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Michael Wells

About Michael

Using Logic Models in Grant Development

For many grantwriters the evaluation section at the end of a proposal is either an annoyance, a necessary evil, or something to be turned over to the "professional evaluators". The fun parts of writing the proposal like developing goals and objectives, describing programs and defining community need are approached separately from evaluation. Direct service staff like counselors often look on evaluation as an imposition that gets in the way of their real work, or an attempt to make them look bad.

But those clever evaluators have been developing tools that can be very useful to us in doing grant project planning and presenting goals and objectives. One major evaluation tool which is gaining wider usage is the Logic Model. Used correctly, a Logic Model can help in writing the body of the proposal, improve services and provide all of the ingredients for making evaluation a snap.

As funders increasingly move towards wanting specificity and results, we see RFP's and guidelines asking for things like "outcome-based evaluation", "best practices" programs, and "sustainable" organizations. Describing these parts in a narrative can get pretty complex and boring, the death of fundable proposals. We've all had examples of RFP's that required so much detail that the heart of our program gets lost in verbiage. Wouldn't it be easier if you could just draw a picture?

You can! A logic model is a visual presentation of how your organization does its work -- the theory and assumptions underlying the program you're seeking to fund. It shows the relationships among the resources you have/need to operate your program, the activities you plan to do, and the results you hope to achieve.

Drawing # 1 shows the components of a Program Logic Model.

Each component is linked to the next in a conditional logic "If-Then" relationship, like computer programming in Basic. If you have access to resources, Then you can carry out program activities. If you carry out program activities, Then you can deliver program services (outputs). If you provide program services, Then clients will benefit (outcomes). If your clients benefit, Then hoped for changes will happen in your community (impact).

In the familiar grantwriting format of developing goals and objectives, goals may become outcomes or impact, and objectives can roughly translate into outputs. The following two examples show the theory and practice of developing a program logic model. They also include a feedback loop (the arrows at the bottom) for Continuous Quality Improvement programs.

Drawing # 2 defines the components and examples of each one.

Drawing # 3 is a sample Program Logic Model for a School and Community Violence Prevention Project.

The obvious advantage of a logic model for the grantwriter is that one simple graphic shows the funder how their grant works with other community resources to carry out your program, and provides the basis for evaluation. Talk about a picture being worth a thousand words!

When developing a Project Logic Model, evaluation professionals recommend starting with Impacts/Goals and working backwards through outcomes, outputs, activities and resources. If you're working with an organization's program staff, this helps them focus on what the funder wants (results) rather than what they want (funding). This can result in thinking of new ways of doing things and leaving behind practices that may only loosely be linked to the programs intended outcomes.

In this brief article I've covered the basics of a Program Logic Model, which is perhaps most useful to a grantwriter. There are other types of logic models with other uses, a Theory Approach Model that is useful for internal planning and "making the case" for a program, and an Activities Approach Model that's most useful for implementation. There is, of course, much more to the subject. Fortunately, there is a wonderful and easily accessible resource on logic models that goes into more detail, including forms and step-by-step instructions. On the Kellogg Foundation website, on the left hand side of the home page, is their free 62-page Logic Model Development Guide, downloadable as an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file.

If you get further involved and want to start using logic models for evaluation, check out The Evaluation Forum, a program of Organizational Research Services in Seattle, They have several affordable publications on outcome-based evaluation.


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