The Logic Behind Logic Models
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Posted by: Shannon Dombkowski, GPC
When you hear “logic model” do you want to turn and run in the opposite direction? During my years as a grant professional, I’ve learned there are two types of people – those who love logic models and those who never want to see one again. I classify myself as the former. But I remember the first time I stared at that empty diagram on my screen. I was confused and overwhelmed. You don’t have to be! After I learned more about the role of logic models, I found them to be a key tool for any nonprofit.
A quick internet search will pull up several examples of various logic model layouts. Though they look different, they all share five key components.
- Inputs: What resources are needed to implement the program?
- Activities: What activities need to take place to achieve the goal?
- Outputs: How will you know the planned activities happened? Outputs are quantifiable.
- Outcomes: What are the benefits or changes we expect? Outcomes use SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound) wording.
- Impact: What do we ultimately want to change?
Why Should I Use a Logic Model?
Logic models are best described as a roadmap to program success. A logic model follows the “if this, then that” method. You wouldn’t hop in your car and drive to a destination for the first time without some sort of GPS, would you? If you follow the GPS directions, then you will arrive at your destination. Mapping out the path to success for your program follows the same line of thinking. If you follow the logic model, you increase the chance for participants to achieve projected outcomes.
Logic models help people outside of the organization understand how a program runs successfully. As a consultant, I find it reduces the learning curve when a client already has a logic model developed. If one is not developed, I aim to make that a priority.
Now that I’ve convinced you that a logic model is an essential tool for all nonprofits, let me share some tips and tricks.
- Bring all key players to the table. As a grant professional, you should never work in a silo. Developing a logic model is no exception. This should be a team effort to include program management, program staff working in the field, finance staff, and the CEO (if available). If the program is existing, try to get input from participants. If the program is being developed, try getting input from your target audience.
- Details matter. A logic model is not a high-level overview. Get down to details so nothing is missed. This is especially important in the input and activities categories as they often have associated costs. Those costs are why you want finance staff to help with logic model development.
- Start from the end and work backward. Most nonprofits know the impact they wish to have on their community. Start with that and look at what outcomes are needed to move the community in that direction. Then go to outputs and look at what needs to occur for outcomes to be achieved. Then look at what activities need to take place to achieve those outputs. Finally, look at what inputs are required to carry out the activities.
Beyond being a grant application attachment, logic models are a key document for nonprofits. You wouldn’t run a nonprofit without an organizational budget or a strategic plan. You shouldn’t overlook the importance of a logic model for each program.
Are you ready to build your logic model?
Article Theme: Project Description & Implementation
GPC Competency: 0.3 Effective Program/Project Design
Author Bio: Shannon Dombkowski, GPC, is the owner and lead consultant of Capstone Consulting Group, LLC, a nonprofit consulting firm based in Georgia. She started in the grants field in 2012 working with Big Brothers Big Sisters and has continued to work in the youth development sector since that time. Shannon earned her GPC in 2019.