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5 Important Tips for Writing Objectives: Be S.MA.R.T. About It

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

5 important tips for writing objectives: herein lies one of the great tips on writing – specifically, for writing grants, writing business plans, and strategic planning – that I wish I’d known when I first started out.

It ain’t a bad list of tips to have on hand just in general, either, when you're trying to write with clarity.

Just for the record, you can use these 5 tips when writing any kind of objective statement (although writing a resume objective is a bit of a different animal. Read about that here.)

First things first.

Writing Goals vs. Writing Objectives: What’s the Difference?

5 important tips for writing objectives using S.M.A.R.T. criteria with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

Goal statements and objective statements are two different things, especially in writing grants, writing a business plan, and writing a strategic plan.

A Goal Statement

A goal is a broad statement about what you hope to accomplish with your project or program. When you’re writing goal statements, use visionary language – words like increase, mobilize, deliver, establish, impact, improve, help, transform, produce, provide. You needn’t write concrete, measurable benchmarks you want to achieve. Rather, paint a picture of what you hope to accomplish. Cast vision for the impact you want to bring about.

Here’s an example of a goal statement:

“The project goal is to provide daytime programming for homeless children during school breaks to improve their learning retention, allowing them to advance to the next grade level.”

That goal is achieved in specific steps: by achieving objectives.

An Objective Statement

An objective is a specific statement that outlines one measurable step you will take to achieve your goal. One goal statement is supported by several objective statements in sequence. An objective is concrete. When you’re writing objective statements, use quantifiable terms. 

Here’s an example of an objective statement:

“Over the next 12 months, increase by 35% the current number of Baker County homeless primary school children who advance to the next grade level by providing a 10-week summer and 2-week winter vacation daytime programming.”

5 Important Tips for Writing Objectives: S.M.A.R.T.

These 5 important tips for writing objective statements follow a simple acronym formula: S.M.A.R.T. (More about writing formulas.) See how the sample objective statement uses these tips.

S: Specific

Use specific language and details that show who, where, or what you’ll do to accomplish in this step. 

  • “Baker County homeless primary school children” (who, where)
  • “10-week summer and 2-week winter vacation daytime programming” (what)

M: Measurable

Use language that shows how many, how often, or how much you’ll do to accomplish this step.

  • “Increase by 35%” (how much)

A: Attainable

Use language that shows the outcome or result of accomplishing this step. 

  • “Advance to the next grade level” 

R: Realistic

Use language that shows you understand or quantify the challenges you face in accomplishing this step.

  • “The current number of these children”

T: Time-bound

Use language that shows the date  or the time period during which you’ll accomplish this step.

  • “Over the next 12 months” 

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