These days, I deal with a lot of people in the nonprofit/philanthropic sector for whom the topic of programmatic outcomes is fraught with anxiety.
It’s always unnerving when I discover that they equate outcomes with what they do (i.e., outputs), rather than with the change that occurs as a result of what they do (i.e., outcomes). In other words, there a lot of nonprofit and philanthropic professionals who are not only anxious about programmatic outcomes, but who are confused about the exact nature of what they are tracking.
Fortunately, help is at hand. A while back, while I was working on a nonprofit management information project with Third Sector New England, we shot a short video, in which Deborah Linnell (then with TSNE, now with the van Beuren Charitable Foundation) explained about outputs, outcomes, and logic models.
This video is not only brief but clear. I recommend it to anyone who is working in a mission-based organization, and urge you to replay it on a regular basis, lest confusion set in again. It’s worth the time, effort, and bandwidth to stay clear on this important distinction.