Tag Archives: Measurements

What’s The Difference in Activities and Outcomes?

In past blogs I have droned on and on about Funder’s wanting to see Outcomes and how important Outcomes are.  But I know from experience and conversations with government agencies and non-profit organizations that many people struggle to understand the difference in Outcomes and Activities.  So, here are a few clues to knowing the difference so that you can identify and use Outcomes when seeking or justifying funding and doing reporting.

 

Your Outcome may be someone else’s Activity.  The Outcomes you need to produce depend on where your organization/program fits into the continuum of the big picture.  When you rely on funding from outside your organization or agency, you fall somewhere in the continuum of the mission/program of the funding provider.  This also applies if you are a department within an agency or government entity.  Think of it as an assembly line.  Your station on the line is somewhere in the middle.  Here is an illustration:  Your station’s purpose is to take a raw material (such as corn), modify it (cut the corn off the cob), then pass it on to another station to conduct another function (cook it).  The end product will be creamed corn in a can.  The work of your station on the line is vital to the end result.  To the big picture your station conducts an Activity; for your station, you have produced an Outcome.

Don’t assume your Activities are what matters.  On the assembly line where your station produces corn cut from the cob, you will likely be expected to produce a specific amount of cut corn.  In the big picture your station is not measured by the number of cobs you process, how fast you cut the corn or how quickly you process each cob.  Also, in the big picture it does not matter how long it takes for your machine to warm up or how many times you have to stop the machine and clear out a blockage.   Your station is measured on how much cut corn gets to the next step on the assembly line.  Stated differently: you are measured on the amount your station contributes to the end product.

With this assembly line (continuum) picture in mind, here are some points to help you differentiate between Activities and Outcomes for your agency/organization within the desired Outcome of the Funder.  Following are some typical Activities that people often mistake for Outcomes:

Actions you tally – Information sessions, classes, mentoring sessions, speeches, counseling sessions, forms completed

Inputs your provide – Staff, volunteers, money, place, trainers, tests, counselors, food

Outputs you count – Participants, attendees, graduates, program completers, certifications, qualifications, parents counseled

Resources you obtain – Materials for students, Childcare for career training attendees, mobile classroom, counseling services

 

Outcomes are what you produce depending on where you fall in the continuum – In reporting and in seeking funding, you must explain how your product helps accomplish the outcome(s) of the funder or partnership.  Here are some examples:

  • Middle Schoolers ready to enter high school – demonstrate how you know they are ready to enter high school and move on toward graduating and obtaining a job with family sustaining wages
  • Nutritional meals for Seniors that help increase their overall health
  • Program participants that are ready to fill and sustain positions in health care, manufacturing, logistics, etc. that provide family sustaining wages
  • Healthier families because you provided  food on weekends to elementary school children, health screenings for seniors, free medical clinic
  • Decreased children in poverty because you have facilitated the outcome of more people employed with family sustaining wages

 

I have attempted to provide you some explanation and examples so that you can be better prepared to determine your own Outcomes and differentiate them from Activities.  However, Outcomes are very personal to an organization/agency and where it fits into the big picture.  One of the best pieces of advice I can provide is to get outside input.  People within an organization or agency are so busy doing the work that it is difficult for them to step back far enough to see the other parts of the continuum.  Outside scrutiny can help with this.  Outside help can come from many sources, here are a few:  Funder (donor, grantor, government agency, etc.), education (university institute, interns, students in an appropriate, professors, etc.), consultant, board, volunteer, other organizations/agencies and even the funding provider.

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