On Outcomes, Outputs, and Butter Pecan

It’s April at last! Temperatures are on the rise, and while you might be dreaming about a relaxing spring break getaway, there’s surely one lingering issue on your mind…

How can you most effectively convey your seasonal results to donors and clients?

Oh, you weren’t thinking about that? You were busy posting pictures of flowers and ice cream on Instagram? Well, now that we’ve brought it to the forefront of your brain, let’s talk about outputs and outcomes.

Outputs are often more easily defined: what do you do, and whom do you reach? They encompass the hard facts and figures you can mine from research and data collection. Mapping out your demographics and goals in numeric terms can be valuable, as such figures are easy to compare and chart. How many people have you served? How many books has your literacy nonprofit distributed? Where’s your client base located? This is the kind of data you can plot on graphs to show your successes and opportunities in concrete terms.

Outcomes are a little more blurred around the edges: what impact did you make, and how are you progressing and growing as a nonprofit? These questions can be more abstractly interpreted, as they might involve looking at the differences you’ve made in your clients’ lives on a largely intangible basis. Outcomes show changes over time, and though they are trickier to track, reporting them accurately and compellingly can help your organization appeal to donors on a personal level.

Since we’re in the mood for ice cream (as usual), let’s use an ice cream maker as an example – one of the soft serve kinds that pumps out swirls of chocolate and vanilla goodness. Its output is ice cream; it’s fairly easy to measure how much, which flavors, and the quality. Its outcomes are a little more difficult to discern. How happy did the ice cream make its recipients feel? Were they kinder to others as a result of the frosty treat? Did those who ate ice cream feel full? To create a compelling and in-depth report on the ice cream maker, you’d need to talk about both the outputs and the outcomes.

Now that you know the difference between the two, grab a cone of chocolate brownie fudge, and start investigating!


Need help collecting outcomes and outputs? Never fear – Mockingbird Analytics can help you gather all the necessary information and teach you how to process it. If you ask nicely, maybe we’ll even share a sundae with you. But don’t hog the sprinkles.


Jan SchwaidComment