What Is a Project Charter? Example + Free Template Included

Suppose you have a great business idea for your department’s next project. But, having an idea is not sufficient to bring your project to life. You must present it to the right people and get their approval. 

For this purpose, you’ll need a project charter.

In this guide, we’ll cover the project charter definition and its key elements.

Also, we’ll explain the main differences between a project charter and other vital project management documents. 

To make the concept clearer, we’ve prepared a project charter example followed by a free project charter template.

Let’s dive into the matter.

What Is a Project Charter? Example + Free Template Included cover
  • A project charter is a project management document that formally acknowledges the existence of a project and serves as an elevator pitch for the project.
  • The main purpose of a project charter is to secure approvals for project execution from the stakeholders. 
  • There is no universal list of project charter elements, but a good project charter should ideally include 12 elements, some of which include project purpose, scope, deliverables, resources, milestones, risks, and others.
  • The easiest way to create a project charter for stakeholders is to discuss all specifics with your team first and then briefly cover important project information in a premade template.

What is a project charter?

A project charter is a project management document that formally acknowledges the existence of a project and serves as an elevator pitch for the project, aiming to secure approvals for its execution.

In essence, a project charter is a high-level overview of your project. It should include a brief explanation of the main elements of your project as this enables project stakeholders to understand your project scope, objectives, and responsibilities.

Project sponsors or the person who initiated the project are usually the ones in charge of this document.

When approved, the project charter gives a project manager the authority to apply organizational resources to project activities.

What are the 12 components of a project charter?

There is no universal list of project charter elements, but a good project charter should ideally include the following 12 elements:

  • Project title,
  • General project information,
  • Project purpose,
  • Scope,
  • Deliverables,
  • Resources,
  • Milestones,
  • Risks,
  • Project team structure, 
  • Key stakeholders,
  • Success measurements, and
  • Project approval.

Let’s briefly explain each of these elements.

Component #1: Project title

Your project name should always be straightforward and descriptive.

For instance, if you intend to create additional landing pages for products on the website you are developing, the name can be “Developing new product landing pages — website X.”

Component #2: General project information

The general information that every project charter should include is the following:

  • The project manager,
  • The project sponsor,
  • The business unit responsible for the project execution, and
  • The date when the project was pitched.

Component #3: Project purpose

Your project should have justified reasons for being conducted. 

To identify the project purpose, try answering the following questions:

  • What business needs will this particular project meet?
  • What do you want to achieve with your project?
  • How do your goals and objectives align with larger organizational goals?

Also, it’s advised to use the SMART criteria for setting your project goals and objectives more easily.

Component #4: Scope

Briefly summarizing what will and will not be included in the project tasks ensures that you stay on the same page with your client and prevent misunderstandings.

Component #5: Deliverables

Depending on your project type, deliverables can be various products or services you get upon the completion of a project. Here are some common examples of key deliverables: 

  • Business cases,
  • Landing pages for different products, 
  • Prototypes, 
  • Wireframes, etc.

Defining deliverables provides a clear end goal for your project, which makes your project charter much more valuable to stakeholders — and more likely to get approved.

Component #6: Project resources

Make sure you have an estimated project budget to begin with. In addition to the financial considerations, you should also identify: 

  • The number of people you’ll need for the project,
  • The necessary equipment, and 
  • Other project resources, depending on the industry, project type, and complexity.

Component #7: Project milestones

Apart from predicting anticipated start and end dates, it’s advised to identify all key project milestones and when they will be completed.

Component #8: Risks

Providing a list of potential project risks and explaining how they can affect the outcome of your project in the early stages can help mitigate more significant issues later in the project.

So, take your time to ponder potential project risks and write down what could go wrong.

💡Plaky Pro Tip 

Read this guide to learn how to implement risk management practices into your projects:

Component #9: Project team structure

Make a list of people who will participate in the project and specify their project roles and responsibilities

To better define the team structure, try answering the following questions:

  • Who will be responsible for managing the project? 
  • Who are the other people who will be working on the project?
  • What are their responsibilities?

