The Simplest Way to Explain or Plan Your Charity’s Work

Intro

This article will introduce you to one of the simplest frameworks you can use to plan your charity’s work: the logic model.

As well as being the easiest framework to understand, it’s also a great way of introducing those new to impact practice to the basic vocabulary and concepts.

You should be able to have anyone in your organisation: volunteer, staff, trustee complete or read one of these and understand the basics of what the charity or team or project delivers.

Regardless of the size or scope of your organisation, being able to evidence basic planning is incredibly important to give credibility to your work and to ensure you’re making the most of limited resources. Yet you’d be amazed at how many people do not go through this stage.

Keep reading to find out how to plan your work in just five steps whilst learning the key vocabulary and concepts that are core to impact practice.

Inputs

These are the resources you require if you are going to be able to deliver anything at all.

The resource that usually first comes to people’s minds is money. But ask yourself what the money is being used to buy and this may guide you to some of your other resources.

If your money is for overheads, your resources might include your office, utilities, printers, administrative support time, or management support time. If your money is for salaries and expenses, your resources might include volunteers and staff. If your money is for training and development, then your resources might include staff expertise.

Alternatively, you might have resources donated to you: professionals’ time pro bono, materials, or furniture. Or you might be borrowing resources such as meeting rooms, a conference room or equipment.

Consider whether partner organisations or consortium members will provide support as well such as their staff expertise, time or facilities. Be sure to include those too.

If you want to go a step further, you can quantify in your planning how much of each resource you require.

For example: two volunteers for two full days a week each; £20,000 marketing budget; 16 hours of sessional worker time; 20 hours of meeting room availability each week; use of a 100 person capacity conference room for one day in the year.

This information will then help you in planning your budget.

 

Processes

Your processes are your back office functions: they are the things that happen behind the scenes before you can deliver any services, projects or interventions. These happen away from frontline support.

Listing out your processes can help frontline staff understand how traditionally back-office functions such as HR, finance, comms, and IT play a role in supporting frontline services. Particularly where the logic model relates specifically to their own service or project. You might even have frontline staff list them out for you so they make the connections and develop the appreciation themselves.

Processes might include: recruitment of staff or volunteers, designing a promotional campaign for the service, developing materials that will be used in service delivery, or setting up monitoring and evaluation systems.

These processes may even combine to form their own project and require specific project management to make them happen.

For example, you may need to establish a project to support a new marketing campaign which would involve several stages including researching, copy writing, graphic design, printing and social media promotion.

When that project has completed, it should allow the next stage on the logic model to be delivered.

 

Outputs

These are the things that you deliver in order to effect change. These will often be provided directly to your end user, but may also be aimed at those related to the end user. All of your outputs together could be surmised as your ‘intervention’. Or to remember it more easily, ‘what you put out there’.

Outputs might include: workshops, sessions, one-to-to one advice, phone/text/chat service, peer support, online tools, conferences, consultation responses, leaflets, stalls, talks, meetings with government, provision of resources (food, shelter, equipment) to those you exist to serve.

It is often quite easy to quantify outputs and you might want to include this in your planning at this stage.

For example, if you’re delivering workshops, how many do you plan to deliver? Over what period of time? With what frequency? On which topics?

If you are quantifying your inputs at the same time as you are quantifying your outputs, it will help someone reading your logic model to see to what extent there is value for money as they will be able to see the equivalent cost of delivery.

 

Outcomes

Your outcomes are the answer to ‘why’ you are delivering this intervention. It should always be stated right at the start of any planning what positive changes you are hoping will occur as a result of delivering any project or programme.

The outcome is the change, the difference or the result of your work. Or to remember it more easily, ‘what comes out of your work’.

Because an outcome is a change, it should be expressed through words of change such as ‘increased’, ‘decreased’, ‘prevented’, ‘reduced’, ‘ended’ or ‘improved’. These changes might apply to people, animals, environments, communities, professionals, or organisations.

Outcomes can be short term, medium term, or long term. They are the changes that you are likely able to bring about through your work alone.

Those changes might occur immediately, for example improving people’s knowledge on a topic following a workshop (short term).

They might take a few weeks or months to occur, for example improving people’s access to services through referrals or advocacy (medium term).

Or they might take many months or years to occur such as reducing the environmental impact of an organisation on the surrounding community (long term).

 

Impact

The word ‘impact’ is one of the most confused pieces of terminology in the charity sector, with different people understanding different things from this one word.

In best practice and in the context of the logic model, impact is understood as the ambitious, long-term change that you hope to bring about for those you exist to serve. It is change that may take years and years to achieve, and probably won’t be achieved just by your organisation’s work alone.

Many organisations are keen to state they have had an ‘impact’ when really they have achieved short or medium term outcomes.

If you deliver a two-hour workshop to 100 young people on interview techniques and afterwards you ask all the participants ‘How confident do you feel about the thought of doing an interview compared to before you came to the workshop?’ If 98% of them say they feel ‘more confident’ about doing interviews following the workshop, the organisation can claim a short term outcome has been achieved. But it is not impact at this point.

If you asked participants six months later how confident they felt about doing interviews, the percentage that answered ‘more confident’ will probably have reduced and possibly quite significantly. Especially if no support has been given since. They may have forgotten the content by then or have experienced setbacks in those past six months that has knocked their confidence. If the outcome has not been sustained, there can be no impact.

Furthermore, if your ultimate goal for change is to improve the employment rates of young people in the UK, even if the participants claim they are still confident with interviews as a result of the workshop or other intervention from your organisation, if their confidence isn’t resulting in them being offered jobs, then impact still has not been achieved.

Changing the national employment rates of young people is a massive change to achieve. It may take a combination of widespread, effective frontline support to thousands of young people, changes in employer practices across the country, even changes in national government policy or funding allocation. It is unlikely that one organisation alone could achieve this.

Whilst it is crucial that all organisations state their intended impact in their planning prior to any intervention, it is important to acknowledge that impact is very ambitious long term change that may never even be achieved.

For this reason, it is important that organisations focus on measuring their outcomes as the first step, and use their outcome indicators as measures of initial success.

 

Conclusion

The logic model is a very simple, five-step method for planning your work.

This article has gone into great detail on the meaning behind the terminology used because the logic model also offers the perfect opportunity to introduce staff and volunteers to the basic concepts and terminology in impact practice. 

Whoever is in charge of designing the logic model must understand these key concepts first. Once those key concepts are understood, it will be easy to run through those five steps. It should then be clear to anyone reading the logic model how the project will work from start to end, even without a background in impact practice.