Reporting on outcomes is becoming more and more important for Not-for-profit Organisations (NPO), however many organisations are yet to get their heads around or have a clear understanding of what their outcomes actually are. In a recent Auckland North Community and Development (ANCAD) workshop presented by Carol Scholes of Threshold Management & Coaching, the importance of having defined outcomes within a NPO was highlighted and we have summarised this for you below.

Outcomes are defined by the Annie E Casey Foundation as the ‘Short, intermediate or long term changes that can occur among individuals, families, communities, organisations and/or systems’. They look at the bigger picture and can include things like ‘changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills, behaviours, health and/or conditions’. They are important because they provide an organisation with a shared understanding of what success actually looks like along with a clear vision of what they stand for and what is trying to be achieved. If an organisation doesn’t have clear outcomes then it becomes far too easy to go off track and throw valuable time and resources into projects and activities that really have no relevance or benefit to what that organisation was set up to achieve.

When an organisation is clear about what change it wants to make in the community or what need it wants to fill, then it can identify what they would see happening if the change happened. The changes seen are the outcomes. If the organisation knows what it wants to achieve, it can develop its theory of what needs to be done to make those outcomes come about. This line of reasoning is called the ’theory of change’.

Once your organisation has defined outcomes, these can then be used to create an Outcomes Map. An Outcomes Map is an incredibly valuable tool for any organisation to have as this document quickly and easily shows people why you do what you do and why you think it will work. This document should tell the story of your organisation in a flow-chart style diagram and can be attached to funding applications or given out to new members.

Outcomes are not a quick or easy thing for an organisation to come up with and will require a brave and in depth conversation to be had by your Board or governance body and more than a few hard questions will need to be asked. However, when the hard yards are done and you come out the other side of the discussion with clear and defined outcomes you’ll find you have a stronger, more unified and focused organisation going forward.

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