Making Friends with Logic Models

Which grant application requirement is likely to be voted “most intimidating” by grant professionals? Quite often it is the Logic Model – that graphic illustration or chart of outcomes, outputs, objectives and so many other criteria that seem to blur together compared to a concrete, fact-based “needs statement”. Let’s take a new look at ways we can ease the pain of developing logic models and appreciate its many uses.

A grant application is simply a well-planned project put into writing. The narrative tells the story; the logic model shows the plan. While there are many iterations of a logic model, they all have one thing in common – they are a graphic depiction of your project/program plan. They frequently use different terms depending on whether you are using a “common application form”, prepared by some regional grant associations, or a U.S. federal grant (e.g., Department of Justice).

Still, most are similar in terms of what they require: A clear picture of the impact of your project (outcomes), what you need to do to achieve project goals (activities, outputs), what resources you need (inputs), and a plan for how you know that you have achieved the outcomes (SMART objectives).

“The process of developing the model is an opportunity to chart the course. It is a conscious process that creates an explicit understanding of the challenges ahead, the resources available, and the timetable in which to hit the target” (W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide, updated January 2004).

Sounds like a valuable thing to do, right? Here are some quick tips for making the process painless and even enjoyable:

1) Know your target population. The logic model may not specifically require this, but you must keep your target population in mind throughout the process since these are the people (or animals, or environment) that are being served and for which there will be measurable outcomes.

2) Always start with the “outcomes”. Outcomes inform every element of your program/project plan. Imagine…what would be different if you already HAD all the funding you need? What would be different and better for your target population?

3) Next, focus on either the “activities/outputs” or “objectives/target” – Develop the “activities/outputs” that clearly document what you will do to achieve the outcomes OR the “objectives/target” that will determine how you will know if you have achieved the outcomes. When done with one, focus on the other.

4) List the “inputs” or, what you will need to accomplish this work. Inputs relate directly to your program budget. In fact, often each input is a line item in the budget (3.5 FTE staff, 50 volunteers, advertising cost, meeting space, etc.).

5) Don’t do this alone. Really. Part of the value of developing a logic model is the process that you undergo as you discuss what is really feasible and desirable with your staff, board, and/or collaborating partners.

I consider the Logic Model a valuable planning tool and “friend” to the grant professional. When my clients have an idea for a new program or wish to fund an existing program, we almost always develop the logic model first. It’s the backbone of every grant application and a great starting point, whether the grant guidelines require it or not.

©Grants4Good LLC®, 2017


Margit Brazda Poirier is the founder and owner of Grants4Good LLC, a grant development consulting company based in Rochester, New York.