Component #10: Key stakeholders

It is vital to name the main project stakeholders, both those within or outside the organization, as they can have an influence on the project’s outcome.

In your project charter, you should mention who’s in charge of:

  • Funding,
  • Project charter approval, and 
  • Other key responsibilities.

Component #11: Success measurements

Identify the metrics you will be using and the targets you want to achieve with your project.

Take the budget key performance indicator for an example – you can mark the project as successful if you achieve overall cost savings of $100,000 or reduce production time by 25%.

Component #12: Project approval

In the end, specify who signs off on the project, that is, who is in charge of approving the project charter.

Project charter example

Now that we’ve explained all the elements of a project charter, it is time to see the project charter in action.

To illustrate the matter, we will provide an example of a project related to mobile application development with all the relevant parts of the project included.

Suppose you want to develop a food ordering app.

Then, your sample project charter can look like the following example.

ElementDescription
Project titleGo Guacamole food ordering app
General project informationProject manager: Marry Stark
Project sponsor: James Jones
Business unit: Product development
Date: 03.03.2024.
Project purpose– Food ordering app for vegans and vegetarians. 
– The app will be available on Google Play and App Store.
– The aim is to simplify vegetarian and vegan food ordering from our physical Go Guacamole stores.
– The app enables ordering via a mobile phone and delivery in major US cities.
ScopeIn scope:
– Operating system: iOS, Android,
– UI and UX design,
– Image optimization,
– Cloud backup,
– Basic analytics,
– Load testing, and
– Basic design modifications.
Out of scope: 
– Adding new plugins or functionalities,
– Managing product inventory, and
– Marketing automation.
Project milestonesStart date: April 4, 2024
Design proposals finished: May 4, 2024
App development completed: July 7, 2024
QA testing ended: August 15, 2024
Product descriptions completed: August 26, 2024
Launching date: September 1, 2024
Goals and objectives– Increasing sales by 20% in the first quarter after launching
– Establishing our company as a leader in the vegetarian and vegan food space in the US
Deliverables– Style guide,
– Wireframes, 
– User Interface, 
– Compiled versions of the app, 
– Private keys and certificates, 
– Credentials, 
– Other development specifications, and
– Bug and issue documentation.
RisksThe team may not meet deadlines due to:
– Adding unplanned changes in the specification or expanding requirements with more features.
ResourcesPeople: 11 people working on a project
– 3 developers,
– 1 project manager,
– 1 business analyst,
– 1 finance manager,
– 2 designers,
– 1 product manager, and
– 2 QA software testers
Time: 5 months for project completion
Budget: $100,000
Key stakeholdersCEO: Peter Drake
Project sponsor: James Jones
Project investor: Mark Johansson
Project team structureProject manager: Marry Stark 
Product manager: Emily Boyle
Business analyst: Terry Knope
Finance manager: Piter Blunt
Designers: Mark Wild, Lucy Dale
QA team: Tamara Jonas, Natasha PotterDevelopers: Philip Levison, Simon Nowicki, Maria Barres
Success measurements– The app has at least 5,000 downloads on Google Play and App Store in the first month.
– The app has 4–5 stars on Google Play and App Store and more than 15 positive reviews on each platform in the first 2 months after launching.
Project approvalCEO: Peter DrakeInvestor: Mark Johansson
Sponsor: James Jones
Project manager: Marry Stark Finance manager: Piter Blunt
Date of approval: 04.03.2024.

Project charter template

Remember — no one enjoys reading a wall of text.

So, apart from making sure your project charter is not overly long, ensure you make it visually appealing to people who must read it and decide on its approval — you can achieve this via proper structuring and formatting.

Separate the sections of your charter using tables, to make your document easier to scan and digest.

We suggest using a simple project charter template. 

Don’t worry — you don’t have to lose your precious time creating such a template. 

We have prepared an easy-to-use project charter template you can edit and download for free.

project charter template

🔽 Download the project charter template

If you prefer to print and fill out the project charter template manually, we’ve also prepared a print-friendly version.

project charter template print

🔽 Download the project charter template for printing

What is the difference between a project plan and a project charter?

