Grant writing can involve a frustrating set of jargon — terms like goals, objectives, outcomes, outputs, and a great many more. Even if you’ve worked with these terms before, you may encounter definitions that vary by funder, with some foundations equating goals and objectives, and others setting a clear distinction.
Surprisingly, there are industry standards for these terms, regardless of whether funders follow them. Let’s take a look at two of the most confusing: outputs and outcomes.
These two words sound like synonyms, but it’s important for grant writers to understand their differences. Confusing these two words will weaken your grant proposals; understanding them will strengthen your proposals.
By definition, an output is the physical result of your work. It’s the number of meetings, the number of people served, the number of meals delivered, and the number of trainings your organization will provide with the grant you’re applying for. Outputs do not measure the change in behavior or knowledge as a result of a grant’s activities.
On the other hand, outcomes record the changes that occur as a result of your program. Outcomes are the difference you’ve made as a result of the outputs: the decrease in hunger, the decrease in disease, the increase in a person’s ability to care for themselves, etc.
Some grants don’t ask for outcomes or outputs at all, but the ones that do expect you to know the difference.
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