See the Logic: De-Mystifying Logic Models

Logic models may seem a little daunting at first.  Maybe even a bit confusing.  But there’s no need to twist yourself up in knots like Scarecrow.  Keep reading.  I’ll help you see the logic in logic models.

If you’ve never heard of logic models before, you might be surprised to learn that they’ve been around since the 1970s. I encountered my first logic model in 1999 in the context of a substance abuse prevention program for adolescents.  The state agency that funded the prevention program required its grantees to follow a logic model.

Over the past 20 years, logic models have become a standard component of most government grants that I write.  And, as you’ll discover later in this blog, I’m convinced that logic models can be a useful tool even when the funder doesn’t require one.

Not as Complicated as It Sounds

Simply defined, a logic model is a visual representation of how a proposed solution to a specific problem is expected to achieve the intended results.  In theory, we could use a logic model to depict every situation we face.  For example, consider the following situation and the corresponding logic model:  You start your car and notice that the fuel gauge is low.

Yes, it’s a simple example.  And it’s not practical to go to this much trouble to solve such a simple problem.  I use it here to de-mystify the concept of logic models for you.

Logic models become more useful as the situation becomes more complex, such as planning a vacation or preparing a seven-course meal—or addressing childhood obesity or reducing criminal recidivism or [insert your field of interest here].

Why Use a Logic Model?

From a grantmaker’s perspective, logic models offer an at-a-glance overview of the proposed program for which you are seeking funding.  Grant reviewers examine applicants’ logic models to get a sense of the program’s intent and to identify any gaps in the logical progression from planning to implementation to evaluation.  They rely on your grant narrative to describe in explicit detail the “whats” and “hows” and “whys” of your program.

When a project involves multiple organizations collaborating to achieve a common purpose, you can develop a logic model to communicate the nature and scope of the project to your external partners.  Use it as a conversation starter to discuss with them how they can contribute to the success of the project.

A logic model is also helpful if you’re working with an independent evaluator.  It’s likely they may not know anything about your program or the results you expect.  Developing an initial logic model and working with them to refine it will help the evaluator design an effective evaluation plan to measure the impact of your program.

Whether or not you submit a logic model with a grant application, you and your staff can use one as a tool to guide how you implement a program.  Think of it as an outline for a speech or a recipe for bread.  You have the freedom to go off-script or experiment with the ingredients, but the general plan is written down to keep you on track so you achieve the desired result.

Constructing Logic Models

If you search for logic models on the Internet, you’ll find many helpful resources, including templates, for creating a logic model.  If you’re concerned about which version to use, don’t fret.  Unless the funder specifies what format to use, you can design it to suit your preferences and the information you want to include.

The templates I’ve seen use either a flowchart design or a table design.  The screenshot below is my go-to version (a table format).  See other screen shots.

Basic Content

Notice that the majority of the samples I provided include inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes.  But the power of the logic model goes beyond the content.  It’s the arrows—whether visible or implied—that depict the relationships among the program components, including a feedback loop for program improvement.  Ultimately, the longterm outcome impacts the original situation.

Not Set in Stone

Oftentimes, so much time elapses between when you submit your grant application and when you receive the funding that you need to revise your logic model before you begin the program.  For instance, you may have listed resources that are no longer available.  Or one of the organizations you intended to partner with may have changed their mind.  In any case, work with the funder to refine the logic model.

Keep in mind that a logic model depicts intention, not reality.  As you implement your program, you may discover that you’re not getting the results you expected.  Revisit your logic model to determine if you’re doing what you said you were going to do, and if necessary, either revise the logic model or modify how you’re implementing the program.

Additional Resources

To save you the trouble of searching for additional resources, I recommend you visit any of the following websites to learn more about logic models and see a variety of templates.

Looking Ahead

In my next GrantSpeak post, I’ll tell you about another useful planning tool – a grant calendar.

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