Goals vs. Objectives: Setting Measurable Objectives

  • July 2, 2019

Setting a goal for your organization is important in all aspects of the business. It is especially critical when preparing a grant proposal.

Goals and objectives form the most important part of a project proposal and one should pay great attention while framing them. Well-drafted goals and objectives facilitate in developing an articulate proposal that has high chances of getting funded.

When setting objectives, it is important that those objectives are measurable, and are not confused with your organization’s larger goal.

Goals and objectives are often used interchangeably, but the difference is crucial for your grant applications.

Goals are general guidelines that explain what you want to achieve in your community. They are usually long-term and represent global visions
such as “protect public health and safety.”

Objectives define strategies or implementation steps to attain the identified goals. Unlike goals, objectives are specific, measurable, and have a defined completion date. They are more specific and outline the “who, what, when, where, and how” of reaching the goals.

Grant proposals may ask you to set many different objectives, such as how you will reach your target audience, and what you will be able to do realistically with the timing and funding provided by the grant.

The best way to approach these tasks is to set SMART objectives that are measurable and precise.


A SMART objective is:

  1. Specific:
    • Objectives should provide the “who” and “what” of program activities.
    • Use only one action verb since objectives with more than one verb imply that more than one activity or behavior is being measured.
    • Avoid verbs that may have vague meanings to describe intended outcomes (e.g., “understand” or “know”) since it may prove difficult to measure them. Instead, use verbs that document action (e.g., “At the end of the session, the students will list three concerns…”)
    • Remember, the greater the specificity, the greater the measurability.
  2. Measurable:
    • The focus is on “how much” change is expected. Objectives should quantify the amount of change expected. It is impossible to determine whether objectives have been met unless they can be measured.
    • The objective provides a reference point from which a change in the target population can clearly be measured.
  3. Achievable:
    • Objectives should be attainable within a given time frame and with available program resources.
  4. Relevant:
    • Objectives are most useful when they accurately address the scope of the problem and programmatic steps that can be implemented within a specific time frame.
    • Objectives that do not directly relate to the program goal will not help toward achieving the goal.
  5. Time-Oriented:
    • Objectives should provide a time frame indicating when the objective will be measured or a time by which the objective will be met.
    • Including a time frame in the objectives helps in planning and evaluating the program.

Here are some examples of Objectives turned into SMART Objectives

Original ObjectiveSMART Objective
Reduce obesity rates for children and adolescents.By December 31, 2019, reduce the percent of 9th graders in Awesome County who are obese from 8% baseline to 7%.
Meet with colleges to inform them about tobacco-free grounds.Public Health Staff will meet with key stakeholders at all colleges in our jurisdiction resulting in 3 out of 4 colleges committing to work on tobacco free grounds policies by June 2016.
Use technology to increase department communications.Communications and IT staff will pilot and evaluate two new communication technologies targeted to external customers resulting in a 25% increase in traffic to the Community Family Health webpage by December, 2016.

Improve your personal outcomes

Ready To Take the Next Step?

We assist our clients in locating, applying for, and evaluating the outcomes of non-dilutive grant funding. We believe non-dilutive funding is a crucial tool for mitigating investment risks, and we are dedicated to guiding our clients through the entire process—from identifying the most suitable opportunities to submitting and managing grant applications.