Grant Evaluation Glossary

Although OCF's expectations for grantee reporting are rather modest compared to those of federal funders, we do encourage nonprofits to become familiar with grant evaluation tools and methodologies. Programs that can demonstrate a positive impact are much more likely to secure funding from community members and foundations.

Grant evaluation has its own vocabulary. Here are some of the more common terms.

Best practices; promising practices; effective practices

Program strategies and activities that have been shown to work elsewhere, preferably through professional evaluation results.


A research-based interim measurement that shows progress toward the goal but not the actual goal itself (e.g., the ability to read by the end of third grade is an indicator of future school success).

Logic model

A graphic that reflects the theory and assumptions behind a program and the relationships among resources, activities and goals. A logic model typically details inputs, outputs and outcomes from left to right, and describes assumptions and external factors.


The results of outputs; the impact of the ways in which a program’s activities led to the larger social change sought by the organization undertaking the activities (e.g., a reduction in the teen pregnancy rate).


The products or activities than an organization or project “produces” (e.g., number of classes held or number of volunteer hours).

Program goals

The overall aims of a program.

Program strategies

The methods a program will use to achieve its goals.

Qualitative methods

Evaluation methods that describe change but do not necessarily measure it (e.g., interviews and case studies).

Quantitative methods

Evaluation methods that measure processes or changes (e.g., numbers served, or percentage of increase in knowledge).

Theory of change

Development of a road map to help an organization effect change. Planners begin with a long-term goal and work their way backward, step by step, to intermediate goals, and finally to early-term changes that would be required to cause the desired long-term change. Planners must articulate their assumptions at each step and define expected outcomes clearly.