Outcome measures – are you just running around in circles?

Are you changing the world or are you just running around in circles?  What change is happening because of all your effort?  That’s what we mean by outcome measures. Many donors are now asking what are you accomplishing? instead of what are you doing?

What is the difference? 

In an educational setting that is the difference between students just sitting in chairs compared to actually learning something.  Donors want to hear what you changed, not just what you did.

There is a difference between financial inputs, program outputs, and outcomes.  For example, in a pregnancy resource center, spending $500,000 on salaries and all the other stuff to run the program is a financial input.  Meeting with 1000 clients, providing 500 counseling sessions, and administering 300 pregnancy tests is an output.  Being in situation where 100 of the clients walking in the door are fully intending to have an abortion when the arrive but instead decide to carry their child to term is an outcome. 

Donors don’t want to hear about the financial input and they are slowly realizing that the output may or may not have any real meaning.  In the pregnancy center example, let’s say the 300 pregnancy tests you provided were given to clients who would have carried to term whether or not they ever visited your center.  If that is the only outcome from your ministry, then donors are very justified in asking why they should support you.

The same type of questions can be asked of any non-profit organization – what are your outcomes?

Next discussion – measuring outcomes is difficult

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