5 Things All Nonprofit Leaders Should Know about Logic Models by Ann Emery

A post from our special guest blogger, Ann Emery…

Logic models, log frames, and theories of change, oh my! No matter what you call them, logic models are crucial evaluation tools for all nonprofits.

Here are the top 5 things all nonprofit leaders should know about logic models:

1.  There’s no “right” design for a logic model. A simple Google search will return hundreds of examples of logic models…


… and that’s okay!

Logic models are pictures that show the connection between the work you’re doing and the changes you hope to see. For example, the work you’re doing (“activity”) might be a year-long financial coaching program, and the changes you hope to see might include reduced debt or increased financial stability (“outcomes”). Formatting doesn’t matter. There are infinite correct ways to display this information.

2.  Logic models are internal and external communication tools. Need to describe your work to a new colleague? Grab your logic model. Need to explain your programmatic approach to a potential new funder? Grab your logic model. I’ve seen lots of nonprofit staff keep their logic models taped next to their desk for easy reference.

3.  When designing logic models, two heads–or ten!–are better than one. All too often, I witness nonprofit grantwriters crafting logic models alone at their desk. You might consider getting feedback from frontline staff, a few Board members, and a few of the program’s funders. This is where professional evaluators can help. The evaluator’s role is to facilitate meetings of this evaluation workgroup, bring everyone’s voices together, and put the common themes into the logic model.

4.  The process of creating a logic model is just as valuable–or more!–as the final product. Need a dozen drafts before your logic model is finalized? No problem. On a recent project, we created almost 40 drafts with an evaluation work group.

5.  Logic models are living, breathing documents. Logic models are most helpful when they’re revisited regularly–like at your annual staff retreat, or when submitting an annual report to a funder. Your edits might be minor, like adjusting the wording of your outcomes to better explain what your nonprofit is trying to accomplish. Or, your changes might be more substantial, like adding or removing an element of your program that you found was no longer successful. Either way, the critical thinking skills that go into logic models will keep your nonprofit on track for success.

Ann Emery is an evaluator at Innovation Network in Washington, DC. She blogs at emeryevaluation.com and tweets from @annkemery.