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Measurable Outcomes...Wait, what?

A huge RFP comes across your desk. Your organization has the perfect program for the RFP. Funding is but one deadline away! You begin working on the narrative. All goes well – you’ve written a tight Project Description, your treasurer has created a strong Project Budget, the Needs Statement is compelling – until you reach the Measurable Outcomes section. 

It’s a fancy word for objectives, right? 
Measuring tape As seasoned grant writers know, all projects/programs should have Goals and Objectives that are subsequently translated into a set of Measurable Outcomes. These outcomes can then be monitored using quantitative (data, numbers, measurements, statistics) or qualitative (characteristics, senses, intangibles, subjective) approaches – or both. Additionally, they should also be used to track the project’s progress throughout the grant period, guide any necessary changes, and evaluate its ultimate success at the end of the program year.

Are they really that important?
Never under-estimate how measurable outcomes work to secure grant funding. Spend time on this section of the grant! Just because it gives you angst, don’t put it off until the deadline looms hoping for last minute wisdom. Don’t treat the explanation of your program’s Measurable Outcomes offhandedly, or fail to give them careful attention. Well defined outcomes will increase your chances of receiving funding for your program/project. Grant reviewers understand that designing solid Measurable Outcomes are a key element in any successful program. Writing a statement in the grant regarding a “plan that you will design once the project is funded” is a huge red flag to a foundation that you haven’t been thorough about project needs from program inception to completion. Use the Measurable Outcomes section as an opportunity to create a clear and concise blueprint that will keep the entire program (and you!) focused and on task.

Do our Measurable Outcomes make sense?
Program outcomes should clearly establish the benefits of funding your project in measurable terms. Remember, however, to not confuse OUTCOMES with METHODS. Methods are the means to the project and outcomes are the ends of the project. Two key characteristics of effective measurable outcomes include:

  • Action undertaken by your organization that is measurable
  • Answers to the who/what/when/how of your program

Start the Measurable Outcomes section of the grant by stating the program Goal,Trying to be Objective with Program Goals followed by an Objective, and concluded with the Measurable Outcome. Clear objectives help measure your outcomes. Go ahead and format this section into a bulleted list or very short, specific paragraphs. Grant reviewers like legible formats. Here’s an example:

Goal: Help K-5 public school children read better.
Objective: Creation of an after-school reading program to assist 50+ children.
Outcome: Improvement of reading scores by one grade level as seen on standardized tests given after six months of participation.

This example is spot on because it answered all of the who/what/when/how of your program. Who? K-5 public school children. What? Read better; improve reading scores. When? After-school. How? Creation of a reading program. If you can answer all of these questions for all your organization’s programs, then you are on your way to a set of great Measurable Outcomes!

Priceless Tip?
Having a well-written Measureable Outcomes section is a key component of effective grants, not to mention the beginning of the possibility of repeat funding. Your final grant report will outline – in measurable terms – the outcomes of your project … and that report sets up your organization for the next proposal request. Funders want to know what their return on investment is going to be if they fund your program. Make it easy to get your program funded – write strong Measurable Outcomes.

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This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.

About the Author

Karen A. Swanson, CFRE is a full-time contract grant writer with extensive experience in writing federal, foundation, and corporate grants, as well as development marketing materials. Karen has worked with numerous consulting firms and not-for-profit organizations across the U.S. for nearly 25 years. Read Karen’s full bio here.

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