Logic Models and Outcome Measurement

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An organization should have a well-developed logic model in place before they finalize a comprehensive outcome measurement plan. A logic model maps out an overview of an organization's tools and resources, the services they provide, and the intended impacts of these services. A basic logic model documents inputs or resources, activities, outputs, and short-term, intermediate, and long-term outcomes. Inputs or resources are the assets that an organization is prepared to invest to support or implement a program, including things like money, staff, and equipment. Activities capture the methodologies an organization plans to use in order to implement a project, while outputs describe activities in more finite, numerical terms such as the units of service provided. Lastly, outcomes capture the changes, benefits, and overall impact that the program or initiative has had on an organization's client population. Once a well-developed logic model is in place, an organization can begin to identify performance indicators that will help to measure the organization's progress towards its intended outcomes.

Ask the right questions.

When looking to identify the elements of your organization's logic model, consider the following:

  • Inputs/Resources: What inputs or ingredients do you need to operate your program? How many staff? How large a budget? How many clients do you have/need? 
  • Activities: What will you do? What methods will you use to deliver your program or activities? What content areas will you cover? What will you provide?
  • Outputs: What will be the tangible products or units of your program or activity? How many clients will you serve?
  • Outcomes: What impact will your program or activities have on your clients? What is reasonable to expect in the way of change? 

Logic models capture underlying assumptions and program theory.

This connection between the activities you provide and the outcomes you hope to accomplish is known as the program theory; it articulates the assumptions about the ability of certain activities to drive particular changes. Many nonprofit providers use logic models as a tool to reflect the program theory underlying their programs. One contribution that outcome measurement can make in your own organization is to demonstrate whether or not the program theory underlying your organization's activities and initiatives is valid.

Logic models document relationships.

While not all logic models look the same, they all serve the same purpose: to graphically capture the assumptions and cause and effect relationships that drive your organization's work on a project.

Download a sample logic model template and test your understanding of the different elements of a logic model using the activity on the right.

Click to open interactivity Test your understanding of logic models.

Test your understanding of logic models.

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