November 23, 2010

From a Cornucopia of Confusion to Information-a-Plenty

In this holiday edition of grassroots. Planted Aly explores the bullet lists that make grant writing shine. If you’ve ever been confused about the difference between an outcome versus an output, or a goal versus an objective, we’re going to help sort out the differences. These lists are the meat of your proposed work – and like Thanksgiving dinner, the meal just doesn’t measure up if you have a flavorless and scrawny turkey for your main dish. Unlike the relatively minor consequences of a juicy versus over-baked turkey (or Tofurkey®); these grant elements can do the heavy lifting for your proposal or they can raise concern among the review team that your project isn’t planned well enough to be a worthy investment. We’ll start with the element definitions and a hodge-podge of examples, then the second part of the article is a specific example with each element.

A word of caution, the definitions and differentiations below are rules of thumb. If a specific grantor provides additional or conflicting guidance, always follow their instructions.

Definitions and Examples

Term: Vision

Related Question: What is the world you are trying to create?

Definition: This is the big picture (perhaps audacious) future state that you are working toward and it may extend beyond the effects of your organization and your efforts. You just want one unifying vision.


  • Forge a tight-knit and loving family with Rockwellian memories of the holidays.
  • Cement your reputation among friends for throwing most epic T-Day bashes ever.
  • Create a more sustainable food system by shifting the ways we shop and eat towards more seasonal and local produce and meats.

Term: Goal

Related Question: What are the general aims of your project?

Definition: These are overarching purposes of your project that advance your vision in whole or in part. Two to four items are usually about right.


  • Prepare a turkey that is moist, flavorful, and attractive when presented.
  • Host our close friends, adjacent neighbors, and the soccer team for Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Inspire families to buy locally and seasonally by holding a pre-Thanksgiving public harvest festival featuring area produce and meats, vendor sales from local growers, and live entertainment.


Term: Objective

Related Question: What do you expect to accomplish?

Definition: These are achievements towards reaching your goals that can be measured objectively. These should be S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented, and Time-Bound. A good target is three to five items for each goal.


  • By 4:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day, Aly will prepare a home-cooked dinner with 10-12 dishes, featuring a Keller’s turkey, a spiral cut ham, and Nana’s famous sausage and apple stuffing.
  • Decrease family arguments from three in 2009 to one or none in 2010 (67%+ reduction).
  • Hold a harvest festival event with attendance of 300-500 people at the Historic Hubble House from 10 am until 2 pm on Sunday, November 14th.

Term: Activity

Related Question: What will you be doing to deliver on your objectives?

Definition: These are your to-do lists for a project—the steps and processes needed to attain your goals and objectives. Each of your objectives (and possibly other support functions for your project/program) has associated activities. Depending on the nature of the proposal and funder, these may be very detailed and comprehensive or more an overview of major steps and phases.


  • Make guest list and send out invitations, create menu, make shopping and supplies list, order turkey, get loaner chairs and table from neighbor, buy non-perishables in week prior to Thanksgiving, pick-up turkey and by perishables two days before event, make cooking schedule, decorate and clean, host guests, and clean up and store leftovers.


Term: Outcome

Related Question: What “between the ears” changes do you expect in clients or target audiences?

Definition: Outcomes are changes in attitudes, perceptions, knowledge, skills, and/or behavior that come about as the result of a project.


  • Event attendees will learn about options for subscribing to community supported agriculture in the metro area.
  • Aunt Jenny will change her attitude that no one else is capable of hosting a successful Thanksgiving.
  • I will be able to make a piecrust from scratch.


Term: Output

Related Question: What will your project or program produce?

Definition: These are identifiable “deliverables” from the project.


  • A 12-page family memories scrapbook with pictures and recipes from Thanksgiving 2010.
  • Three pies: pumpkin, pecan, and apple.
  • A Harvest Festival website with event details, links to vendors, and digital press kit.


Term: Measures

Related Question: How do you know if you are making progress?

Definition: These are the methods of data collection (not the actual results) that determine progress toward, or achievement of, the elements above. They can be summative or part of ongoing assessment and program evaluation and improvement.


  • Cooking progress will be tracked using a checklist of tasks and planned timing.
  • Harvest festival attendance will be tracked by entry gate volunteers with hand-held count clickers.
  • The best dessert will be determined by hand-raise voting following dinner.

Detailed Example

When you are drafting the elements above, start with your highest-level elements then create the subsequent elements to logically support the prior bullets. Then it’s time to check your train of logic from the top-down and the bottom-up. The items should fit with each other and show completeness. If a proposal only asks for a slice of the picture, say just Goals, you may want to strengthen those by adding the sort of specificity you would see in objectives or measures to your goal statement.

The example below follows the idea of making a perfect turkey. The things to notice are the difference between the elements and how they still logically lead upstream and downstream.

VISION Make the perfect turkey!
  • Prepare a turkey that is moist and flavorful.
  • Carve the turkey properly for minimal meat waste.
  • Determine which breed of turkey is best known for its flavorful meat by mid-November 2010.
  • Purchase a Heritage Breed turkey with bird weight at 1.5 pounds per guest at least four days before Thanksgiving.
  • Prepare turkey using at least five cooking methods known to build flavor and retain moisture: brining, fat-rubbing skin, shielding breast meat, baking without stuffing, and resting of meat for half-hour.
  • Carve turkey using Culinary Institute of America method, to yield a carcass weight under six pounds.
  • Turkey Selection: Research Heritage Breed characteristics and availability; calculate bird size based on number of guests; order turkey to receive/pick-up four days prior to Thanksgiving if frozen, two days if fresh.
  • Turkey Preparation and Cooking: Defrost in refrigerator, if applicable; remove gizzards, neck, etc.; wash bird; brine overnight; coat turkey in Irish butter mixed with herbs, salt, lemon, and pepper; tie legs; set in roasting pan and insert thermometer; shield breast meat with cheesecloth until last hour of cooking.
  • Turkey Carving: Let turkey rest until cooled enough to handle; pull each leg and thigh and sever at joints; separate thigh and leg; cut bone from thigh and slice remaining meat; remove wing section and divide two parts; carve breast off keel bone; slice breasts against the grain.
  • I will learn the skill of properly carving a turkey.
  • Guests will learn about Heritage Breed turkeys and get to taste the richer flavor.
  • One turkey and drippings for gravy.
  • Brining recipe and instructions to hand out to interested guests.
  • Cooking Measurement: We will track turkey cooking via a digital meat thermometer, which includes an ovenproof detector and a remote counter-top read-out. The thermometer, which will be in the thickest part of the breast meat, will be set to alert at 165 degrees. Doneness will be further ensured by a second reading taken from the thigh meat.
  • Carving Efficiency: Carving efficiency will be measured using a digital kitchen scale to determine carcass weight as well as meat-to-carcass ratio. This will be compared to prior year records and next year measurements.
  • Bird Flavor: We will track the general enjoyment of the turkey through counting guests who get additional helpings of turkey and by the total meat consumption per person (weighing remaining meat after clearing table and dividing by guest number).

Contact: Aly Sanchez, Director of Organizational Strategy and Learning,

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