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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 www.wkkf.org, 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, www.organizationalresearch.com. They have several affordable publications on outcome-based evaluation.

Michael Wells

About the Contributor: Michael Wells

Michael has been consulting on grants since 1987, helping over one hundred nonprofit organizations as well as local governments, American Indian tribes and colleges to raise over $140 million. Clients of his consulting firm, Grants Northwest, have included organizations in the arts, aging, alcohol and drug services, community action, the environment, healthcare, housing, women’s services, youth and minority services.

Michael has a Masters Degree in Humanities and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive and Grant Professional Certified. He has taught Grantwriting at Portland State University since 1992 and provides workshops for community groups. He has been a presenter at national conferences for the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) for several years, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and the Council for Nonprofit Innovation. In the Pacific Northwest he has presented or trained for Technical Assistance for Community Services (TACS), Willamette Valley Development Officers (WVDO), Puget Sound Grantwriter’s Association, CNRG and the Nonprofit Network of Southwest Washington as well as others.

On a national level, Michael is a former board member of GPA where he was Treasurer for four years and chaired the 2002 national conference in Portland. He is a past board member and president of the Grant Professionals Certification Institute where he was heavily involved in developing the GPC certification process.

Michael is the author of Strategic Grantsmanship: It’s Time to Raise Your Game (2015, CharityChannel Press) and is working on his next two books, Understanding Nonprofit Finances and Understanding Program Evaluation, to be published by CharityChannel Press. Michael is also the author of the Grantwriting Beyond the Basics series of books: Proven Strategies Professionals Use to Make Their Proposals Work; Understanding Nonprofit Finances; and Successful Program Evaluation which are for sale on this site. He was editor of the CharityChannel Press online Grants and Foundations Review for seven years and is still a contributor.

Michael loves to travel with his wonderful wife Julie — favorite destinations have included India, Bali, Machu Picchu, Europe, Thailand and the Galapagos Islands as well as several places in the US, Canada and Mexico. Julie is Oregon’s premier yoga teacher. Besides travel, they love spending time with family and grandkids, dancing and going to theater and dance performances.

Michael has been a runner, dogged if not fast, for over twenty-five years (his Hood to Coast team was the Running Dogs). He is a compulsive reader and generally has 2 or more books going. He also works out, does some yoga and meditates.

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