The main difference between a project plan and a project charter is that the project charter is created before a project plan, and its purpose is to secure project approval and give the project manager authority to start working on the project. 

Unlike the project charter, which describes the entire project on a macro level, the project plan goes into the essence of all the project phases

The project plan provides a more in-depth outline of the project’s key elements and explains how project activities will be executed. 

What is the difference between a project brief and a project charter?

The main difference between a project brief and a project charter is that a project brief provides a short description of the key elements of your project plan, while a project charter aims to authorize the project formally. 

In other words, the project brief is the summary of the project plan and is created after obtaining the project’s approval. It serves as the reference point for your project team and stakeholders.

What is the difference between a business case and a project charter?

The main difference between a business case and a project charter is that the business case explains why the company should spend its resources on a specific project, detailing the benefits and risks of a significant business investment. In addition, the business case involves making project assumptions in terms of costs and expected revenue to determine its financial justification. 

In contrast, the project charter outlines, at a macro level, what needs to be done and establishes project constraints such as budget, project timeline, and scope. 

Both of these documents are created during the project initiation phase, but the two terms are not interchangeable. 

How to create a project charter

There is no universally accepted procedure on how to build a project charter. But, we have selected some tips that can come in handy:

  • Discuss the charter with your project team,
  • Keep it short and simple,
  • Include all vital information, and
  • Present the project charter to relevant parties and secure approval.

Let’s explain each step.

Step #1: Discuss the project charter with your team

No one expects the project manager to be Superman. A team is always stronger than just one person, as everyone brings their experience and specific knowledge to the table. 

So, join your forces and ask each team member for their opinion about the project. 

Discuss project goals, milestones, and risks with your team.

Insights from your team members can help you catch crucial details and create a more accurate project charter. 

After all, the more precise the benefits of a project charter are, the better the chances are that stakeholders will approve it.

Step #2: Keep your project charter short and simple

A project charter should be on point — clear and concise. You want to sell your project and not annoy key stakeholders with unnecessary details that may contribute to them giving up on your project. 

Sure, with other planning documents, such as a project plan, feel free to go into more detail. But, each project charter section should only be 1 or 2 sentences long.

Step #3: Include all vital information in your project charter

Although there is no universal list of elements we can apply to all project charters, certain information should not be omitted, including the following: 

  • Objectives of a particular project,
  • Known risks and project constraints, and
  • Stakeholders and team members.

Step #4: Present your project charter to relevant parties and secure approval

If you want your project to get approval, you should do more than just email your project charter to key stakeholders as a PDF. 

Instead, you could organize a presentation or book a meeting to explain what you intended to achieve with a particular project. 

Also, this is an excellent opportunity to answer the stakeholders’ questions and ease their concerns, if any.

What is the purpose of a project charter? 

There are several reasons why you need a project charter. Some of the most common purposes of a project charter include the following:

  • The project charter serves as the project’s marketing tool to secure stakeholders’ approval — it’s a brief description of your project, and it “sells” your project to key stakeholders in charge of the project approval.
  • The project charter authorizes the existence of a project — without getting approval from stakeholders — there is no project. The primary purpose of a project charter is to authorize the existence of your project. After project charter approval, a project manager can begin initiating and executing the project.
  • The project charter explains the business importance of the project — before carrying out a project, you need to make sure that stakeholders understand the business importance of the project and where they are investing their resources. 
  • The project charter helps prevent scope creep — it outlines the project’s parameters so that everyone can understand them.

A great project charter secures your project’s approval

A project charter acts like your sales pitch — so make sure you do your best to prepare it in order to “sell” your project. 

The elements of a project charter vary, but we listed the most common ones you shouldn’t omit. 

In the end, follow our advice and use our project charter template to help stakeholders buy your idea and bring your project to life.

Organizing projects can get overwhelming. However, with the Plaky project management tool, you’ll easily keep track of all important project information at all times. Best of all, Plaky offers a free pricing plan for an unlimited number of users and is perfect for businesses that are just starting out.

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