Tuesday, October 9, 2018


The fourth step in designing an effective nonprofit strategy is being able to identify and specify the ultimate outcome (goal), intermediate outcome, and finally coming up with a theory of change. It’s very important for you and me as nonprofit leaders to clarify the outcomes we tend to achieve as a result of our work.

Let’s start understanding those terms…

Ultimate outcomes are the results for which your nonprofit will be responsible for, it is the success for the organization, the social change that the organization will hold itself accountable for. It is the change in state, conditions or wellbeing of ultimate beneficiaries.

It’s very important to know that an outcome is not what the program actually produced itself , but the consequences of those products, services, or assistance. It is the changes within the target group, in their living situation, or in the society in general, that can be observed as consequences of the output. It is the impact that your nonprofit will bring about in the concerned area or population.

An example of an intended Ultimate outcome might look like this: within 1 years 100 formerly out of school students enrolled into one of our skill building fellowship program. 

An ultimate outcome should be a clear goal for your work, against which you report on progress to your donors, board members, beneficiaries, and community. You need to be really clear what your organization is trying to accomplish, for whom, and by when.

When considering possible ultimate outcomes for your project/nonprofit, try to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What target group do you wish to reach?
  • What changes should your program/nonprofit bring about within the target group?
  • What objectives should the project contribute to pursuing at the societal level ?

In formulating these outcomes remember that they should be (SMART OUTCOMES):

Specific:  Nonprofit/Project Outcomes should be expressed clearly and precisely
Measurable: They must be quantifiable
Acceptable: The outcomes must be accepted by stakeholders
Realistic: Success doesn’t have to be certain, but must be at least possible
Time-framed: Even if it’s difficult to finalize a deadline, you should at least know whether your outcomes can be achieved in the project’s active life or afterward.

Ideally the ultimate outcome should be quantifiable, so that the organization's staff, board, funders, and beneficiaries can know whether its goals had been met.


Though we might have a number of ultimate outcomes on the way, we still need to work toward a progress that will give us the intermediate outcome.  This is the last step on the path to the ultimate outcome that your intended beneficiary or someone else outside the organization must take in order to achieve that outcome. Intermediate outcomes are typically changes in people’s behavior―necessary to achieve the ultimate outcome.

Intermediate outcomes are a Change in behavior, practice or performance of intermediaries or beneficiaries. It is a change that is expected to occur once one or more intermediate outcomes have been achieved. In terms of timeframe and level, these are medium term outcomes, which are usually achieved by the end of a project/program and are usually at the change of behavior/practice level among beneficiaries.

Intermediate outcomes are what we most commonly expect to see, measure, and report after a a program/project  initiative. It is a critical outcome or result that must occur in order to reach the higher-level, end outcome/objective.

While all intermediate outcomes are necessary to achieve the ultimate outcome, we pay special attention to the final intermediate outcome because it's often the cracks of a theory of change.


Theory of change is the activities that our organization will perform to achieve that outcome. It is essentially a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context. Theory of change is at the heart of any successful nonprofit strategy as it helps you define whether your work is contributing towards achieving the impact you envision, and if there is another way that you need to consider as well.

The theory of change shows the links between the organization’s activities and its intended ultimate outcome. The theory of change must include all causal links necessary to achieve the outcome. A theory of change shows how activities lead to intermediate outcomes and how intermediate outcomes lead to ultimate outcomes.

Before designing your own theory of change, you should learn about similar existing programs, in your community and elsewhere, and what evidence there is of their success or failure.

A theory of change should be:

  • credible – based on previous experience and insight from your different stakeholders or relevant research where appropriate
  • achievable – you have the necessary resources to carry out the intervention
  • supported – your stakeholders will be involved in defining and agreeing your theory of change

We will cover more about THEORY OF CHANGE in an upcoming blog post.

If you would like to learn more about THEORY OF CHANGE please visit Center for Theory of Change website HERE and also an article from LEARNING FOR SUSTAINABILITY HERE

And that is the forth step to take when developing a successful nonprofit strategy. I hope this post continues to help you in developing a powerful nonprofit strategy for any project you look into starting. You can learn more and review more on this topic by visiting the NONPROFIT STRATEGY CATEGORY.

Because of His love on Calvary, I am forever a secure package
Chaow Chaow!

Rumishael Ulomi is a Freelance Christian Consultant, Life Coach, and Motivational Speaker in the areas of Christian Ministry, Business, Entrepreneurship, and Social Sector development residing in Moshi,Tanzania.


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