When developing a project timeline for a proposal, the donors sometimes ask you to determine milestones as well. But what exactly are milestones and why do you need them?
Milestones are points along the timeline of your project where a specific and predefined activity will take place or should have taken place. It is like a check-in along the way to see if the project is on track. It makes sure that project activities that need to be completed at a certain point in time have been completed. Normally, milestones are only defined for the major and most important activities. Here are some examples:
- By week x of the project 200 teachers have been trained
- By month x of the project the basic structure of the school building is standing
- By week x of the project the course book is printed and ready for delivery
Why does a donor ask you to determine milestones?
Milestones are a very good way for the donor to find out if a project is on track or if it is underperforming at an early stage. It gives the donor a chance to get a preliminary result and to get a good idea of the project progress. The earlier you detect problems, the easier it is to solve them and to find a better way. The definition of milestones forces you to make a very detailed and realistic timeline and to revisit and evaluate the progress frequently. When the project does not achieve a specific milestone on time, it gives you the opportunity to revisit your strategy and adjust where necessary.
Be careful though not to focus too much only on milestones. Sometimes when one of them approaches, all resources are invested in achieving the completion of it and other important components of the project get rejected. While it is important to achieve them, at the same time you should always also have the project in its entirety in mind.