The theme that resonated most with me this week was the idea that non-profits need to shift their focus from outputs to outcomes. The TED Talk by Michael Smith emphasized that too many stakeholders are interested in outputs-how many meals served, coats donated, etc., and this causes non-profits to place too much weight on these numbers. Additionally, outputs are tangible and more easily quantified than outcomes. Most non-profits operate within slim profit margins and cannot devote ample resources to reporting based on different stakeholder requirements. It is easiest to report on outputs. However, outputs just show that a program’s activities took place. This doesn’t necessarily mean the program made a real impact in the population it sought to make changes in. Outputs focus on short-term results. It should be cautioned, however, that putting pressure on a non-profit to show measurable outcomes can cause them to seek quick fixes in order to achieve these outcomes.
It is important to remember that equipping your constituents with knowledge is usually only a short-term fix–changing their beliefs will have long term-effects and show concrete and positive outcomes.