Skip to content
On this page
๐Ÿ”ฅ Join our campaign to train 350 million activists!

What are campaign objectives?

Defining your campaign strategy objectives
4 min read
Last update: Dec 3, 2023

In this guide, you will learn what campaign objectives are. We explain how you can define your own objectives by making them 'SMART'.


What specific or tangible outcomes do you aim to achieve to further the campaign goals? Ideally, objectives should be strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-specific (SMART). Objectives are based on your situational analysis (looking at the range of potential issues), critical path (how can each issue be resolved) and organisational considerations (which issues do we have the capacity to tackle and which fit our organisation the best?). A clearly defined objective makes for a motivated constituency and successful campaign.

Some processes that are useful here include revisiting your critical path, drafting then SMARTening your objectives, and forcefield analysis for each objective.


Strong campaigns are built on a series of short- and medium-term SMART objectives that function as intermediary steps towards a more ambitious campaign goal.

What can we do today, so that tomorrow we can do what we are unable to do today?

โ€” Paulo Freire


This methodology originated in the world of marketing and business management, and was appropriated by activists to help them plan campaigns.

Elaborating a campaign objective might appear to be a simple task, however, it is quite common in the activist world to find poorly formulated objectives that are impossible to reach. This kind of error can have a major negative impact on the success of a campaign.

The SMART tool is a way to plan short- and medium-term objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound, and that increase the likelihood of a campaignโ€™s success. Itโ€™s a tool that helps people involved in a campaign or action maintain their focus and align their expectations.

The formulation of a SMART objective begins by determining a problem, a desired change, and a vision for the future, which then serve as the basis for additional analyses, including: context analysis, an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (see: METHODOLOGY: SWOT), and a mapping of the actors that can support or hinder your goals (see: METHODOLOGY: Power mapping).

The results of all these analyses will orient the process of defining a SMART objective.

What is SMART?


An objective must be simple and well-defined, communicating what you wish to happen and avoiding dubious interpretations. This can best be achieved by using strong action verbs, such as: expose, develop, build, plan, execute, perform. Some questions that can make your objective more specific are:

  • What exactly are we hoping to achieve?

  • Why is this important?

  • What are the benefits to reaching this goal?

  • How evident is the result?


When an objective is measurable, we can monitor our actions as we progress. The possibility of measuring allows comparisons. If you canโ€™t measure, you wonโ€™t be able to manage your actions and evaluate your results. Some of the questions that can help with this are:

  • How will we know that the change has happened?

  • What are the indicators of success?

  • What benefits are created, what targets are hit, what values are increased or decreased, what places/people/objects/fauna/flora are protected, what territories/rights are guaranteed?

  • Can these measurements be obtained?


In social change efforts, objectives can be bold and challenging, but they should never be impossible to achieve โ€” and if the SMART logic is employed correctly, they wonโ€™t be. If the objective requires resources that your group simply doesn't have, then everyone will be frustrated. Consider the following questions:

  • Has anyone ever done this successfully?

  • Is this possible in the deadline we have set?

  • Are all the restrictions evident? (e.g. logistic, legal, cultural)


Can often be mistaken for Achievable. The basic difference is that in many cases while the objective can be achieved, it is not particularly realistic for the people involved due to some form of conflict. In certain cases, an internal change in the pattern of collective organization will be necessary to turn the objective into a realistic one. You should consider these factors:

  • Is your group willing to fight for this objective?

  • Is this objective aligned with your groupโ€™s mission and vision?

  • Are any ethical principles jeopardized by this objective?

  • Are there enough resources available?


A time limit means setting a deadline to reach the objective. This criteria can slightly overlap with Specific. Time-bound provides the necessary impetus to keep people motivated to make things happen, and the start and end periods must be achievable and realistic. This time period must not be so short that the objective is impossible to reach, nor so long that the group disintegrates over time. Deadlines create the necessary urgency and stimulate action. Try using questions such as:

  • Is there a window of opportunity within which we need to act? (e.g. before the next election, board meeting, etc.)

  • When will this objective be reached?

Potential risks

Not all SMART objectives will strictly follow the five criteria. Be careful with the different interpretations given to each of the toolโ€™s initials and donโ€™t let your objective lose its SMART connotation. In many occasions, the letter A can be switched for Attainable, Assignable, Action-oriented, or Actionable, and the letter R for Reasonable, Relevant, Resourced, or Results-based. The SMART methodology is more suited for short- and medium-term objectives. The definition of what is short- and medium-term will depend on your campaign and the larger context in which it is happening. For some campaigns, short can mean a few weeks, while for others it can mean two or even three years.



We're building the Wikipedia for activists

And you can help us. Join our our international team, or start a local group of writers.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike logo
You can reuse this content!
Just make sure to give attribution to Activist Handbook and read our licence for the details. Want to use our logo? Read our design guide.
All our work is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence, unless otherwise noted.
Improve this page!