Outcomes and indicators

Open University

Why ask applicants to identify key outcomes?

We think it’s helpful for applicants to identify the key outcomes they seek to achieve as a result of the work that we fund.

  1. It helps organisations think through and express in tangible ways the intended results of their work.
  2. It allows us to grasp more easily and assess what we might be funding
  3. If we award a grant, it gives us an agreed framework within which we can both monitor progress as the work proceeds.

We know outcomes will change.
We see outcomes as a tool for learning. We expect progress to be bumpy, and future grant payments will not depend on you meeting targets or deadlines. We understand that outcomes and indicators may need to be revised over the course of a grant.

What do we mean by key outcomes?

The “key outcomes” of your grant are what you want to achieve as a result of our funding. They could be specific to a project we are funding, or relate to your overall aims if we are supporting core costs.

We have found the free advice and tools produced by Charities Evaluation Service helpful in developing our approach to outcomes and reporting. It recommends thinking about your work in terms of:

  • its overall aim (your purpose)
  • the specific aims which will contribute towards this (your outcomes),
  • the activities you will carry out to create these outcomes (your outputs, or objectives)

What do we expect from organisations?

If your application reaches our second stage we will ask for up to three key outcomes you think can be achieved by the end of the grant (outcomes), and details of how you will monitor your progress towards these outcomes (indicators).

We are looking for short, clear, concise outcomes, eg “Decrease in number of women in prison”. Each outcome should sum up one key change you are looking to achieve. You will use the outcomes as the basis for your annual progress reports. We will use them to understand how effective our funding has been when the grant ends.

We are not looking for detailed outcomes which cover everything you will deliver. See examples of outcomes below


For each outcome we will ask you for the indicators you will use to monitor your progress. An indicator should be realistic - something you are able to track and gather evidence on.

Charities Evaluation Service defines outcome indicators as “well defined pieces of information that can be assessed or measured to show whether outcomes have been achieved. These show that the outcome has actually happened, or that progress is being made towards it. Outcome indicators can be quantitative or qualitative.

  • Quantitative indicators count numbers of things that happen.
  • Qualitative indicators assess people’s perceptions and experiences.”

There may be many possible indicators for each outcome. As with outcomes themselves, we just need you to identify and report on the key ones – no more than 3 per outcome, but 1 is fine.

Where possible, please indicate target numbers, as this helps our staff and Trustees understand the scale of your planned achievements. However, we understand that these are targets, not obligations, and there is no intention to bind you to something that later becomes impossible to deliver.

Examples of outcomes and indicators:
Sector:  Outcome: Indicator(s):
  • Stronger relationships between orchestras, promoters and audiences are achieved through new delivery models relevant to local audiences.
  • At least one new delivery model originated by us is adopted by other orchestras/partners per year.
  • 90% of partners report positive impact of working with us in annual survey.
  • Increased awareness in the arts sector of disabled theatre makers and their employment potential.
  • Stronger relationships between the disability arts and mainstream theatre sectors. 
  • 2 new mainstream partners confirmed per year and 10 actors employed per year.
  • Marginalised and at risk children and young people have improved life chances through access to learning pathways and accreditation.
  • More young people taking part our programmes stay in education, or go on to further study, training or employment. 
  • 50% increase in number of skills accreditations awarded through our workshops, courses and apprenticeships.
  • The organisation will be more resilient, with new streams of income.
  • Funding secured from Arts Council England.
  • Support from national funders and the City Council.
  • Increased earned income from the festivals through marketing, audience development and co-production arrangements with artists.
Children and Young People:
  • More young leaders develop their skills, confidence and networks.
  • 100 more young people supported through the leadership programme.
  • 1,000 more young people participating in workshops. 
  • 15 young people a year supported to create their own campaigns, projects and businesses.
  • The campaign is backed by a broader base of organisations working to tackle inclusion rates for disabled young people.
  • The rights of disabled students are taken up in other education campaigns.
  • 2 new partnerships with universities.
  • The issue is taken on by the GLA and Mayor.
  • The most harmful hormone disrupting chemicals are phased out of farming and food packaging.
  • 3 chemicals that are currently used extensively are no longer used in consumer products
  • More people, from more areas of the UK, understand the value of protecting ancient trees.
  • 18 local conservation groups active by 2020.
  • 4,000 people have signed up for the newsletter mailing list by 2020.
Social Change:
  • There is systemic change and improvements in the delivery of welfare benefits at local and national level.
  • At least one improved process at local / national level each year.
  • Casework reports better communication for clients from statutory agencies.
  • Decrease in number of women in prison.
  • Fewer women in prison.
  • 70% of Police and Crime Commissioners commit to set targets for the numbers of women diverted from custody.
  • Increased investment in women's specialist services.
Our tips:
  • Tell us about the planned results of your work – what would success look like?
  • Keep it simple – try to focus on one change or achievement per outcome.
  • Indicators should be the most relevant things you can realistically track, which directly demonstrate progress towards each outcome.
  • Be specific and brief - use plain language.
  • Be ambitious, but realistic. You need to be able to understand and report on your progress.
  • It might not always be about positive change – sometimes issues are so difficult that not worsening or keeping the status quo is enough of a challenge.
  • Your outcomes should relate to your organisation’s strategic aim, or mission.
  • Involve all relevant people within the organisation in agreeing your outcomes and indicators - not just the fundraiser.
  • We know this can be tricky. Ask our Head of Communications and Learning for help if you need it.