Voluntary and community organisations are familiar with describing what they do and identifying who they work with. But they also need to identify the changes that come about from the work that they do. These are called 'outcomes'.


Many funders want to show that grants can make a real difference to the lives of the communities they support. It can also help organisations plan, develop and improve their work.

Identifying outcomes will help decide what work your organisation should be focusing on and what projects, services or activities you need funding for.

This section is based on the good work developed by the Charities Evaluation Service and Big Lottery Fund on outcomes funding and helps to explain what outcomes are and why they are important. More detailed guidance on how you identify outcomes and measure outcomes is available by accessing the useful resources at the end of this section.

What are outcomes?

Outcomes are all the changes and effects that actually happen as a result of your work, expected or unexpected, welcome or unwelcome. The outcomes you deliver are all the specific changes that will help to achieve your mission or aims.

There are many different kind of outcomes, but you are most likely to bring about long-term change for:

  • Individuals - e.g. greater self-esteem, reducing offending, increased awareness
  • Families - e.g. improved relationships, less conflict at home
  • Communities - e.g. more people using recycling, less fear of crime
  • Organisations - e.g. better trained volunteers, manage resources better

Why are outcomes important?

Information on outcomes can help you and your organisation work more effective. It helps you:

  • Identify what works well and what you could change or improve
  • Report back to funders more effectively
  • Provide evidence to help you plan
  • Develop services based on what your users need and not what you think they need
  • Create a shared understanding of what the project can achieve
  • Useful for staff development and monitoring progress
  • Make your organisation more efficient and effective in long-run
  • Work towards building a sustainable future

For commissioners and funders it is a useful way of assessing how well an organisation, project or service is performing and can reduce bureacracy and promote better regulation.

Useful resources

Big Lottery Fund - "Explaining the difference your project makes" guide - This guide sets out some of the main steps that you will have to take to plan and manage a project using an outcomes approach. The guide is useful for a wide range of applicants, but it is primarily aimed at those who are new to the outcomes approach and want to find out more.