The Complete Guide to Project Charters

April 26, 2023
5 minute read

A project charter is an essential document to formalize the start of a project. While it has substantial legal benefits, it also helps facilitate the overall success of the project’s objectives.

Let’s talk about what this document is and how you can create one for your team.

What Is A Project Charter?

Project Charter Definition: A project charter (or project management charter) is one of the formal project management documents that outlines vital details about the project before it gets approved. It serves as a rough roadmap for the project team, ensuring everyone is aligned on its goals and objectives. It’s created before project initiation.

The charter sets the tone for the project and provides a foundation for decision-making. It includes details such as the project's purpose, the stakeholders' roles and responsibilities, the timeline, and the budget. 

Some organizations initiate projects using a contract in place of a project charter. For others, a project charter can also be called a statement of work, an estimate response document, a business case, or a quote. A project is considered approved when the project sponsor approves the project charter.


Purpose Of A Project Charter

Clarify Project Goals And Objectives

A project charter outlines the project's purpose and provides a clear roadmap for achieving the desired outcomes. The charter serves as a reference point throughout the project, ensuring that everyone stays aligned and focused on the end goal. 

By clarifying the project goals and objectives in a project charter, you can set the stage for a successful project outcome.

Align With Key Stakeholders

A well-crafted project charter helps to ensure clarity and understanding among team members, clients, and other project stakeholders. It also defines the resources required for project success, including personnel, equipment, and finances. 

By clearly outlining these details in the project charter, stakeholders can work together to ensure that the necessary resources are available when needed. Ultimately, a project charter is a powerful tool for ensuring everyone involved is on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Authorize The Project Team And Project Manager

By verifying that the sponsor knows about the project and agrees that it should exist, the charter gives the project authority to start. The charter also acts as evidence that the sponsor knows who the project manager is and supports that person’s leadership of the project. 

This proof gives the project manager authority over the internal project activities and the money, people, and other organizational resources necessary to accomplish the project.


Benefits Of Having A Project Charter

Document The Existence And Approval Of A Project

One of the significant benefits of having a project charter is that it documents the existence and approval of a project. It serves as a formal agreement between the project team and stakeholders, outlining the project's goals, objectives, and scope. 

The project charter also defines the roles and responsibilities of each team member, providing clarity and transparency throughout the project lifecycle. By documenting the existence and approval of a project, the project charter creates a shared understanding and commitment to the project's success.

Define Project Benefits

One of the significant benefits of creating a project charter is that it helps define the project's benefits. By identifying the project's benefits early on, the project team can focus on delivering the desired outcomes. 

Moreover, it helps align the stakeholders' expectations and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding project goals.

Refines Focus And Facilitates Process Improvement

A project charter clearly defines the project's purpose and goals, which helps keep the team on track and focused on what matters. With a well-defined project charter, team members can align their efforts toward achieving the project's objectives, ensuring everyone is working towards the same goal. 

Additionally, the project charter facilitates process improvement. Outlining the project's scope and objectives enables the team to identify areas that need improvement. This, in turn, helps the team to develop better processes and procedures, which can lead to increased efficiency and productivity.

Key Elements Of A Project Charter

Since it is created before any detailed project analysis, the charter can only offer a high-level overview of the project.

Project Description

The first element of a project charter is the project description. The project description serves as a brief introduction, highlighting what needs it will address and when it will be finished. 

A well-written project description will ensure that everyone involved is on the same page and understands what the project aims to achieve.

Project Scope

The project scope defines the project's boundaries and outlines the deliverables that will be produced. It can be as detailed or high-level as necessary, but it must be clear and concise to avoid confusion or misunderstandings. 

Authorization Of Project Manager

One crucial element of the project charter is the authorization of the project manager. This authorization gives the project manager the power and authority to lead and manage the project from start to finish. 

With this authorization, the project manager becomes the driving force behind the project, ensuring that all project activities are carried out efficiently and effectively.

High-Level Milestones

Project milestones are the key events or deliverables that mark progress toward the completion of the project. They serve as checkpoints to measure the project's success and ensure it is on track to meet its objectives. High-level milestones also help to keep the project team focused and motivated as they work towards achieving each milestone.


The budget is where you will outline the estimated costs for the project, including resources, materials, and any other expenses that may arise. Creating a realistic budget is crucial as it will help you to avoid any unexpected costs or delays. By including a general budget in your project charter, you can ensure that everyone involved is on the same page and that you have the resources you need to complete the project on time and within budget.


The last element of the project charter is crucial to ensure that all parties involved agree and commit to the project. This step should not be taken lightly as it signifies the official initiation of the project. The signatures represent the commitment of each stakeholder, including the project sponsor, project manager, and team members, to fulfill their roles and responsibilities to ensure the project's success.


In addition to the standard elements typically included in a project charter, several other important elements can be added to ensure that your project is well-planned and well-executed. These elements include risks, issues, assumptions, and dependencies.


How To Write A Project Charter

Organize Project Information

Before you can start putting your project charter together, you must organize all the necessary information about the project. This includes defining the project's purpose, objectives, scope, stakeholders, and risks. Once all the essential information is gathered, you can start outlining the project charter. 

By organizing all the necessary information beforehand, you can ensure that the project charter is comprehensive and practical, ultimately leading to a successful project outcome.

Plot Your Timeline

Treating your project charter as a small project itself can be an effective way to manage your timeline and resources efficiently. By breaking down the project into smaller, manageable tasks, you can identify potential roadblocks and plan for contingencies.

To do this, use a platform like Workamajig, the only project management tool built for creative teams. Create and assign tasks, add deadlines, and consolidate all your charter documents and communications in one platform so they’re easy to manage and compile. This approach will also help you stay on track and ensure that you're making progress toward completing this vital project document on time.

Choose A Template

To ensure that you create a comprehensive and effective charter, it is essential to choose the right template. The first step is to identify your project's needs and goals. This will help you determine the project charter template type that best suits your requirements. 

Various templates are available online, each serving a different purpose. Some templates are more detailed, while others are more concise. Choosing the suitable template will help you organize your thoughts and ideas and ensure your project charter is clear, concise, and complete. Additionally, templates help ensure consistency across projects, making it easier for stakeholders to understand the project's purpose and objectives.

Fill In Project Charter Elements

Now that you have all your project details and chosen template in place, filling in all the necessary elements, including the project name, purpose, goals, objectives, stakeholders, timelines, and budget, is essential. 

Collaborating with your team and other necessary stakeholders is crucial to ensure all the necessary information is included in the project charter. By working together, you can identify potential risks, set realistic goals, and establish a clear action plan.

Review And Polish

Congratulations! You have completed the initial steps of writing a project charter. But wait, there's one final step left - reviewing and polishing. This step may seem small, but it's incredibly important. It's your last chance to make sure everything is in order before presenting it to stakeholders.

Take the time to review the document carefully, check for any errors, and ensure that all necessary information is included. This will help you understand everything smoothly and smoothly down the line.


Project Charter Examples & Templates

To help you create your next project charter, here’s an example of a project charter for an interactive voice response system from The Digital Project Manager.

Screen Shot 2023-04-25 at 10.23.35 PM

Source: The Digital Project Manager

By creating a well-crafted project charter and plan, you'll be well on your way to a successful project outcome!


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