When writing any museum project proposal, and especially when writing for a grant, it’s important for museum professionals to speak to both the project deliverables and the project outcomes.
This requires that the museum professional understand the difference between outcomes and deliverables. However, I often see museum staff make the mistake of listing deliverables as their outcomes—and forgetting to address outcomes entirely. So, let’s dive into the critical difference between outcomes and deliverables, and what information to list for each.
What are Museum Deliverables versus Museum Outcomes?
Yes, there is a difference between deliverables and outcomes. A deliverable is a specific product that is a result of the project. An outcome is something more amorphous—such as learning, evolving, improving—and is a benefit and direct result of the project deliverables.
Museum Deliverable Examples
Deliverables are a project product, something that’s a direct result of the work, and typically quantitative (numbers-based). Examples of museum project deliverables are: 500 digitized items, 50 treated artworks, a renovated exhibit hall, an educational seminar, or a traveling exhibit.
Museum Outcome Examples
Museum outcomes are derived from the project deliverables but are typically qualitative in value. Museum project outcomes can be things such as increasing community engagement through targeted educational programming, diversifying narratives within the collection through community-led collecting initiatives, or building equity with the distribution of easy-access technology.
If you want more insight into how you can define project success, please check out my previous post Define Museum Success & Measure it.
Don’t Forget: Measure Both
Now that we know the difference between a museum outcome and a museum deliverable, and have examples for what information to include for each, we need to speak to how we’ll measure them. It’s project management best practice to have benchmarks for how you intend to evaluate project progress and success, and it’s particularly important to include a benchmark component in your museum grant applications! I’ll write more specifically on measurement methods in a future post. If you’re in need of inspiration, I encourage you to check out any federal fund (IMLS, NEH, NHPRC, etc.)—they offer successful grant application examples where you can view how peers in the museum field measure their own work.
As you define the project’s deliverables, outcomes, and how you intend to measure them, please double-check your work. As my grandmother used to say, “Measure twice. Cut once.” Run through your project and what you estimate the deliverables to be. As these are often numbers-based, it’s very important to check your math so that you don’t accidentally over or under-commit yourself. As outcomes are typically intangible (learning, evolving, improving) it’s important to discuss these with a fellow professional. Did you derive your outcome statements from past experience or current research within the field? Does your hypothesis of what the project outcomes will be make sense to a fellow museum professional? It’s best to check these now before you commit and hinder your ability to be successful. Finally, double-check how you intend to measure both deliverables and outcomes. Is your measurement mechanism effective? Does it make sense to other museum professionals? Now is the time to seek feedback and refine. Measure twice. Cut once.
Whether the project is for a grant or it’s a special project to be carried out within the museum, understanding and defining both project deliverables and outcomes is key to a fully thought-out project. For more insight into project management principles and best practices I encourage you pick up a free e-copy of Margot Note’s book, Demystifying Archival Projects: 5 Essentials for Success.
Rachael Cristine Woody
Consultant, author, and blogger Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, grant writing and the future of museums for a wide variety of clients. Read Rachael’s book for Lucidea Press, A Survivor’s Guide to Museum Grant Writing.
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