A Logic Model Primer


I co-teach a grant writing class with Alex Kolker of the United Way of the Quad Cities through our local AFP chapter. When we get to evaluation and logic models, he points out how much I dislike them. But, just has I have converted him on the importance of active writing, he has converted me on the importance of understanding logic models when it comes to creating effective program evaluations. (Shhh! Don’t tell him!)

For those of you, like me, who find the formal pictures with arrows going everywhere intimidating, let me boil down the essence of the logic model and how you can and should use them when creating your grant plan and evaluation.

Logic models have three components: Inputs, Outputs, and Outcomes. Keeping these straight can make your grant project much clearer to you and your reviewer.

Inputs: What Goes in, often because of the grant funds

Think of these as your interventions. If you plan to host afterschool reading programs to help at-risk students read at grade level by third grade, your inputs – our interventions – are the afterschool reading programs.These should tie to the budget. In this example, the budget should outline (and justify) all of the costs associated with hosting an effective after school reading program (e.g., teachers, transportation, space, books, snacks, supervision). Tying your inputs to your budget makes a nice, neat package for the grant reviewers to clearly understand what you will do, why, and how you will pay for it.

Outputs: What Comes Out as a result of your interventions or inputs

People often confuse outputs with outcomes. Simply stated, you can think of outputs as the number of people your intervention impacts. In our afterschool reading program example, we might describe our output as “100 at-risk first grade students at City Elementary School attend our after school reading program 2 days/week.”

Outcomes: What Changes We Caused as a result from our inputs

Think of outcomes as the “why” we decided to implement the intervention in the first place. Why implement afterschool reading programs for at-risk kids? To increase their reading scores. Therefore, we might describe our outcomes as “To increase reading scores in at-risk first grade students at City Elementary School by 5 points” and “By third grade, 20% more students score as reading at grade level.” This becomes the “so what” or the “why” that you focus on in your grant application and report back to the funder. The fact that 100 kids stayed after school to read a book and have a snack is less important to the funder than that 75 of these students improved their reading scores.

Think about a program you recently developed? Can you identify your inputs, outputs and outcomes?  Are you accurately reporting those outcomes to your funder?