These words (outputs and outcomes) appear frequently in the world of fundraising and are key to writing clear funding applications.
If you can clearly articulate your project outputs and outcomes, your application is more likely to be understood by a potential funder. In turn, this can make them more inclined to support your project.
Some funders such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) base their entire grant-making criteria (and therefore grant committee decision-making) around outcomes. How well a proposed project can articulate its outcomes will influence the success or failure of an application. NLHF also expects to see clearly defined outputs.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund website has useful guidance on how to meet their outcomes criteria. The guidance is relevant when applying to all potential funders.
Thinking about outputs and outcomes from the outset of your project helps you define the impact your project will have. Reporting your impact is a key part of successful fundraising and important to grant funders. Understanding more about project planning and impact reporting will help you to write a stronger application. Benefact Trust has a range of advice and resources including a blog post from the Church Urban Fund on evaluation for churches.
An output is the services or goods that are delivered. An outcome is the difference the output will make. The examples below provide a quick and easy way to remember the difference between an output and an outcome:
- The output of your church’s foodbank may be that 50 emergency food parcels are delivered. The outcome is that families across the community don’t go hungry or into debt to buy food.
- The output of your church posting leaflets may be that you have contacted an additional 100 people to connect them to an online Sunday worship service. The outcome is more connected, fewer socially isolated people with higher levels of wellbeing during social distancing.
- The output of your church’s youth programme may be that 10 teenagers talk to a youth worker. The outcome is more young people have increased self-esteem and improved social skills.