Using a ‘logic model’ is sound logic for school grant seekers

At the American Association of Grant Professionals’ annual conference in November, I attended a session that covered the “logic model.” This is a concept I think all serious grant seekers should be aware of–as both an internal tool for improvement and an increasingly important grant-seeking strategy.

The logic model can be explained as a picture of how your organization does its work; the theory and assumptions underlying your programs. An effective logic model links your intended outcomes (both short- and long-term goals and objectives) with project activities.

One of my colleagues who attended the conference, and who has been very successful in securing federal grants, noted that she’s received positive feedback from both public and private funders for her use of a logic model in her grant proposals. She believes this has helped her organize the goals, objectives, and evaluation components of her proposals, while providing a comprehensive model that can be used as a part of the grants management process.

A white paper called “The Logic Model,” by Augustine (“Gus”) Wilhemy, provides a simple, easy-to-understand description of the premise and the benefits of the logic model. Wilhemy is an expert in nonprofit giving and a logic model analyst. For the last six years, he has matched nonprofit projects to major donors’ needs and desires.

During the past decade, the United Way, the Kellogg Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Centers for Disease Control have all endorsed the use of the logic model. In fact, the logic model was developed by United Way chapters in the 1990s in an effort to measure how clients’ lives were changed as a result of participating in projects the organization was funding.

According to Wilhemy, the use of the logic model has several benefits:

*It provides staff with very simple, easy-to-use quality control tools that simultaneously focus on measurable outcomes;

*It assesses short- and long-term beneficial changes in project participants;

*It develops strategies and skills in a four-step model using inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes/impacts; and

*It generates an attitudinal shift from looking solely at “numbers” to “changes in lives.”

The four components of a logic model are inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes/impacts. Inputs, also known as resources, are what you need to allocate to a project for it to be successful. Activities (also called “methodology” in grant proposals) delineate “what steps need to happen” to meet your goals and objectives. Outputs are the actual numbers associated with the project, such as the number of students participating in the project, the number of training sessions held for teachers, or the number of lesson plans developed in a particular curriculum area. Outcomes/impacts are the changes in the participants’ level of knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, or skills as a result of participating in the project. (As an aside, it’s easy to see how using randomized control trials can help you identify the outcomes/impacts of a proposed project.)

Data collection should support the logic model by defining what data will be collected and how you intend to collect them. In addition to a logic model schematic, consider including a chart in your grant proposals that outlines who will document the changes, how you will document that these changes are taking place, when and where this documentation will occur, and where it will be recorded.

Obviously, these four components can be tied directly to the goals, objectives, activities (methodology), and evaluation sections of your grant proposals, providing a clear way for potential funders to understand how all the pieces of your project work together to achieve its goals and evaluate the final results.

For more information about the logic model, visit the W.K. Kellogg Foundation web site or contact your local United Way chapter. For a copy of Wilhemy’s white paper, contact Newdea, an organization that promotes the idea of “impact-based philanthropy” by creating tools to measure grant results.

Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or

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