What is a project charter and why do I need one?

A project charter is a crucial document outlining a project's objectives, scope, and stakeholders, essential for guiding and aligning team efforts.

A project charter is a short document that outlines the objectives, scope, and stakeholders of a project. It serves as a sort of contract between the project sponsor and the project manager, giving a top-level overview of the expectations and giving the project manager the green light to mobilize resources to achieve the right outcomes.

Agencies use project charters to provide all team members with a clear understanding of the project. This includes defining roles and responsibilities, setting expectations, outlining project deliverables, and identifying potential risks and challenges. 

Ultimately, the purpose of your project charter is to document the goals, objectives, and business case for the work.

This guide will explore project charters and why they’re so beneficial for agencies and businesses that perform client work.

Project charters vs. project plans: What are the differences?

A project charter is a "big picture" document and defines the overall scope, objectives, and stakeholders involved in the project. It acts as a guidepost for decision-making throughout the project.

In contrast, a project plan is more detailed and breaks down the project into smaller, manageable tasks. It includes timelines, budgets, resource allocation plans, deliverables, and risk management strategies. 

While a project charter provides direction and alignment, a project plan outlines the specific steps and tasks needed to achieve the project's objectives.

Key components of a project charter

Like any other project documentation, a project charter follows a specific structure and includes critical components to ensure its effectiveness, including:

The overview section is essentially your project's executive summary. It provides a high-level synopsis of the project's purpose, the problem it aims to solve, or the opportunity it seeks to leverage. Basically, it answers the "why" of the project and includes:

  • Project's name

  • Project sponsor

  • Project manager

  • A brief description of the project's objectives and deliverables

The overview serves as a quick reference point, giving readers an immediate understanding of the project's scope and intended outcome.


The Project Manager is responsible for developing the overview section of the project charter. They work closely with the Project Sponsor to capture all key information accurately.

The scope outlines what falls within the project's boundaries (in scope) and what doesn’t (out of scope) by defining the project's objectives, key deliverables, success criteria, and expected outcomes. 

The project team uses it as a reference point to stay on track and prevent scope creep (when the project's objectives expand beyond the boundaries initially agreed upon).


Determining the scope falls under the responsibility of the Project Sponsor. They provide the high-level direction and strategic goals that guide the project's objectives and deliverables.

The project schedule component outlines the project's timeline and milestones. It identifies key dates (kick-off, completion, and review dates), deadlines, and dependencies to ensure the project stays on track and meets its objectives within the desired timeframe. This section aligns with the project plan and helps gauge progress throughout the project's lifecycle.


Creating the schedule is generally the responsibility of the Project Manager and the Project team. They work together to create a realistic and achievable timeline that aligns with the project's objectives and constraints.

Project risks are potential events or situations that could negatively impact the project's success. These can include anything from natural disasters, technical difficulties, and budget constraints to human error and miscommunications. The risks section should include contingency plans and escalation procedures if a risk becomes reality.


The Project Manager and Project Sponsor are responsible for identifying potential risks and their impact on the project's success. They then create a risk management strategy and contingency plans to mitigate these risks.

The budget section outlines the financial resources needed to ensure a successful project. It includes a breakdown of all costs associated with the project, like materials, labor, and equipment. This section also covers how the project will be financed (e.g., through funding, internal resources, or external donations) and the potential return on investment (ROI).


The Project Sponsor develops the budget section of the project charter with input from the Project Manager. They review the project’s financial requirements and ensure that the allocated budget is realistic and aligns with its objectives. 

Stakeholders refer to individuals, groups, or organizations that have a vested interest in the project's success. These can include project team members, clients, sponsors, and other key stakeholders such as regulatory bodies or boards of directors. 

The stakeholders section identifies all individuals or groups involved in the project, their roles and responsibilities, and how they will be involved throughout the project's lifecycle.


The Project Manager identifies all the project stakeholders and their roles based on their involvement in the project. They also develop a communication plan to keep stakeholders informed and engaged throughout the project.

What is the purpose of a project charter in project management?

A project charter serves three main functions:

  1. Define the goals, objectives, and basic purpose of the work (all of which will ultimately feed into your project plan).

  2. Create a shared understanding of the project’s goals, objectives, and resourcing requirements before you start scoping these out further and in more depth.

  3. Present all of the above to the project stakeholders in order to get buy-in, investment, and authorization to go ahead.

But it’s not just used in the initiation phase: Your project charter is something you can return to throughout the lifecycle of your project to make sure your work is aligning with the key goals and objectives you set out to accomplish in agreement with the project sponsor and/or key stakeholders.

Why is a project charter important?

Beyond its three main functions, project charters have a few other major benefits that agencies can benefit from:

Because a project charter explicitly lays out the business case for the project, it means that everyone knows how the project contributes to the company’s big-picture strategic goals. It ensures that your project isn’t just ticking arbitrary boxes, but is actually doing something that impacts the business’s overall objectives.

The project charter plays a huge role in formulating your project management plan overall, but one of the areas where it’s especially useful is in helping you to identify key project stakeholders early on.

