Why Logic Models

  • Plan your work, work your plan!
  • Focus on outcomes.
  • Measure you work.
  • Tell a story donors want to hear!


By Dave Overfelt

What is a Logic Model

Logic models are in use across government, foundations, and nonprofits in order to describe programs and demonstrate success. In a broad sense, logic models describe how a program will work to solve a specific set of identified problems.

Understanding and Building Logic Models

Logic models include four broad categories of information

  1. Resources are the human, financial, partnership and other resources that go into the program. It is essential to have a clear, data-informed understanding of the problem the program is seeking to address in order to get a full sense of the resources.
  2. Activities are the programmatic steps or interventions taken that will address the problem. These activities are generally quite simply what the program staff does on a day to day basis.
  3. Outputs are what the program produces. This may include, for instance, the number of clients served by a program. Activities and outputs are frequently going to be in the same space in a nonprofit logic model but it is important to address them separately here for the purpose of understanding the overall framework. Either way will work, try to stay focused on the value of the tool rather than the format!
  4. Outcomes are the benefits that are expected to result from the program activities or interventions. These are typically divided into short, medium (or intermediate), and long-term categories where each benefit leads to the next.

If your organization operates a variety of programs with variable participants, it may be useful to include program participants (or customers) in your logic models to avoid any confusion.

Why Use a Logic Model?

Logic models point programs and organizations toward outcomes, evaluations, and performance improvements! Beyond helping your organization develop and track relevant outcomes, the logic model also identifies the programmatic activities that are essential to achieving your goals. This process can often help to uncover activities that are off-mission, redundant, or ineffective, allowing for a tighter focus on the activities that lead to the desired outcomes. More generally, the development process and the format also makes logic models a very useful tool for telling your story and building your team.

Build Your Logic Model

Importantly, a logic model can be built at at any time. It does not have to occur prior to creating or launching a program and will be valuable whenever you are seeking to scale your impact.

Do not try to do this alone! In order to make sure evidence, experience, activities, and information align, program managers should be included in the development process. At the same time, don’t get mired in overthinking the model. The model is another tool and it should evolve with experience and the growing body of evidence that is the ultimate goal of undertaking this activity.

Start with a clear understanding of the program goals and the evidence indicating how the activity or intervention will lead to the those goals. Ask yourself:

  1. What are the program goals?
  2. What activities or interventions will lead to the accomplishment of those goals?
  3. If there is not currently evidence, what will be done to demonstrate success and develop evidence?
  4. What resources are available or needed to implement those activities or interventions?
  5. What internal and external factors will constrain or support the program?

Track, Engage, Reflect, Update

In the end, a good logic model will look simple but take significant work to complete in a meaningful way. Once the logic model has been developed, however, all you have to do is revisit and update! If something isn’t working, shift and adapt to continuously improve what you do. When you use the model to support staff and board meetings, you can keep the focus on improving your impact and demonstrating success with evidence.

Helpful Resources and Tools

  • Looking for a complete guide? Take a look at this free “Logic Model Development Guide” from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
  • Want to create a cool, interactive logic model? Take a look at Dylomo. Given this is a free, web-based tool, any information submitted should be considered public.