So That, So What . . . the importance of focusing on outcomes versus outputs.

We do this (inputs) so that this happens (outputs). After “so that” comes “so what?”

However some nonprofits fail to go beyond stating what they do into sharing what is anticipated as the end result. As such, they often fail to address the most important piece: So What?

Often outputs are confused with outcomes. So What relates to the outcome.

Just to clarify each:

Output: The act or process of producing; production; the quantity of something produced, esp. in a specified period.

Outcome: An end result; a consequence; something that follows from an action, dispute, situation, etc.

An example of the difference between output and outcome can be achieved by continuing to ask the questions: So that or So what?

Nonprofit ABC provides 100 people with food boxes. The question you should ask here is: So that or So What?

Nonprofit ABC provides 100 people with food boxes (input) so that those people have food (output). The question to ask here is: So what?

Nonprofit ABC provides 100 people with food boxes (input) so that those people have food (output) so that they do not go hungry. (outcome)

Therefore, Nonprofit ABC provides food boxes for the unemployed individual to prevent hunger.

However, this could go even farther.

Nonprofit ABC provides 100 people with food boxes so they do not go hungry or need to be on supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) or become ill (mentally, emotionally or physically) or need public assistance, and so on. In some cases the outcomes may not even relate to the outputs.

For instance, by providing food for someone that is unemployed, that may prevent them from desperate measures such as stealing. Should the individual then be arrested, this may cause civil and legal issues which then impacts community civic fiscal health and thus by extension, the taxpayer.

You can continue this process until you come to the place where you can no longer say “so that” or “so what.”


Helping you take your vision to the next level.


Multi-year Grants

According to an article by The Nonprofit Times, since 2004, only one-tenth of sampled funders reported multi-year grantmaking. The same is true of 2011: Fully 89 percent of sampled funders reported no multi-year grants.

So how do you  get a grant that spans numerous years?

  • Focus on the phases. If your program has three major phases it is simple to work that into a three year budget.
  • Provide the long term yearly goal and objectives to the funders. “This year we expect to accomplish A of C with a grant award provided by funder.
  • Deliver on the promises. Once awarded, be ready to show that A was successfully accomplished and you are already to move forward into B and C phase.

As with any funder, building the relationship, showing measurable outcomes, reporting on-time and being effective in your mission keeps the door open for further requests.


Development is all about getting the message of your mission out to donors. In this technological age, this means that your website must be as up to date as possible, must be fluid not stagnant, be easy to maneuver and succinctly share your vision. Brainstorming about your website as a development tool is essential on an annual basis. Some questions you might ask are:

  1. IS IT EASY TO DONATE? Springs Rescue Mission (Colorado Springs, Colorado) is very effective with its call to action. All areas focusing on fundraising are in red. They are front and center and numerous. There is a “Give Monthly” link, a “Make a Donation” link with a drop-down menu, and there’s a “Donate Now” in the top right corner.
  2. DO DONORS KNOW WHERE THEIR MONEY IS GOING? Hopelink (Kirkland, Washington) understands that donors want to know what effect their donation will have. As such, they provide top level gifts ($25,000) as well as smaller gift increments ($25) and what each gift supports.
  3. IS YOUR MISSION FRONT AND CENTER? Rebuilding Together (Washington, D.C.) has its mission directly in the center of the page. If not your mission statement, is your tagline easily seen?

In many cases, the first place that a foundation program officer or a donor will go to check out your organization is your website. Make sure that the website connects its message to your mission.

Want to explore further? Check out the 2013 best nonprofit website awards at

What’s Your Organizational Purpose?

Most nonprofit organizations have a mission or purpose statement. It’s what keeps everyone on track and not off pursuing areas that aren’t a part of an organization’s purpose for existing. It aligns everyone …and drives everyone crazy when it’s time to update and each word is agonized over to ensure perfection. Within all of this effort, what may be lacking in the mission is the impact the organization plays in meeting the need.

For instance a nonprofit might state that their mission is to provide food for the hungry. The statement includes the need and the activity. It may go deeper and provide the methodology. Our mission is to provide nutritious locally sourced food for the hungry through ready to eat meals.

A good mission or purpose statement will often encompass the following “We do THIS so that THIS happens.”But just as nonprofits evolve so does the need to address vision, mission and purpose with a new outlook. Is the mission only one statement or does it encompass more than one area?

