Key M&E terms

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A failure to understand the key terms (outputs, outcomes, impact etc) can lead to confusion and misunderstanding about what you have or have not achieved.

Some of the terms below are essential when using tools such as the logical framework (logframe) and the Theory of Change which are integral to the Full 1-2-3 Method demonstrated by this toolkit.

So, what terms do you need to know? Click on any of the terms below if you are unsure of their meaning. The glossary below draws upon, and simplifies, work from a number of sources, notably the OECD.



Duty to ensure that work has been carried out in compliance with agreed rules and standards or to report fairly and accurately on performance results vis-à-vis agreed plans. This may include accountability to donors and/or taxpayers/citizens.

Annual report

A yearly document reporting on spending and activities, covering each programme and project, also including financial statements. It serves both accountability and marketing purposes.


An overall assessment of the relevance, feasibility and potential sustainability of a project or programme prior to a funding decision.


Hypotheses about factors or risks which could affect the progress or success of a development intervention. Assumptions are made explicit in theory-based evaluations where evaluation systematically tracks the anticipated results chain.


The assignment of a causal link between observed (or expected to be observed) changes and a specific intervention.


An independent, objective assurance activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to assess and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control and governance processes.

Base-line study

An analysis describing the situation prior to a development intervention, against which progress can be assessed or comparisons can be made.


Reference point or standard against which performance or achievements can be assessed. Note: A benchmark refers to the performance that has been achieved in the recent past by other comparable organizations, or what can be reasonably inferred to have been achieved in the circumstances.


The men and women, communities, or organizations expected to benefit directly or indirectly from the project or programme.


A document showing a breakdown of predicted or actual expenditure and income.


A coordinated process of deliberate interventions by insiders and/or outsiders of a given society leading to (i) skill upgrading, both general and specific, (ii) procedural improvements, and (iii) organizational strengthening.

Civil society

The web of associations, social norms and practices that comprise activities of a society as separate from its state and market institutions.

Data Collection Tools

Methodologies used to identify information sources and collect information during an evaluation.  Examples include informal and formal surveys, direct and participatory observation, community interviews, focus groups, expert opinion, case studies, literature search.


Somebody who gives (in this context money or donations-in-kind). There are many different types of donors: local and foreign, individuals, foundations, trusts, NGOs and companies, governments and government agencies.


The extent to which the development intervention’s objectives were achieved, or are expected to be achieved, taking into account their relative importance.


A measure of how economically resources and/or inputs (funds, expertise, time, etc.) are converted to results.


The expansion of assets and capabilities of poor people to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control, and hold accountable institutions that affect their lives.


The systematic and objective assessment of an on-going or completed project, programme or policy, its design, implementation and results.

Feasibility study

An in-depth survey to investigate the potential success or other consequences of a new project or programme. Such analyses can be carried out in-house or by consultants.

Formative evaluation

Evaluation intended to improve performance, most often conducted during the implementation phase of a project or programme.

Funding proposal

A document drawn up to be submitted to a potential donor introducing a nonprofit organisation (NPO), identifying a need in society and focusing on how (via a specific project) the NPO will address the need. The proposal should also cover the evaluation process as well as the future sustainability of the project.

Fundraising audit

An evaluation of all aspects of an nonprofit organisation’s fund development functions, including staff capability, computerisation levels, potential sources of funding and capital to spend on funding.


Refers to the socially constructed roles ascribed to males and females and the resulting socially determined relations.


The higher-order objective to which a development intervention is intended to contribute.


Positive and negative, primary and secondary long-term effects produced by a development intervention, directly or indirectly, intended or unintended.

Impact assessment

The gathering and analysis of evidence that measures the longer-term effects of a project or an organisation’s work on its immediate target groups, on a community or on society at large.

Income generation

Nonprofit organization’s making rather than raising money through the sale of products or services, consulting, venue hire, etc.


Quantitative or qualitative factor or variable that provides a simple and reliable means to measure achievement, to reflect the changes connected to an intervention, or to help assess the performance of a development actor.


The financial, human, and material resources used for a development intervention.

Logical framework

(Logframe) A management tool used to improve the design of interventions, most often at the project level.  It involves identifying strategic elements (inputs, outputs, outcomes, impact) and their causal relationships, indicators, and the assumptions or risks that may influence success and failure. It thus facilitates planning, execution and evaluation of a development intervention.

Matched funding

Money promised, conditional upon the nonprofit organization obtaining (usually a rand-for-rand) matched amount.

Mission statement

A document/statement (preferably short) that summarises the reason for the existence and the main objectives of an organisation.


A continuing function that uses systematic collection of data of specified indicators to assess the extent of progress and achievement of objectives and progress in the use of allocated funds. Related term: performance monitoring, indicator

Non-government organization (NGO)

A private organization that pursues value-based activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development.


The intended physical, financial, institutional, social, environmental, or other development results to which a project or program is expected to contribute.

Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Aid from one (bilateral) or more (multilateral) governments to a country, for example aid from the United Kingdom or the European Union to South Africa; ODA can take the form of grants or so-called concessional loans, that is loans on favourable conditions, for example with a low interest rate.


The likely or achieved short-term and medium-term effects of an intervention’s outputs. Related terms: result, outputs, impacts, effect.


The products, capital goods and services which result from a development intervention; may also include changes resulting from the intervention which are relevant to the achievement of outcomes.


A percentage over and above a project’s costs, requested of a donor towards administration/running expenses. This amount typically varies between 5% and 15% of project expenses.


A process through which stakeholders influence and share control over development initiatives and the decisions and resources which affect them. It is a process which can improve the quality, effectiveness and sustainability of projects and strengthen ownership and commitment of government and stakeholders.

Participatory evaluation

Evaluation method in which representatives of agencies and stakeholders (including beneficiaries) work together in designing, carrying out and interpreting an evaluation.

Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)

An important management tool that provides task managers with quick feedback on project effectiveness during implementation. In this participatory process, the perspectives and insights of all stakeholders, beneficiaries as well as project implementers, are tapped.


The individuals and/or organizations that collaborate to achieve mutually agreed upon objectives.


Usually a high profile person who lends his or her name to an nonprofit organisation, endorses the organisation and occasionally attends events or signs important letters; rarely, if ever, attends meetings.

Performance indicator

A variable that allows the verification of changes in the development intervention or shows results relative to what was planned. Related terms: performance monitoring, performance measurement.

Performance monitoring

A continuous process of collecting and analyzing data to compare how well a project, program, or policy is being implemented against expected results.


A set of related measures or activities contributing to a specific long-term goal.


Typically used to describe the kind of services a nonprofit organisation (NPO) delivers to its target groups (eg: HIV/Aids project or pet inoculation project). Sometimes called programmes. Be careful of confusion around the term “project” as some Northern donors call NPOs “projects”!


The publicly stated objectives of the development program or project.


The extent to which the objectives of a development intervention are consistent with beneficiaries’ requirements, country needs, global priorities and partners’ and donors’ policies.


Consistency or dependability of data and evaluation judgements, with reference to the quality of the instruments, procedures and analyses used to collect and interpret evaluation data.

Results Chain

The causal sequence for a development intervention that stipulates the necessary sequence to achieve desired objectives beginning with inputs, moving through activities and outputs, and culminating in outcomes, impacts, and feedback.

Results-Based Management (RBM)

A management strategy focusing on performance and achievement of outputs, outcomes and impacts.


An assessment of the performance of an intervention, periodically or on an ad hoc basis. Note: Frequently “evaluation” is used for a more comprehensive and/or more indepth assessment than “review”. Reviews tend to emphasize operational aspects. Sometimes the terms “review” and “evaluation” are used as synonyms.


Money given by the marketing department of a company in return for advertising/brand promotion; a business deal based on ad-spend (numbers of people likely to see the company’s logo/advert) and not usually given for philanthropic purposes.


All individuals and/or groups who are affected by, or can affect, a given operation. Stakeholders can be individuals, interest groups, corporate organizations.

Strategic plan

A plan (often written up as a Business Plan for three to five years) outlining the strategies to be employed in order to achieve an NPO’s goals, objectives and to fulfil its mission.

Summative evaluation

A study conducted at the end of an intervention (or a phase of that intervention) to determine the extent to which anticipated outcomes were produced. Summative evaluation is intended to provide information about the worth of the program. Related term: impact evaluation.


A term used loosely and broadly but usually meaning the financial self-sustainability of an nonprofit organisation (NPO) or one of its projects. Donors often ask “how will the NPO/project be sustained after our grant?”

SWOT analysis

(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) useful in all planning to identify a nonprofit organisation’s internal strengths and weaknesses as well as to highlight opportunities and threats externally.

Target group

The specific individuals or organizations for whose benefit the development intervention is undertaken.

Terms of reference

Written document presenting the purpose and scope of the evaluation, the methods to be used, the standard against which performance is to be assessed or analyses are to be conducted, the resources and time allocated, and reporting requirements. Two other expressions sometimes used with the same meaning are “scope of work” and “evaluation mandate”


The use of three or more theories, sources or types of information, or types of analysis to verify and substantiate an assessment. Note: by combining multiple datasources, methods, analyses or theories, evaluators seek to overcome the bias that comes from single informants, single observer or single theory studies.


The extent to which the data collection strategies and instruments measure what they purport to measure.

Vision statement

A document laying out what a nonprofit organisation envisages becoming in the future.


Someone who works for an nonprofit organisation entirely without payment other than reimbursements of expenses such as telephone calls, travel and meals.  People who receive nominal payment/honoraria are not volunteers, but employees and their NPOs are liable under current labour regulations.