Outputs versus Outcomes

Greetings from GrantLessons!

Weather is pleasant but much cooler and I am getting ready to take a road trip on my way to Burbank for the Leadership conference in November.

Let’s get a little deeper into data. In looking over applications and answering questions from followers, I find there is an increasing need from funders to use data and the prospect of data from their applicants in proving to the IRS and their Boards that their awards have been placed in the right hands to do the most good for their target audience. The target audience are those recipients that their founder or board of directors desire to help with their funding. I know that this area of grant writing depends on our program chairs. Program chairs are busy with all the details of putting together the activities to pull off Operation School Bell, Links to Learning or a Food Pantry program. We must engage their help to design and collect reasonable data about their program. Funders want to know if your work is effective? Here are some guidelines for articulating anticipated results. First lets start by talking about the differences between output data and outcome data.


Simply outputs are the direct result of program activities. Examples include: number of children dressed, number of awards made to teachers, or number of over 60 income eligible seniors receiving food bags.


Simply outcomes are the benefits or changes that result from program activities. Examples include: percentage of decrease in bullying, percentage of participants who will graduate from high school, or percentage of participants who are able to age in place.

Chapters track outputs but find measuring effectiveness by outcomes more difficult to accomplish. A simple survey constructed to measure the program effectiveness is one way to measure outcomes.

Working with Program Chairs

For instance an outcome goal for a program could be 80% of eligible seniors will report that food bags assist them to age in place during the last year. In order to get the data, the program chair would work at developing a simple survey with three questions that ask the following:

  1. Do the food bags provide nutritious food that help me maintain my health?
  2. Do the food bags help me to stay in my home and age in place?
  3. Do the food bags allow me to have money to meet other obligations like buying medications or having a comfortable living environment?

After each question, a Likert scale is added. A four point scale including the following options is placed below each question:

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Agree
  4. Strongly agree

Using a 4 point scale forces the respondent to choose one side or the other and eliminates the response I neither agree nor disagree. Add a few demographics to the survey like age groups and sex and you are ready to hand out the survey. This approach can be used with many of our programs. Do you think you do not have the skills to pull this off? You are afraid that you do not know how to analyze the data. Ask your membership you probably have someone who has done a survey before and even gets a kick out of heading up the survey process. This is powerful data when it comes to writing an application. It is a more compelling statement that  375 respondents out of 400 indicate (93%) they strongly agree that the food bags provide nutritous food that helps them maintain their health as opposed to 400 over 60 seniors were provided two food bags monthly.

Depending on when your programs are completed each year you may have already missed an opportunity to gain this information for your program this year. But, you need to think about working with your program chairs and others within your chapter to gain outcome data for your programs. Start today to think about how you can move your chapter to get both output and outcome data for your programs.

Is this something you are willing to discuss at your next Grants Committe, Program Chairs Committee, or Board of Directors. It is food for thought.

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon! Sandie




2 thoughts on “Outputs versus Outcomes

  1. Hi Sandi – Great post. Really appreciate the simple, straightforward definitions of outputs and outcomes.
    Ann Whittaker
    Assistance League of Kansas City

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