Motion is not movement. Outputs are not outcomes.

We are constantly asking organizations to measure more metrics, collect more data and set more goals, but are we measuring the right things? You’ve probably heard a lot about measuring outcomes and not outputs; what’s the difference and why is it important?

Outputs are any activity or measurable your organization might engage in or produce. It might be the number of visits to your website, number of phone calls you receive, donor coffees, etc, etc. Outcomes are something you measure that is in alignment with your mission and an actual impact or accomplishment result. These could be number of homeless lifted off the street, number of animals saved from being killed, suicides prevented, new income dollars to live musicians, etc.

The reason it’s important to measure outcomes and not just outputs, is that your organization may be doing a great job checking off output measurement goals and still failing in its mission. It is very easy to mistake the two and to feel good about hitting output goals without ever actually hitting the outcomes you want.

Getting from outputs to outcomes:

  • With each output goal, ask yourself: Why is accomplishing this goal important?

  • Look at the reason it’s important ask “why?” again.

  • Repeat asking “Why?” until the answer becomes “Because that’s critical to our mission”

  • Now you’ve got an outcome!


  • Ex: Output goal: Double facebook likes this year on org page

  • Why is that important? We want people to know about us!

  • Why is people knowing about us important? Because we need more and newer donors.

  • Why do we need more and newer donors? Overtime we will lose our old donors through fatigue and then we won’t have the money we need to accomplish our mission.

  • Why is money important? Funding is critical to our mission!

  • OUTCOME goal shift: Raise $XX dollars from new donors

  • Are Facebook likes the best way to get there? Maybe. Maybe not.

  • Now you can test Facebook as a way to generate new dollars and compare it to other methods, but just getting likes shouldn’t be the goal itself -- it’s just an output, not an outcome.

Dan Graham