Understanding Grant Basics to Strengthen the Narrative

Posted by Jessica Vinton on 20.4.2022


I don't know about you, but this year has been a bit of a blur!

Personally, the combination of catching up from my holiday break, plus onboarding new clients, plus starting two teaching cohorts, plus prepping for my first webinar was… a LOT.

On top of all that, I was trying to stay committed to, well, staying committed. Something had to give, and unfortunately, I let my health journey slip (aka no workouts and way too much sugar).

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About a week ago, this popped up on my Facebook feed and it was something of an “aha moment”. I was feeling frustrated with my lack of progress on my health goals, but the combination of feeling frustrated and stressed was completely overwhelming and I just stopped moving forward. But when I saw this post, it reminded me that I can still do the small things – or ‘the basics’ as I think of them – and it’s still progress.

This month we’re going to solidify our understanding of what the heck a goal, objective and outcome is to a program and a funder.

In the grant writing classes I teach, this is one of the hardest concepts for students to understand. And I get it. Besides the fact that so many funders interchange the words, we just don’t talk about goals, objectives and outcomes in the programming and grant writing world like we do in the “real world”.

 So, to help you understand these concepts, I’m going to connect them to a “real world” issue (i.e., my health journey) instead of using a more program-oriented example (i.e., preventing homelessness, eliminating food insecurity, etc.).

What is a goal?

A goal is a broad statement of what you wish to accomplish.

Goals are:

  • Big and broad, even visionary
  • General intention of the program
  • Intangible
  • Abstract
  • Hard to measure
  • Describes the overall purpose of the program or project

A goal is really about the ultimate impact or outcome that you hope to achieve.

Tips for creating goals:

  • Jargon-free
  • Declarative
  • Concise
  • Positive
  • Goal statements are not focused on what will be implemented; rather, they are statements that reflect the results of what will be implemented.

Example: The goal of my health journey is to improve my overall physical and mental health and quality of life.

What is an objective?

A goal is only as good as the objectives that go with it.

The objectives represent the steps toward accomplishing a goal.

Objectives should be:

  • Narrow
  • Precise
  • Tangible
  • Concrete
  • Measurable 

Tips for creating objectives:

  • Tie your goals and objectives directly to your needs statement.
  • Include all relevant groups and individuals in your target population.
  • Always allow plenty of time to accomplish the objectives.
  • How will you measure the change projected in each objective? If there is no way to measure it, then it needs to be altered or dropped.
  • Be sure to budget for evaluation (measurement) of your objectives.
  • Aim for a least 2-3 objectives per program (but it’s ok to need more!). Your program may have many steps involved in achieving a particular goal. 


  • Increase movement to at least 30 minutes per day.
  • Increase vegetable intake to at least two servings per day.
  • Provide opportunities for breaks to de-stress throughout the workday.

**Notice that every objective is a step toward improving the quality of my life in the way that is right for me (I am my own target population!).

What is an outcome?

Outcomes are the differences you have made (or expect to make) as a result of the outputs.


  • I will report an increase in my energy level.
  • I will report an improvement in my quality of sleep.
  • I will report a decrease in my cholesterol level at my next physical. 

I hope seeing a “real world” example was helpful. If you would like to see a more program-specific example, feel free to email me at jess@nonprofitjess.com and I would be happy to share one with you.

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Nonprofit Jess is a fundraising consultant, based in Harrisburg, PA, who works with organizations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, D.C., Virginia, and beyond.  

Topics: Grants