Outcomes for Basic Human Needs / Emergency Services Agencies
Nonprofit, Food Pantry, Emergency Assistance, United Way
The United Way has been pushing agencies to go through a process of defining and measuring the outcomes of their services. Makes general sense. The outcome is the "so what" of the service (e.g. the output provided is the service).
This seems to be quite difficult to do for services that meet short term or emergency basic human needs. These would include short term food/groceries, rent money to avoid eviction, utility money to avoid utility shutoff and money for prescriptions. There are probably many other examples, but the above are the services provided by my clients.
For such services, the outcome seems to be almost the same as the output. For the service of "food for the family for 3 weeks" the outcome is "the family will have nutritious food for the next 3 weeks".
Some people think there should be a more grandiose outcome and sometimes, you can engage a consultant who will work with you through a process of coming up with outcomes. While the process is not in of itself bad, it can cost quite a bit ($4,500 for one agency) and take a lot of time (12 months in one case).
The information below is to assist other similar agencies who are addressing outcomes for the first time.
The best reference for outcomes is the book produced by the United Way: Measuring Program Outcomes: A Practical Approach. It costs $5.00 plus shipping. You can order it from here:
http://www.liveunited.org/Outcomes/Resources/MPO/index.cfm <--- link now dead - see below for current link
It includes a good definition of an outcome on page xv, which you can also see online at the above link. I have copied it below:
page 76 of the book states:
Other references of interest would include:
http://www.uwex.edu/li/learner/q-a_outcomeb.htm <--- link now dead - see below for current link
http://www.chs.fsu.edu/family_institute/homeless_outcome.php?display <--- link now dead - see below for current link
The Goverment's HUD website has a document on outcomes:
In it it refers to "Proxy outcomes" and includes the following:
Proxy outcomes are surrogates or stand-ins for the actual outcome.
Proxy outcomes may be used when it is not practical to measure certain key program outcomes, it is not yet certain what the specific outcome is or that it is the best that can be undertaken until better data collection procedures can be developed. For example:
· Provision of a daily hot meal is a proxy outcome for nutrition. The number of people receiving a daily hot meal is the activity and also the outcome. The daily hot lunch is the only nutritionally balanced hot meal available to many seniors. Congregate meals also contribute to other outcomes including increased socialization, maintenance of independence, and the stabilization and reduction of depression. Research studies have shown that these are the benefits of a daily hot meal for seniors that meet eligibility requirements."
If you have other references that should be added to this listing, relative to outcomes for these kinds of services, please contact the author at