GreenTown Los Altos

Outputs, Outcomes


Jun 2019


~by Gary Hedden

Grace Hammond, behind the podium, at the workshop Outputs vs. Outcomes and Why It Matters.

How do you measure success? It’s important. We need to know if what we are doing is working. We need to know if all the effort is worth it.

A workshop hosted by the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits offered some insight. GreenTown was there and we learned that the first step is to pick our goals. What is our objective and how will meeting the objective help us achieve our mission?

Our presenter, Grace Hammond, hao two words for us to help explain the process. Outputs and Outcomes. Outputs are the “how” and they should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-limited. Outcomes are the “impact” and good outcomes will advance the mission.

She offered an example to illustrate the concept. A health care organization with the mission that “no child shall die from a preventable disease” could have an output that they will inoculate 10,000 kids in Ghana in the next year to reduce polio by 75%. It’s very specific, can be measured, can likely be achieved, should reduce deaths and has a time limit of one year. After one year, the outcome is evaluated. Did it achieve the expected result? Did it advance the mission by reducing childhood deaths?

She had other examples, but the point she made to the nonprofit organizations in the room, and there were about 40 participants representing a wide variety of groups, is that we should always measure the outcomes of our activities and test the results against our mission statement. GreenTown does that. With our anti-idling program, we surveyed driver behavior, then we began a program at Los Altos High School that included signage in the drop-off/pick-up areas, driver education, and stickers to remind folks to do the right thing. It worked! A follow-up survey showed a nearly 80% reduction in idling. That is the kind of information that our supporters/donors expect and it is important to our volunteers too. By measuring outcomes we really know we are accomplishing good things, and that’s an inspiring motivator.

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