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Working with outcomes

We’ll score your application on the extent to which it’s outcomes-oriented, so make very certain you’ve understood the outcomes funding approach.


An outcomes funder

We’re an “outcomes funder”. Easy to say but sometimes difficult to explain, so here’s how it looks from different perspectives.

How an outcomes organisation behaves

Outcomes organisations often ask themselves questions like:

  • “Family carers who are better supported by professionals are more help to both the person they’re caring for and also to themselves. How can that support be best provided?”

  • “This bit of scrubland could be built on or protected as a nature reserve. What would be the benefits and disbenefits of each? How would we know what a ‘successful outcome’ looked like here?”

  • “Studies show that providing quality advice to people in debt is not enough: people need to be able both to receive that advice and to act on it. This pilot will look at ways of dismantling those barriers. Outcomes: more people actually receiving and acting on quality advice which will increase their life skills, confidence, etc.”

  • “ All the high quality research evidence says the under-fives react best to well-planned music sessions. Most provision however is often by untrained workers. Our project will run a cost-benefit analysis on different methods of delivery. Outcome: better and cheaper early years music to an agreed standard that works well for infants, ensuring more children will enter the school system better rounded, socialised young people.


A different approach to project design

Becoming an outcomes organisation may mean standing project design on its head. Instead of asking yourself “what bit of work should we tackle next?” you’ll need to ask “who shall we try to help next/what problem would benefit from our expertise?” Youth Music reckons the first three steps in designing an outcomes project are:

  • Define the need for your project. Why should it exist in the first place?

  • Define your intended outcomes. What are the changes you would like to bring about as a result of your project?

  • Define your activities. What will you do to achieve those outcomes?


The benefits tests

Another way of looking at outcomes, says the Big lottery fund,  is to ask: can they answer these questions?

  • who will benefit from your project

  • how will it benefit them

  • what will have changed by the end?


If your outcomes can’t answer all three, chances are they’re not really outcomes after all . . .


How other funders view outcomes

These useful guides are mostly from other funders, so some of the detail might be different from our approaches described in this website.



How we will view outcomes

First, our outcomes approach to funding (and hence applicants’ approach to project design) is the only show in town. The only point of funding the sort of work we’re interested in is if it leads to benefits for someone. And so the questions we’ll be asking about projects are:

  • What outcomes of the project are intended, and why

  • How you’ll know whether you’ve achieved those outcomes

  • How you’ll know whether the project might create disbenefits and how you’d mitigate those disbenefits


And finally, because there are different ways to achieve the same outcomes, and some ways are more cost-efficient than others:

  • What the project will cost and how much of that cost applicants want from us.

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