INVESTING IN IMPACT
IMPACT = OUR DONORS’ VISION
The impact our Donors seek is captured in their vision: people are healthy, educated and economically self-sufficient. The more compelling the connection between what an applicant expects to achieve and our Donors’ vision, the stronger the case for support.
CASE FOR SUPPORT
The case for support begins with a description of the request, the need that will be addressed and the activities that will be undertaken, when and how. The target population must be described in detail, as this is one of the keys to determining fit with the Investment Framework. Starting with the end in mind, applicants must describe the intended long-term impact of the request. This impact must align to one of our Donors’ priorities and to our Donors’ vision of people being healthy, educated and economically self-sufficient. Applicants must describe in detail the specific and measurable outputs and outcomes expected to be achieved. The request should be backed by practice, research or a theory of change that is clearly explained and supports the potential for impact.
In telling the story of the request, the Applicant must describe clearly the activities it intends to undertake and provide an associated timeline. Activities are the critical steps taken and the work performed to get something done. They are often detailed in a project plan or schedule. Examples include hiring a new staff person, securing vendors, developing curriculum, training clients, buying technology, soliciting donors, hosting a fundraising event, undertaking research, securing ethics approval or engaging in planning sessions. While it can sometimes feel like an activity is an output or an outcome (“a staff person has been hired, a training session has been held”). Activities set the stage for the potential impact to come.
OUTPUTS = IMMEDIATE RESULTS
Outputs are the immediate results of the activities. They are specific, quantifiable deliverables. Examples include number of shelter bed nights provided, number of people served, amount of food distributed, number of counselling or training sessions delivered, completion of a research study, number of articles posted to an organization’s website, amount of donations generated or completion of a strategic plan. Outputs may relate directly to the participants of an organization (e.g. number of people served, amount of food distributed) or they may relate to the organization itself (e.g. financial results of fund development efforts, increased staff capacity, development of a strategic plan, construction of a new facility or an increased number of social media followers).
Some efforts, based on the nature of the work or the nature of the request, are output driven. An organization may undertake multiple activities over time and may articulate several outputs without yet being able to articulate a target population outcome. In these cases, outputs may act as a proxy for potential outcomes and, ultimately, the intended impact. Applicants must clearly state when they expect to achieve the outputs.
OUTCOMES = TARGET POPULATION CHANGE
Outputs often lead to further measurable change for people, organizations or communities. This change is an outcome. Outcomes reflect change related to the skills, knowledge, attitudes, behaviour, values, conditions or other attributes of the target population. Although outcomes may be more difficult to measure than outputs, applicants are encouraged to describe and identify intended outcomes when possible. An organization can identify intended outcomes by considering how it defines and measures success and by explaining how it efforts lead to impact.
Direct service efforts are typically focused on positive change for their participants. Here the change (outcome) flows in a relatively straight line from the activities delivered and the immediate results (outputs) achieved. An example is a food bank building its capacity to serve more people and distribute more fresh produce. The outcome is more clients receiving fruits and vegetables – with the ultimate goal of moving all recipients toward improved health.
With more complex efforts, such as those focused on policy change, the desired outcome may only be achievable well into the future with contributions from many different organizations. In these cases, indicators of influence on the target population or a specific target audience are valid outcomes that provide evidence of incremental progress toward an intended positive change. Examples include the number of people downloading a video, number of major media outlets citing the work or number of presentations made to policymakers. An organization posting information on its website (output) will achieve a positive outcome when the research is viewed, downloaded or used by others (examples of engagement with the information presented) or where a change in awareness, opinion or policy is demonstrated (by an opinion poll or survey results, for example).
TIMING AND MEASUREMENT ARE KEY
Both outputs and outcomes must be quantifiable, demonstrable, time bound and verifiable through some form of measurement, whether that be a simple count or a change measured by a validated assessment tool. Applicants are encouraged to state clearly how the outputs or outcomes will be measured, describe the tool(s) that will be used (where applicable) and indicate by when they are expected to be achieved.