Logic models are not new, yet we’ve been hearing more and more about this tool in the last few years. In the same time period, there’s been an increasing demand for quantitative impact measurement around philanthropic programs. Coincidence? We don’t think so at Blackbaud, where we’ve been focusing on developing our products to accommodate in-depth analytics and outcomes reporting.
In a recent survey Blackbaud sent to senior management roles at foundations, 88% of respondents said they require grantee reports to include impact measurement. Given this fact, it is not surprising that a separate survey to Blackbaud customers found that 73% of nonprofits are measuring outcomes. What is surprising is that only 29% of those foundations surveyed are using logic models, despite using this impact measurement data to make funding decisions, refine strategy, and tell their story. At its core, logic models test the assumptions of a project or initiative before it gets underway (Wallace Foundation). So why is so much focus being made on data collection after the fact from grantees, versus before the program launches when data analysis can help identify the correct steps towards your desired impact?
As Network for Good highlights, logic models allow you to draw connections among three key elements:
- Resources needed to run your organization’s programs
- Your activities
- The long-term impact that your organization is trying to achieve
By mapping out your inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes, you can visually see your end desired impact, and if the program you’ve strategized is going to get you there. Maybe you can see that you have the correct inputs and activities, but not the right resources to execute each stage or track progress as needed. With a logic model, you can identify these needs before launching the program, or even when considering grant applications or potential partners! After all, you may realize a key gap in activities that can be filled by a partner, but without identifying this evaluation criteria upfront, this gap would have gone unaddressed!.
Logic models satisfy new demands for increased transparency into funding initiatives and drive new levels of collaboration and stronger relationships. How? With total insight into the program, and clear long-term positive outcomes that constituents and funders can expect from this initiative, it becomes much easier to get stakeholder buy-in (both internally and externally). Plus, when other members of the social good community articulate their desired impact and plan to get there, new opportunities for partnership arise that may have gone unnoticed previously.
What’s most exciting about logic models is that they are a resource that can be referenced again and again over a long period of time, serving as your north star. If you’re considering an activity that does not align with your logic model and desired impact, perhaps it isn’t a good fit for your company or foundation. This kind of foresight and analysis is not possible without technology, which brings us back to why logic models are resurfacing in the social good environment in recent years.
It is possible that your organization has been tracking this data for a long time (inputs, outputs, maybe even outcomes). But it is feasible that this information lived in different places, maybe even with different teams, in spreadsheets or other software. Technology like Blackbaud Grantmaking, built specifically with Outcomes measurement in mind, offers organizations one platform to track all elements of a grant program, from the application period to outcomes evaluation. Dashboards and visual charts show progress towards your desired outcomes and can even pull in data from multiple grant programs and activities that funnel up to your goal.
Now that I’ve sold you on the importance of a logic model, let’s dive into an example, following XYZ Organization’s program to reduce childhood obesity in their local community.
Purpose or Mission: Reduce the risk of severe health risks like high cholesterol through a collaborative effort to reduce the obesity rate for children aged 7-12 in ABC County.
Context or Conditions: The school and other professionals must be cooperative with this plan, and able to provide resources like their time, physical space, and possibly funds.
- Local schools
- Guidance staff
- Local parks
- Food supplier/Local grocer
- Local sporting groups, gyms
Constraints: Cost, School buy-in, Family buy-in, social stigma
- Healthy lunch day at local schools
- Education in health class on risk of obesity
- Dedicated time with guidance staff to discuss weight loss obstacles or other challenges
- Field day announcing all local activities available for sign up
- Free one on one counseling with nutritionist
- 90 day program with physician: improve health metrics in 90 days and win local gym membership or free groceries for a month
- Increased knowledge on tactics to combat obesity
- Higher availability of healthy food options at school
- More resources dedicated to emotional drivers of obesity
- Lower health related costs like insurance, special treatment for those at risk for certain diseases
- Decreased rate of heart disease, high cholesterol, and other life-threatening conditions associated with obesity
- Decreased rate of obesity
Now you try!