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.
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.”
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