurable objectives requires time, orderly thinking, and a clear understanding of the results expected from program activities. The more specific your objectives are, the easier it will be to demonstrate success. The first and most important question is why are you requesting the grant? The second key question is what are you expecting to achieve? Thirdly, you will need to know what you anticipate to obtain after all the money has been spent, which will be the goal of the project. The goal is the beginning and the end of your proposal; it is the totality of your request. A SMART objective, on the other hand, will describe how you will achieve your goal, and is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Unless the directions in the Request for Proposal (RFP) specify otherwise, you will probably have three objectives that will answer the following questions:

  • Who will benefit? Who will be the target population that will benefit most from the program? If, for example, your objective is to reduce obesity by 10% in a certain population, you will have to be precise about the level of obesity, the age of the population, and other exact factors that relate to your group.
  • Who will participate? Explaining the criteria you’ll use to select participants and how you will handle those who must be turned away, will further define and clarify your population. If your selection is mandatory, then there is no need for an explanation, but if it is not, your choice will need to be justified.
  • How many will participate? Describing how many will participate and benefit from your intervention adds an additional component to the objective. It is important to state the sample size of your target population and why you decided on that number.
  • What is the time period of your intervention? How long it takes to achieve your objective will be determined by your approach, sample size, and number of activities
  • What is the approach you will use? Evidence-based approaches are most desirable for they are validated by substantial evidence derived from rigorous research. For example, what evidence demonstrates the relationship between exercise and reducing fatigue as a side effect of cancer treatment?

Below are three illustrations of incomplete and complete objectives:

Example 1

Incomplete objective: Increase the mentoring of students who do not meet the standardized reading criteria.

Complete Objective: Increase the reading level of 500 students to meet the state level of standardized reading via three one-on-one, two hour per week mentoring programs, over a six month period. By the end of the grant, 500 children will be able to read at the standardized state level for their age group.

Example 2

Incomplete objective: Develop an environmental health data management plan.

Complete Objective: Develop an information management plan by July 31, 2016 that describes how to identify, store, analyze, and collect environmental health data.

Example 3

Incomplete learning objective: Reduce the obesity rate of all adults enrolled in the obese reduction program at Good Samaritan Hospital by 10%.

Complete learning objective: Reduce the obesity rate of disabled adults ages 18 years and older, who are enrolled in the obese reduction program at Good Samaritan Hospital by 10% by December 31, 2016.

Setting measurable objectives is the cornerstone of the strategic approach you need to take to execute your proposal. These objectives will be developed following research and situation analysis and will determine your activities, timeline, personnel, and budget. All too often, incomplete objectives lead to incomplete evaluations and outcomes. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART) objectives define the direction of your proposal.

Mathilda Harris

Over the past 18 years, she has written grants, conducted capital campaigns, developed strategic plans for grant procurement, and assisted individuals and institutions to write winning proposals for various donors.

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