Beware of Awareness Outcomes

April 18, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Outcomes rule when it comes to grant proposals. Outcomes are the results that nonprofits claim will come about from the proposed grant-funded program. Because funders invest in positive social change, specific and measurable outcomes are an essential element of a successful grant proposal.

“It’s not unusual for nonprofits to propose ‘increased awareness’ as their intended outcome,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “But increased awareness — of the importance of exercise, the dangers of smoking, the causes of obesity, etc. — doesn’t necessarily translate into positive change.”

To motivate change, it might be necessary to increase people’s understanding of the issues being addressed. “Educating people is often a reasonable and necessary activity of a grant-funded program,” said Floersch. “But increased awareness is a means to an end. It’s not a meaningful outcome.”

When developing outcomes, consider what you would want people to do differently because of their increased understanding and knowledge. For example, would you want them to adopt a healthier diet or quit smoking? “Producing increased understanding is not particularly difficult,” said Floersch. “But producing change is often extremely difficult.”

Think deeply about the problem your organization is addressing. If your approach is not capable of producing real change, go back to the drawing board. “Don’t let your organization off the hook,” said Floersch. “Explore, push, and innovate until your program plan has the muscle and focus to actually improve the situation you’re concerned about. Then develop outcomes that define specific, measurable improvements that you expect to result from your work.” © Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center.