As soon as you complete your project charter, you can start to do your stakeholder analysis. This means you can start to involve key stakeholders in tandem with creating your project plan.

Okay, okay, “bestowing” anything might sound a little medieval. But whether you bestow, bequeath, endow, or grant it, your project charter officially gives your project manager authority over the project. This means that they have the power to plan and control the project, and it establishes their role to the rest of the project team and stakeholders.

We alluded to this already, but it’s worth repeating: While your project plan is great for seeing if you’re on track with tasks and timelines, sometimes, all those minute details can be more of a distraction.

On the other hand, your project charter is your project's absolute essence. So, if you’re ever unsure whether something is steering you in the right direction or taking you off track, your project charter helps you and your team to cut through the noise and reevaluate whether the work you’re doing aligns with your ultimate objectives.

How do you create a project charter?

Now, let's learn how to create a project charter. Regardless of which elements you decide to include or exclude from the above list, here are some general tips to remember as you write it.

Make the most of any existing organizational process assets at your disposal. Are there previous project charter examples you can draw on? Does your department have a project charter template?

Examples and templates can really help you get a sense of how things are done (and what’s important to your organization) so you can follow suit and start off on the right foot.

When you’re writing your project charter and making a case for the importance of your project, it can be tempting to use fancy words and complicated terminology to make things sound more impressive. 

But really, the simpler the language, the better — especially when it comes to your project charter.

Brush off the fluff. Cut the wild claims that don’t really mean anything or apply to your project. (“This project will increase synergy and allow us to leverage it for maximum impact.” …Sorry, what?) Say it without jargon so anyone can read your project charter, understand its aim, and know why it matters. 

This has the added benefit of removing ambiguity and leaving no room for interpretation, which is especially important in project management where good, clear communication is paramount.

It may be harder than it seems, but it forces you to distill what you’re actually trying to do down to its purest — and most powerful — form.

For your project charter to really work, it can’t just be shoved in a metaphorical drawer. You need to keep it somewhere central where you, your project sponsors, and your project team can all refer to it when needed.

That’s where a content collaboration workspace like Teamwork Spaces comes in handy. It allows you to keep your important documents — like your project charter — in a shared, centralized workspace so everyone knows where to find the information they need.

You can also use features and formatting such as info panels, image galleries, and status chips to make your documentation more engaging and mark the critical ones as Required Reading so you can be sure your stakeholders never miss an important update.

And for your project charter, the integration between Teamwork Spaces and Teamwork.com is especially useful, allowing you to link your core project documentation in Teamwork Spaces with your day-to-day project plan in Teamwork.com.

(Learn more about using Teamwork Spaces for the ideation and initiation phase in our ebook!)

Project charter examples

If you’re still unsure of what a project charter should look like, or if you want to double-check that your own project charter is on the right track, here are a few examples to help you get started.

Project title: Boosting Brand Engagement Through Social Media

Project purpose: To increase brand engagement and customer interaction on social media platforms for our client, XYZ Corp, over a six-month period.

Project objectives:

  • Grow the client's social media following by 30%.

  • Increase average post-engagement rates by 40%.

  • Develop and launch two viral marketing campaigns.

  • Strengthen brand recognition and customer loyalty.


  • Content creation and curation for platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

  • Regular analytics and performance reporting

  • Audience engagement strategies

  • Influencer partnerships


  • Marketing agency team (social media strategists, content creators, account managers)

  • XYZ Corp marketing team

  • Selected social media influencers

  • Target audience on social media platforms

Budget: $50,000

Timeline: January 1, 2024 - June 30, 2024

Success metrics:

  • Follower count increase

  • Engagement rate improvement

  • Viral campaign reach and impact

Project title: XYZ Product Launch Gala

Project purpose: To organize and execute a high-impact product launch event for XYZ Corp's new product line, attracting industry influencers and media coverage.

Project objectives:

  • Successfully host an event with 200+ attendees.

  • Generate buzz and media coverage.

  • Establish XYZ Corp's product as a leader in its category.


  • Venue selection and setup

  • Guest list management, including industry influencers and media

  • Branding and promotional material creation

  • Coordination of presentations and entertainment


  • Marketing agency event planning team

  • XYZ Corp marketing and executive teams

  • Event attendees (industry leaders, influencers, press)

Budget: $100,000

Timeline: Planning starts on March 1, 2024, with the event ending June 15, 2024.

Success metrics:

  • Attendance numbers

  • Media coverage quality and quantity

  • Post-event brand recognition and product interest   

Get started with Teamwork.com

A good project charter can set the stage for your whole project, so take the time to get it right. And once you’ve done that? It’s time to turn it into a project management plan that means business.

Teamwork.com is a comprehensive project management software that can help you with every step of your workflow, from ideation and initiation to execution and delivery. With features like task management, resource management, and time tracking, Teamwork.com can help you create a project charter document that is detailed, organized, and accessible for all stakeholders. 

Don't hesitate—let Teamwork.com be your go-to solution for successful project management. Start your free trial today!

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