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A timeline indicates when the work of a project or initiative will occur. It defines when key events will happen and when key processes will begin and end. A timeline may define time in terms of days, weeks, months, or any other standard units. Timelines form part of a Work Plan or Plan of Action; they govern goals, objectives, activities, and strategies.

A timeline should state the deadlines or target dates for all key phases and activities of a project or initiative. It should also state deadlines or target dates for interim and final evaluation reports and for all required financial reports.

One way to represent a timeline is to use a chart. Two common types are a Milestone Chart and a Gantt Chart. A Milestone Chart (or event timeline) depicts an activity (event) at a single point in time. A third type is a Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) Chart (not illustrated here).

Project Year 1

Project Year 2

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A Gantt Chart (or process timeline) depicts an activity (process) over a span of time.

Project Year 1

Project Year 2

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

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Q2

Q3

Q4

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In ordinary practice, a grant maker may require grant seekers to assign specific calendar dates to activities presented in a timeline. Examples: August 23, 2012 or October 1, 2012 through May 17, 2013. Applicants may present such dates in a table as part of the narrative.

Using Timelines:

In planning to describe a Timeline in a proposal, several questions prove useful:

Fiscal Year: What is the fiscal year for the funding program? Is it the same as a calendar year or a school year? Is it the same as a project year? Is it the same as the organization uses? Is the same as the grant maker uses?

Charts: When will major events or accomplishments occur? Will most activities be processes (spans of time) e.g., like product development or classroom instruction? Will most activities be events (points in time) e.g., like a single day or a single workshop? Will you need a chart or table to represent your timeline?

Feasibility: Does the timeline allow enough time to complete major tasks? Does the timeline represent a single year or multiple years of funding?

Significance: Does the timeline capture only the key events or processes? Does it capture all of the funder’s deadlines (e.g., for attending grantee conferences or filing evaluation reports)?

This post is one in a series about questions useful in planning competitive grant proposals.

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