Understanding SMART Objectives
Every time we site down to write project proposals, we come across the word “SMART” while developing project objectives. All donors insist that whatever objectives we develop, they have to be SMART. What does it really mean to have SMART objectives? Learn more from this short guide.
SMART objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-related.
Be specific means that you have to prepare yourself for in-depth research about the issue you want to address. Avoid general statements such as “this project will improve the employability of young people”. Rather, write what the specific context of the project is. For instance, be specific about what the unemployment rate among young people in your community is. What are the causes? What strategies have been already implemented? Evaluate what has been already done successfully and draw on the results of previous initiatives to engage with other actors and sources. Explain why other initiatives failed and how your project will avoid replicating the same mistakes. It is a good practice to list your objectives in bullet-points.
Your objectives must be measurable. Keep in mind that your donor wants to know how the success of your project can be evaluated. Therefore your objectives must enable the donor to monitor the progress of the project and assess the final results. Following up the previous example, state how many young people will be participating in the project, how many will be trained, how many will be likely to find a job within the end of the project, within 6 months, or within a year. Make reference to statistics and analyses of the local market to substantiate your claims. As good practice, write that “at least” x number people will participate, be trained, and become employed. In doing so, you will provide a minimum benchmark against which your results will be evaluated and will also give the idea that a larger number of individuals will successfully take part in the project and benefit from the organised activities.
Your objectives must be achievable and realistic. Research your community and make sure you know whether your project is likely to be welcomed or whether it is needed. Set realistic targets; do not claim that a yearlong project will produce radical change. Rather, set clear objectives that can be fulfilled. Remember that the success of the project will also determine your chances of obtaining more funding. Thus, see each project as a small contribution towards bigger ends.
Remember your objectives must be reached in a set time-frame. Draw on the results of similar projects and observe what is happening in your community in order to decide how long it will take to complete a task. Consider all the steps you intent to make. From advertising the project, gathering interested parties, negotiating your goals with those of your target group and starting the activities. Take note of other events that might become an obstacle for reaching your goals on time. If you work with young unemployed people, consider whether they will be likely to prefer an intensive training of four weeks or whether they will be more likely to commit for a longer period of time.
Finally, remember that life is unpredictable. As such, it is important that your objectives are flexible and negotiable. This does not mean that they should be vague or general. They must be extremely precise and detailed, but they must also convey the idea that, throughout the development of the project, you will constantly engage with set objectives to make necessary changes and ratification when appropriate.