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Aims and outcomes

Showing how your project will make a difference
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We are an outcomes funder and are driven by the difference its funding makes for individuals and communities. This page should provide an introduction to the concepts and principles that you will need to know about if you are applying for funding from us. More information about aims and outcomes is also available in:

Aim and outcomes

The aim is a brief statement of the overall purpose of your project. The outcomes are the specific changes that result from your project.

Why are they important?

Because they:

  • help focus everything that you do
  • explain the changes your project will bring about to meet the needs you have identified
  • explain why your project should be funded.

Once you understand the need for your project there are two key ways to describe the difference you want to make:

  • your overall aim - a brief statement of the overall purpose of your project
  • your intended outcomes - the specific changes that you want to result from your project.

Aims

The overall aim sums up the purpose of your project and the effect it will have. It helps focus everything that you do. Choose a simple aim and word it carefully. It should be one sentence and something that you can achieve or at least influence strongly over the course of your project, for example: "To engage young people positively in the community". The needs that you have identified should help you to write your aim.

Outcomes

Outcomes are the changes that your project can make over time to address the need(s) you have identified. They are the result of what you do, rather than the activities or services you provide. For people, this might be things like improved health, new skills, more confidence or getting a job.

Outcomes are best described using words of change, such as: more, better, less, improved. In some cases outcomes may involve keeping a situation stable, or stopping things from getting worse.

Depending on your project, outcomes can occur at different levels, including:

  • Individuals and families, for example fathers improve their parenting skills resulting in stronger family relationships
  • Communities, for example fewer young people are involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour as a result of participating in a range of positive activities
  • The environment, for example improvements in local habitats will lead to higher levels of species biodiversity
  • Organisations, for example charities have greater skills and capacity to meet local needs
  • Systems and structures, for example a decrease in congestion city-wide from an increase in cycle routes.

A single project may identify outcomes at a number of levels. For example, a family centre may identify outcomes for children, their families and for local schools.

Even in very small or highly targeted projects with only one or two outcomes it is still possible to differentiate between the aim and the outcome. For example, a small benefits advice project for lone parents could still have as its overall aim "to address poverty among unemployed lone parents in the area" with an outcome of ‘increased financial security amongst lone parents leading to reduced stress and anxiety’.

Aim and outcomes - key points checklist

  • Does your aim sum up the overall purpose of your project in one sentence?
  • Does your aim reflect the need you have identified?
  • Have you used words of change (for example: 'more', 'better', 'less', 'improved') to describe your outcomes, to say what will be different by the end of the project?
  • Do your outcomes link logically to the need you have identified?
  • Do your outcomes describe clear, specific and realistic changes?
  • Have you limited your outcomes to a manageable number (we ask for up to four)?
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