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Goal, Objective, Outcome, or Impact? Understanding the Differences When Drafting a Grant Proposal


by Steve Yoder, Community Development Regional Educator, Purdue Extension 


Most community-related grant applications have a section asking for a description of the changes expected within a community if the proposal were to be funded and implemented. Words often used to describe these changes include goals, objectives, outcomes, and impacts. Although all of these words relate to change in a community, and all of them respond to the question of “so what?”, there are differences in how these terms are typically used in the grant writing world.

These differences relate to the scope of the change being described, as well as whether the change is being described as occurring in the present, or past, tense. Effective proposal writers understand these distinctions. The following table, which comes from Purdue Extension’s Beginner’s Guide to Grant Writing program, can be used as a handy guide for proposal writers:




For information on upcoming grant writing workshops being offered through Purdue Extension, please visit

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