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How to Create a Logic Model: The Key Piece to Effective Programs


Jacqui Catrabone

The program committee of a nonprofit board has a variety of responsibilities that help ensure effective programming aligned with the organization’s mission.

From assessing community needs to identifying key indicators for success of programs, this committee plays a vital role in achieving strategic plan goals.

But, what do you do to ensure that your programming is effective?

When nonprofits are not confident that their programs are effective, we’ve found that there’s often a key piece missing from the program planning process.

Let us introduce: logic models!

A logic model is a graphic representation of a program, involving a series of if/then statements. In simple terms, it’s the program roadmap.

As a tool that identifies outcomes and impact measures, the creation of a logic model is essential for an effective program.

Robust logic models include three categories (input, outputs, outcomes) with six levels of planning. So, how do you create a logic model?

6 Steps to Creating a Logic Model


1.  What We Invest

The first step to creating a logic model is to determine what your organization puts into the program. Identify resources the program uses to achieve its objectives.

Examples: staff time, volunteers, money, educational packets, technology, etc.


2.  What We Do

It’s important that you answer the question, what are we actually doing within the program? Think about what your program actually does with its inputs. Be specific about each of the activities of your program and its purpose on a greater scale. Activities can happen on two levels: (1) micro — impacting individuals and (2) macro — impacting an overall community or system.

Micro Examples: train, teach, deliver services, etc.

Macro Examples: network, assess local needs, facilitate community buy-in, etc.

3.  Who We Reach

With this step, we’re focused on the receivers of your program’s activities. Answer the question, who do we reach and what are the numbers behind this? Consider the ‘who’ and ‘how many’ that will produce your desired outcomes for the program.

Micro Examples: number of people served, number of kits distributed, etc.

Macro Examples: number of agencies reached, decision-makers, elected officials, etc.


4.  Short-Term

Your program must have clearly defined outcomes so that you can track their impact. The first outcome focuses on the short-term impact. Answer the question, what happens immediately after participating in the program?

Examples: knowledge, awareness, skills, opinions, aspirations, etc.

5.  Medium-Term

After some time has passed, the desired outcomes for your program will probably look a little different. At this step, it’s important to answer the question, what actions do you hope participants have begun to take with the knowledge or experience they gained in the short-term?

Micro Examples: positive change in behavior and decision-making, etc.

Macro Examples: policy changes, social action, etc.

6.  Long-Term

Effective programs will make a lasting impact that influence individuals and the community alike. Answer the question, how will your program positively impact the conditions in which people live?

Micro Examples: improved health, well-being, higher engagement, etc.

Macro Examples: economic status, environmental change, civic duty, etc.

Now that you know how to create a robust logic model, you’re on your way to more effective programming.

Logic models will not only set your programs up for success, they will also allow you to see where a redesign may be needed. You may need to rethink your approach if you identify a desired outcome but have no activities within the program that will achieve that outcome.

Perhaps the ‘what you do’ needs to be reevaluated, or maybe your ‘long-term outcomes’ have changed.

If you need help with a program redesign or creating a robust logic model, Strategy Solutions is here!

With more than 25 years of experience, we’ve worked with both nonprofit and for-profit companies through organizational change and growth.

Debra Thompson and Jacqui Catrabone are licensed consultants, trainers and peer reviewers for the The Standards for Excellence:® An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. Contact us today!

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