What Is a Logic Model and Why Do I Need It to Evaluate My Nonprofit’s Programs?

April 5, 2018

Grey figure holding a green check mark in one hand and a red x in the otherA nonprofit should engage in organizational evaluation to ensure that all financial resources and human capital are being used toward fulfilling its mission. Defined, cost-effective procedures must be used for evaluating, both qualitatively and quantitatively, programs and projects in relation to mission. These procedures should address programmatic efficiency and effectiveness, outcomes for program participants, and the relationship of these outcomes to the cost of achieving them.

Evaluations should include input from program participants and should monitor the satisfaction of participants. They should be candid and should be used by leadership to strengthen the organization’s effectiveness, and, when necessary, be used to make programmatic changes.

As the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector states, “a nonprofit should engage in organizational evaluation to ensure that all financial resources and human capital are being used toward fulfilling its mission.” Nonprofit leaders should carefully consider how much effort is expended on the organization’s various program areas.

Sometimes, when you get lost in a sea of words and numbers, you find that a picture tells a better story. A logic model is a diagram that helps clarify the links between the components of your program design. When you plan a program, you make assumptions about why doing an activity will result in a benefit. Sometimes those assumptions are based on documented evidence from similar programs; sometimes they are based on new theories; sometimes, you are not aware that you are making assumptions.

When you try to make a change, you have a theory in mind about why certain inputs, activities, and outputs will result in certain outcomes. The logic model helps you to make this theory visible to yourself and to others. Whether you format it as a vertical or horizontal flow chart or another configuration, a logic model quickly communicates the reasoning behind your program. Each component should logically lead to, or influence, the next: “If we program X, then outcome Y will occur.”

A nonprofit logic model might have these components:

Our Program Evaluation educational resource packet explains why program evaluation is important, where evaluation fits in to the program cycle, and various approaches to evaluation. A list of resources at the end leads you to more in-depth information for designing and completing your own evaluations and/or for working with professional evaluators. 

For access to our Program Evaluation Educational Resource Packet and other resources, join Maryland Nonprofits today!  

From the Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The Standards for Excellence code, developed by the Standards for Excellence Institute, includes specific benchmarks and measures that provide a structured approach to building capacity, accountability, and sustainability in your nonprofit organization. The code identifies 6 major areas of nonprofit governance and management: Mission, Strategy, and Evaluation; Leadership: Board, Staff, and Volunteers; Legal Compliance and Ethics; Finance and Operations; Resource Development and Fundraising; and Public Awareness, Engagement and Advocacy.

The Standards for Excellence® Institute, a program of Maryland Nonprofits, provides the best possible resources to nonprofits nationwide, helping build their capacity to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of their communities. Members of Maryland Nonprofits gain access to an online community with an expansive library of resources and customizable templates. Membership with Maryland Nonprofits is designed to help you raise more money, develop your board, build relationships, learn, save on the things you need to run your organization, and amplify your voice in Annapolis. Join today.