How to Create A Logic Model
This post is part of our Evaluation Foundations series, where we walk through different aspects of evaluation planning to support organizations in preparing and building capacity for strong evaluation. Check out the previous posts on theory of change and our intro to logic models and stay tuned for posts on evaluation plans and more!
Logic models are an important part of program development and evaluation, and can be invaluable for supporting communication with internal and external stakeholders. Missed the introduction to logic models? Check it out to learn about parts of a logic model and then come back to create one!
Organizational or Program Logic Model?
When developing a logic model, first you need to determine whether you are creating it for one program or your entire organization. If you would like to outline the full organization, it is important to divide the logic model sections by programs. Some programs in your organization you may not officially think of as “programs,” but have separate activities and intended outcomes than the other services you provide. These may include administration, fundraising, marketing, human resources, etc. Even a one-person department can be a separate program if they are working towards different outcomes.
When developing a logic model, start with one program at a time. Later on you may decide to combine a couple of smaller programs (e.g., fundraising and marketing) if their activities and outcomes overlap. But first, start with one program at a time.
Download our logic model template here to get started!
If You're Documenting Existing Programs...
Start with Activities
If the program already exists, start by identifying your major activities. What happens in this program? What do we do to make a difference in the community? List out all of the major activities (and some minor ones if you’re on the fence about whether they should be included).
Move on to Outputs, then Outcomes
Next, for each activity identify the outputs (evidence the activity was completed) and outcomes (short-term changes). Every activity should have outputs and outcomes directly associated with it. I often number the activities and related outputs and outcomes to show a clear connection between the three. Inputs and impacts are a bit more general, so I don’t include these in the same numbering system.
As you’re developing outputs and outcomes, you may find that several activities have the same outcome. At this point, you may decide to combine a few of the activities into a broader activity category, keeping the same outputs and combining the outcomes. This makes the most sense when the activities seem to go together.
Identify your Impacts
After your activities, outputs, and outcomes are all written down, identify the overall impacts (long-term or community changes) these activities are intended to create. These should align with your mission, vision, and the overall direction of your organization.
Document your Resources
Lastly, identify the resources you need in order to effectively implement the activities and make the intended changes in the community. You may find that you need more resources than you have, which can help you target your capacity building and fundraising activities.
If You're Planning New Programs...
New programs should be developed based on an assessment of community needs. After understanding the issues you want to address in the community, a creating a logic model can be a great next step for designing the program. When developing a logic model for a new program, start with the impacts and work backwards by answering the following questions:
What are the long-term changes your program is hoping to make? (Impacts)
How will the community look different after the program has been implemented?
How will the individuals served be impacted in seven years? Ten years?
What are the shorter-term changes that will lead to the long-term changes? (Outcomes)
What are the results you are hoping to see soon after programming is implemented?
What will really help solve the issue(s) you hope to address in the community?
What activities will best make these long-term and short-term changes? (Activities)
HINT: this is where the bulk of your research should be! What are the evidence-based interventions or programs that have proven to make the short and long-term changes you’ve identified? Start by seeing what has already worked and which interventions could apply to your target population.
What outputs will best prove the activities are being implemented? (Outputs)
How can we know that we implemented the interventions as they were designed?
What do peer-reviewed journal articles say about how these services, programs, or interventions are best implemented (e.g., dosage of services)?
What resources will you need to effectively implement the planned activities? (Inputs)
If you could have everything you could possibly need, what would that list include?
What are the most important resources you need to secure to start?
Then, share and USE it!
Get feedback from your staff, board, and other internal stakeholders to refine your logic model. The first draft is often just a starting place, and will likely need to be updated multiple times until you find something that truly reflects your programs.
Check for consistency and accuracy, and work to reduce errors. For example, if your outputs include specific numbers in some sections, work to include that same level of detail in all sections. Also ensure all of your columns use the same tense in each section (e.g., "will be" language in all outcomes columns, but present or present perfect tense in other columns).
Once it’s finalized and approved, share it with your funders, volunteers, and supporters. This information hopefully isn't new to anyone, but seeing it all laid-out can help your stakeholders to better understand why you do what you do.
Use some of the language for your marketing and fundraising efforts! Now that you have settled on some specific language for activities and outcomes you hope to achieve, start using that information in all your communications. While a donor may not care about seeing your logic model, they would like to know how their donation will help make a difference in the world.
Use the logic model to begin developing your evaluation plans. Now that you know the outputs that prove you are implementing programs as intended, start measuring those! You can also begin further defining and evaluating your program outcomes.
As this is a living document, your logic model should be reviewed each year. Programs change, so it’s important that your logic model is updated regularly to reflect that.
Stay tuned for more posts in our Evaluation Foundations series!
I’m Amanda Wallander Roberts, MSSW, a consultant passionate about building fundraising and evaluation capacity with social organizations. I’ve helped over 60 social service organizations fundraise and evaluate programs, including raising over $22 million and developing more than 50 logic models, evaluation plans, and process maps. Learn more about my services or contact me for support today!