Outputs and Outcomes: Understanding the Difference
Outputs and outcomes can be easy to confuse as they can both speak to various aspects of an organization’s program goals. In order to better understand the role outputs and outcomes play in your organization let’s first differentiate between the two.
Outputs are an organization’s programs, methods, or services. “We immunize 300 children each month.”
Outcomes are the impact, results, and accomplishments. “Child mortality rates in the villages we serve has decreased 70% in the last three years and average household income has increased 10%.”
Having organizational or program goals that have strong outputs and outcomes provide valuable information staff, the board, and funders can use so all parties can better assess and understand programming and its impact the community.
Let’s start with a simple (and somewhat silly) example.
GOAL(S): Make a sandwich to feed someone
OUTPUT(S): Purchase bread, ham, mayo, and lettuce from the grocery store. Drive home and unload items, assembling them in a manner that suits the person who will consume the sandwich. (These are your methods) Provide the sandwich on a plate for consumption (this is your service), measuring the satisfaction level of the person consuming the sandwich by examining how much of the sandwich remains at the end of the given meal time (the form of measurement).
OUTCOME(S): Producing a sandwich so someone is no longer hungry
Now, let's move to a more realistic example.
GOAL(S): Move-A-Lot, an after-school sports program that aims to increase regular physical activity amongst school-aged children, will perform outreach and education on its program.
OUTPUT(S): Move-A-Lot will actively recruit students by visiting partner schools’ health and PE classes as well as school festivals and community resource fairs to share their programming with prospective student participants and their parents or guardians. Move-A-Lot will track participant attendance and compare attendance to last year’s program attendance. An evaluation of attendance will take place at the end of each month, throughout the school year, examining program attendance levels to the same month from prior year.
OUTCOME(S): Move-A-Lot will increase participation and physical activity amongst partner schools’ children by 10 percent during the upcoming school year.
As mentioned earlier, developing these outputs and outcomes help several parties evaluate the effectiveness and impact of programming. Being able to speak to program outputs and outcomes is also increasingly required by funders, particularly when making a grant request.
Telling the story of your organization is not the only information funders want. Nonprofits must show, through clearly defined goals, outputs and outcomes that clearly illustrate how programming impact is measured, the effectiveness of programming and the end result programming should be producing.
Developing program goals with strong outputs and outcomes for the first time can be intimidating. Creating a logic model, similar to the one found on the Health and Human Services agency website, can be a helpful step. Using a logic model to develop outputs and outcomes can help an organization critically examine their programming and develop realistic goals and measurements. Once established, tracking outputs and outcomes can take time, but provides valuable information about program effectiveness.
If you are stuck on creating a logic model, determining your outcomes or trying to figure out how to measure the impact of your work, we can help. Call Sharpshooter Communications at 918-688-4321 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love an opportunity to visit with you!