Program Evaluation Terminology 101

When an organization or nonprofit begins participating in an evaluation, some of the vocabulary can be unclear to staff who are newcomers to the process. Understanding evaluation terminology can help you gain a better grasp of the evaluation process, so we’ve put together a list of some of the most important terms and definitions to help you along the way.


  • Logic Model
    visual representation of the most critical elements of a program’s operation and expected outcomes, which identifies critical areas for evaluation
  • Evaluation
    systematic collection of information about the activities, characteristics, and outcomes of a program in order to make judgments, improve program effectiveness, and facilitate informed decisions about future programming
  • Goal
    general statement of purpose that may specify the long-term intended results of a program or project
  • Indicator
    characteristic or type of desired change that is measured to assess achievement of the outcome
  • Inputs
    the resources dedicated to or consumed by the program, i.e.. money, staff, and facilities
  • Outputs
    direct units of service from a program’s activities
  • Outcomes
    the benefit/change resulting from an action, often used to refer to benefits to individuals, families, communities, or larger populations during or after program participation