  • Does your mission or purpose statement need review?
  • How about making your mission or purpose an infographic?
  • Does it adequately confirm the cause being addressed and the need met?

Check out Ben and Jerry’s mission statement infographic on Lauren Modeen’s blog:

Until next time, keep taking your vision to the next level.


Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick Lencioni states that five key areas define dysfunction within a productive team. They are:

  1. Absence of Trust—unwilling to be vulnerable within a group.
  2. Fear of Conflict—seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate.
  3. Lack of Commitment—feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization.
  4. Unwillingness to Hold Others Accountable—ducking responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior which sets low standards.
  5. Inattention to Results—focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success.


When you look at your team, do any of those areas resonate with you? What can you do to ensure that the team has a

healthy construction of trust, constructive criticism, commitment to the cause,

diligence to accountability, and a team results mindset?


TRUST once broken is hard to mend. Is this why it is so difficult to trust others by allowing yourself to be vulnerable

within your organization, your department, your team? What can you do today to instill trust in others so that

every individual is able to express themselves fully?


CONFLICT is often seen in the negative. Conflict sounds like something to avoid at all costs.

And yet, it is within conflict that we must work on resolution. We are able to view things outside of our norm.

It is the difference between criticism and critique.

Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Vince Lombardi


LACK OF COMMITMENT is a crucial piece to individual or corporate success.

When a person is not “all in”, that individual may not express those thoughts or feelings due to: lack of trust or fear of conflict.

It is up to the leaders of the team or others on the team to ensure that everyone is committed to the project at hand.



When it becomes apparent that an individual is not committed to the team or the project,

or is constantly a source of conflict that is not appropriate to further dialogue,

that person’s attitude and demeanor must be addressed.

Holding others accountable for their words and actions ensure that everyone feels they

are working on a level playing field. Allowing such actions to not be addressed may

cause other individuals on the team to feel an absence of trust and commitment.



The word team does not have the letter “i” in it. While there may be those in charge of various areas,

the team that will achieve most is the one with the least hIerarchy imposed. In those cases,

a lattice structure where there are connective hubs serve the team best.

Results come about as a result of the team as a whole. This is important to remember.


Keep your Team Functioning by instilling these components in yourself and your team.

  • Build Trust
  • Apply Constructive Commentary
  • Commend Commitment.
  • Hold Individuals Accountable.
  • Focus on Relevant Results.


Guidestar just released an article on the Top 10 Fundraising Tips. Check out this important one relating to grants and foundations:

Never Apply for a Grant Without Contacting the Foundation First

As much as you might want to believe that grants are awarded simply due to the fit of the program and the excellence of the application, it simply isn’t true. In fact in our experience, the odds of getting a grant that you send in without contacting the foundation are about 5 percent-10 percent. Just as in individual (and all!) fundraising, developing relationships is critical. There are people at these foundations, called program officers, who are directly responsible for deciding who gets money and who doesn’t. They care deeply about the work they are funding, and consider it an advantage to be able to scope out potential grantees. In-person meetings with program officers are ideal, but even a short phone call with a grant manager or administrator can still yield the basic information you need as well as getting your name in the mind of someone at the foundation.

Sometimes these initial conversations can save you valuable time in applying for a grant program that was not a fit—always do your homework on their funding goals ahead of time! But often, they are valuable knowledge-gathering sessions: use the call or meeting to identify the funder’s key priorities and desired language, which many times cannot be found on the organization’s Web site; figure out which of your programs or initiatives is the best fit;, and determine how much money you should request. Finally, go out on a limb and ask if they would be willing to preview your LOI (Letter of Intent) or proposal before you submit it officially. This advance look will give them a sense of ownership over your request and provide you with valuable feedback. Start today by calling the offices of your top foundation prospects and seeing if you can get on a relevant program officer’s schedule.

Key Factor in Fundraising is Relationship

As noted above, a key factor in fundraising is building a relationship. Whether you are speaking to a donor who is able to give $20 or $2000 or you are speaking to a foundation or corporation program officer, no one wants to be treated like an ATM. Taking the time to build the relationship can provide you more than money–you can gain valuable insight and other benefits that may occur now or in the future. So start connecting!



To promote health and improve health care for the people of Colorado.


The people of Colorado are the healthiest in the nation.


Second Friday in March –March 8, 2013