Tips for Writing SMART Educational Grants

Many educational institutions seek discretionary grant funding to undertake major initiatives. Program evaluators often assist with the grant writing process by providing feedback on a grant application’s goals, objectives, and outcomes. Here are some tips for writing grant goals, objectives, and outcomes that are logical, based in research evidence, and SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Goals present the final impact or outcome that your project is designed to produce. The grant writing process began with recognizing and defining a problem or needs, and the goals should be directly related to solutions to the problem/needs. Goals are usually expressed in broad terms and visualize a desired outcome that solves or alleviates the problem/needs. Most grant applications will have one goal; larger projects may have more than one goal. Here is a sample goal for a Balanced Literacy curriculum redesign project:

  • The Balanced Literacy curriculum initiative will improve 3rd through 5th grade students’ achievement in language arts.

Objectives represent major steps or actions taken to accomplish your goal. These steps or actions may be based on best practices for implementing a specific educational program or intervention. In contrast to goals, objectives are presented in SMART format; that is, objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Thinking about our Balanced Literacy curriculum redesign project, here are a few SMART objectives:

  • By the end of the first quarter, at least two teachers from each target grade (3rd-5th) will be recruited to participate in a Balanced Literacy curriculum writing team.

  • By the end of the second quarter, all members of the curriculum writing team will complete at least 24 hours of professional development in Balanced Literacy.

Outcomes are often required components of a grant application. Outcomes represent the measurable results associated with the accomplishment of a goal; they are also written in SMART format. Funders may use project outcomes as the basis for evaluating the success of your grant, so they should be chosen carefully. Here are two outcomes associated with our Balanced Literacy curriculum redesign project goal:

  • By the end of the project, the percent of 3rd through 5th grade students scoring proficient on the state’s standardized language arts assessment will increase to at least 80%.

  • By the end of the project, 90% of 3rd through 5th grade students will read on grade level.

More Grant Writing Tips:

  • When writing objectives, include all relevant groups and individuals in your target population. While the beneficiaries of most educational initiatives are students, some objectives may focus on engagement and training of teachers and administrators as part of project implementation.

  • When writing objectives, establish reasonable timelines for accomplishing objectives. If permissible according to grant guidelines, focus on project planning during the grant’s first year instead of rushing to implementation.

  • Review existing research on your educational intervention before writing objectives and outcomes. Inquire about which specific outcomes are associated with your selected intervention and what degree of improvement can be expected if the intervention is fully implemented.

  • Funders may define goals, objectives, and outcomes differently. When writing a grant application, always use the language and definitions of the funder.