Confusing outcomes with methods is one of the most common errors that grantees make. To clarify, methods are described in the objectives; meanwhile, the outcomes are identified by the success that occurs. The two examples below demonstrate the approach:
- Objective: To initiate a 4-hour per week tutoring program over a 6-month period for 25 seventh graders to increase their reading skills, as measured by the state standard achievement test for reading.
- Outcome: 70% of the target group will increase their reading skills to meet the state standards. An additional outcome might be that half of the target group will increase their grades by 35%.
- Objective: Reduce violent behavior of 50 adolescents via 8 negotiation skills mentoring programs per month, over a 4-month period.
- Outcome: Given that the baseline for this proposal is that problem solving only happens through violent behavior, the short-term outcome will be that after the first month, 80% are able to solve problems by raising their voices at each other. After 8 more mentoring sessions, 70% can talk out a problem. At the end of 4 months – which coincides with the end of the grant – 65% of the adolescents can negotiate a problem in a calm manner.
The above outcomes are concrete statements about what each of the programs will accomplish. Effective outcomes will succinctly answer the five questions below.
What will change?
The success rates must parallel the corresponding objectives of your proposal. These will need to be carefully measured throughout the period of the grant via incremental evaluations. Doing so ensures that what has been promised in the objectives will be aligned with the outcomes.
How many will change?
You can easily identify the number or percentage of variation that will take place in the examples above. In the first example, 70% of the target group will increase their reading skills. In the second example, 65% of the adolescents will be able to handle a problem without resorting to violence.
What is the magnitude of change?
In the second outcome example, a baseline for the problem is established. Then, the expected degree of change that will be taking place along the way is demonstrated with short-, mid-, and long-term outcomes. Including that baseline will give context to the modifications described in your outcomes.
What type of change will take place?
The development that will take place is inherent in the objectives in each example above. Donors understand that you probably will not be able to create a 100% change. Further, only a good estimate should be given, which is based on the literature and research related to your project.
When will the change take place?
The time period of the grant will mirror that of the outcomes. Establishing a realistic time frame will depend on the research and experience of those in charge of the proposal. Several project planning tools exist which may be useful for you, particularly Gantt charts.
Outcomes are benefits for participants during or after their involvement with a program. They may pertain to knowledge, skills, attitudes, or behavior concerning a specific topic, depending on the project or research. As noted above, outcomes can have a variety of levels. Focus is on the specification and achievement of outcomes, which reveals more about how effective programs are in achieving real development on the ground. Since donors are increasingly focused on accountability, these are now critical to success. Before they award grants, donors want to know what the benefits of their funding will be as well as the expected success rates. To learn more about outcomes and the planning process – and to gain a valuable planning tool – check out the Logic Model!