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Section 6. Reaching Your Goals: The Goal Attainment Report

Learn how a goal attainment report allows your group to look back and check its progress.


This section is based on an article in the Work Group Evaluation Handbook: Evaluating and Supporting Community Initiatives for Health and Development by Stephen B. Fawcett, Adrienne Paine-Andrews, Vincent T. Francisco, Jerry Schultz, Kimber P. Richter, R.K. Lewis, E.L. Williams, K.J. Harris, Jannette Berkley, Jacqueline L. Fisher, and Christine M. Lopez of the Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.

  • What is a goal attainment report?

  • Why conduct a goal attainment report?

  • When should you use the goal attainment report?

  • How do you create a goal attainment report?

What is a goal attainment report?

For the busy student, keeping track of time can be as challenging as passing a calculus exam, or analyzing that chapter of nineteenth century British poetry. To help stay organized and on target, many people carry date books with them at all times. That way, the student can constantly check to see when he must finish the first leg of that huge group project for his business communications course. Then, when he has completed the necessary steps, he can look back to determine if he stayed on task and completed the work he needed to finish.

Like a date book, the goal attainment report allows your group to look back and check its progress. If you work with a substance use prevention initiative, one of your goals might have been to conduct a series of workshops on substance prevention at the local high school. You wanted to hold all three of the workshops between the months of August and December, and you had specific speakers and topics that you wanted to present.

Come January, then, you would want to look through your list of goals. If you held the workshops, brought in the speakers, and met your deadlines, you could report that this goal had, in fact, been accomplished. This is the purpose of the goal attainment report.

Why conduct the goal attainment report?

Let's once again consider the situation of the busy student who, armed with his date book, knows that he must complete a series of small deadlines in order to finish a big project for his business communications class. By reviewing the steps he has successfully finished, he will not only stay focused on the task at hand, but he will also feel less scared and more confident about his ability to complete the ultimate goal of finishing the project.

In this way, reviewing the goals that your group has or has not completed can not only keep you focused on the big picture, but it can also help you feel proud and confident that you have taken steps, however small, in the right direction of your goals.

Additionally, the goal attainment report can help you:

  • Show progress in meeting objectives over time
  • Help the initiative stay focused on its action plan
  • Communicate the good work you've been doing to the public

When should you use the goal attainment report?

Depending upon the completeness of records that have been kept in the past, the gathering and recording process could take a few minutes or several hours. Generally, we recommend that data be collected and summarized every six months.

How do you create a goal attainment report?

There are five main steps to completing the goal attainment report. Let's look at each step closely:

Write down all goals

This step is easy. Simply write down all of the goals that you defined when you wrote your action plan. This will give you a better sense of where you have already been in terms of completeness, and also where you still need to go.

Identify completed goals

Every six months or so, members of the coalition mark a completion date next to each community change that you had completed in the action plan. If you had planned on holding a substance use awareness program at the local high school on October 5, 1998, and you completed this task, you would write the date of completion next to this goal in the action plan.

Compute percent of goals completed

The members of the evaluation team would then calculate the percentage of community changes that were actually met. Numbers provide quantitative, or numerical, evidence of the group's work in the community. These numbers can then be passed on to members of the community, leaders of the group, and those who are providing funding.

If your math is a bit rusty, this simple calculation might help you balance these numbers. To calculate the percentage of goals met, simply divide the number of goals met by the number of set goals. If your group had established 16 goals for the year, and 13 were completed, you would divide 13 by 16 (13/16) which would give you 81%. A solid B! That's definitely above average.

Communicate your results

Now, armed with these numbers, you can go to others who might be interested in your work to show them all the goals that have been accomplished.

Use the report to inspire positive change

For your purposes, these data can provide valuable insight into the work your group has done. Maybe the goal attainment report will reveal the fact that your group has met all of its goals on time and with flying. Or, perhaps the report will indicate to you the need to rework your action steps to make them more realistic with the resources that are available to you.

If the report highlights weaknesses, that is certainly understandable. In fact, that is the main purpose of this step of the evaluation process. If, after completing the report, your group draws some conclusions that will help strengthen your action plan, then it is worthwhile. In other words, low numbers should inspire positive change, and hopefully not just dissatisfaction.

In Summary

Try to think of it this way. When you plant a garden, some of your flowers will thrive and prosper while others may not grow at all. The reasons for this can be varied; the climate and the soil may be better for some plants and not for others. Try not to let the goal attainment report become a measurement of failures. Instead, let it be a way to help you rediscover the best conditions for your group to blossom and grow!

Aimee Whitman

Online Resource

Francisco, V. & Wolff, T. (1996). Evaluating coalition efforts. Amherst, MA: AHEC Community Partners.

Better Evaluation provides information about Goal Attainment Scales. This site offers an overview and example of goal attainment scaling along with an evaluation guide. 

Print Resources

Berkowitz, W. (1982). Community impact: Creating grassroots change in hard times. Cambridge, MA: Schenkman Publishing Company, Inc.

Cox, F. (1984). Tactics and techniques of community practice. Itasca, IL: F.E. Peacock Publishers, Inc.

Fawcett, S., Paine, A., Francisco, V., Schultz, J., Richter, K., Lewis, R., Williams, E., Harris, K., Berkley, J., Fisher, J., & Lopez, C. (1994). Work group evaluation handbook: Evaluating and supporting community initiatives for health and development. Lawrence, KS: Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development, University of Kansas.

Fetterman, D. (1996). Empowerment evaluation: Knowledge and tools for self-assessment and accountability. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Pietrzak, J., Ramler, M., Renner, T., Ford, L., & Gilbert, N. (1990). Practical program evaluation: Examples from child abuse prevention. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Rutman, L. (1984). Evaluation research methods: A basic guide. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.