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Blog > Project Charter: start off right!

Project Charter: start off right!

posted on Jan 4, 2018

by Maria Lahiffe

Congratulations! You just won that big grant! Now you can get started on that big project you’ve always wanted to do.

Start by writing your project charter.

“A project charter is a statement of the scope, objectives, and participants in a project. It provides a preliminary delineation of roles and responsibilities, outlines the project objectives, identifies the main stakeholders and defines the authority of the project management. It serves as a reference of authority for the future of the project.” [1]

Why bother?

A project charter makes it clear what the project is intended to accomplish, and for what stakeholders. It defines the resources necessary and grants authority to the project manager. Taking the time to write a clear charter can save a lot of headaches down the road, as others seek to elbow in on project resources, or people question the authority of the project manager.

What goes in a project charter?

The level of detail of a project charter will depend on the complexity of the project. The following information is recommended in all project charters. [2]

Formal Project Authorization

This can simply be a short paragraph, or it could cover a number of pages, depending on the project scope and complexity. In this section, you

  • Formally authorize the project to accomplish its goal
  • Name the project sponsor
    • This will likely be your Program Manager or Executive Director
  • Name the person in charge of assigning resources to the project.
    • This is not the place to define what resources will be needed, nor any limits on resource allocation. That comes later, in the Planning phase.


This Charter formally authorizes the Youth At Risk project to develop and implement after-school programming for youth at risk of criminal involvement. A project plan will be developed and submitted to the Project Sponsor for approval.

Project Scope

State the purpose of the project, as well as the need which the project is intended to serve.

For example

The purpose of the Youth At Risk Project is to create a safe, supportive space for youth at risk of criminal activity, to interact with adult mentors. Activities will include sports, arts, games, homework help, and guided discussions about life skills.

The project is intended to reduce the number of youth in this municipal ward who engage in criminal activity. The project deliverables will include mentor recruitment and screening, activity organization, space allocation, and materials purchase for activities (for example, sports equipment, art supplies, snacks). The objective is to reduce criminal engagement by community youth by at least 50% from current rates.

Identify and authorize the Project Manager

It is important here to

  • name the person in charge
  • give that person authorization to use the resources necessary to complete the project successfully.


The project manager, Maria Lahiffe, is hereby authorized to interface with management as required, negotiate for resources, delegate responsibilities within the framework of the project, and to communicate with all contractors and management, as required, to ensure successful and timely completion of the project.

Provide the summary milestone schedule

Just include major milestones here. The project plan, which will be developed in the next phase, will come up with more granular milestones.


  • March 1, 2018 – Project plan complete and approved
  • May 15, 2018 – Activity plans developed, start promoting the program
  • September 1, 2018 – activities begin
  • June 30, 2019 – year 1 complete
  • June 30, 2021 – year 3 complete, end of this funding cycle

Project Budget

State the total budget for the project, any limitations on the funding, and identify funding sources


The total budget for this project over its three-year lifespan is $200,000. Of this, not more than $100,000 can be spent on salaries. It is to be funded primarily through a grant from the XYZ Foundation. Ten percent of the operating funds are to be recouped through user fees.

The project charter is one of the first documents you should produce, to formally establish the project and to authorize the relevant people to start work on it. To learn more, come to our upcoming workshop.

Click here to register Tuesday, September 17, 2019. 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Want to learn more? Come to an upcoming workshop.

Click here for more information, and to register.

Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to organizational operations. Click here for more information, and to register. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.

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Related Blog Posts:

[1] "Project Charter," Wikipedia, [Online]. Available: [Accessed 5 December 2017]. [2] P. M. Docs, "Sample Project Charter," [Online]. Available: [Accessed 6 December 2017].
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