Questions and Resources for Grant Applicants to Consider When Developing or Refining Their Program Model
This page provides tips and resources that applicants can use as they develop and refine strong programs supporting Responsible Fatherhood or Healthy Marriage. Each item in the list below expands into a full section discussing issues that arise.
In each section:
- First, consider a set of questions that prompt you to dig deeper;
- Then, click on the links after the questions, which lead to resources with more information.
These questions and resources will help you identify the building blocks for your program’s logic model.
Community description. What data sources exist that describe the community or communities you expect to serve? What information do you have on the:
- Geographic area(s)
- Number of people who live or work in this area
- Demographics of the people in this area (for example, age, race, ethnicity, gender)
- Family structure (for example, marital and cohabitation status, number and ages of children, children from multiple partners)
- Residential status (living with children, living with a partner or spouse)
- Employment status and history
- Economic well-being (income; earnings; debt, including child support arrearages)
- History of incarceration
- Substance use
- Housing issues (for example, homelessness, housing insecurity)
- Other characteristics of interest to you
Demand for services. What responsible fatherhood or healthy marriage service needs has your community expressed? Is there a demand for parenting, couples’ relationship, or employment services? (See also “Adjustments to Previous Targeting” below.)
Knowing your community well will help you ensure that your services are needed and wanted.
Reliability of community data. How reliable are the data used to describe your community? In other words, how sure are you that the data are accurate? Factors determining reliability could include how recent the data are, if they were collected by a neutral organization, and whether they include a lot of respondents or only a few.
Knowing the quality of your data will help you understand:
- How confident you can be in your community assessment
- Whether there is demand for the program you are developing
- How confident you can be that your program will be well-received
For more information on describing your community, see:
- Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation. “Using Data to Understand Your Program.” October 2019. This infographic illustrates how to use data to understand your program, answer questions about who your program is serving, and identify the services participants are receiving. This infographic walks readers through how a fatherhood program used data to gain insights on the community receiving services, participant engagement, and service delivery.
- Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Kids Count Data Center.” Accounting for demographic, child, and family well-being indicators can be crucial to program design. Although it does not have community-level data, this interactive website provides relevant state and cross-state data to inform demand for services.
- Community Toolbox. "Section 2. Understanding and Describing the Community." This resource provides tips and general guidelines for understanding and describing your community.
- Community Toolbox. “Section 7. Conducting Needs Assessments Surveys.” A general overview of the purpose and considerations of planning needs assessments might be helpful for organizations. This site covers needs assessments and exploring the demand for any type of community social service, as well as how to identify a target population. It also presents a step-by-step guide on how to design and implement a needs assessment.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Conduct a Community Assessment.” This web page summarizes how to plan for a community needs assessment in the context of healthy relationship programs.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Find a Local Marriage and Relationship Program.” This site provides information by state on existing healthy relationship programs.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Connect with Programs.” This site provides information by state on existing responsible fatherhood programs.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit: Resources from the Field.” Sections on “Needs Assessment” and “Planning and Design.” These web pages summarize how to plan for a community needs assessment in the context of responsible fatherhood programs.
- The United States Census Bureau. The website is a platform to access data and digital content from the U.S. Census Bureau. Program implementers can access these data to learn more about their community and its needs.
Characteristics of target population. What are the typical characteristics of the population you expect to serve?
- Demographics (for example, age, race, ethnicity, gender)
- Family structure (for example, marital and cohabitation status, number and ages of children, children from multiple partners)
- Residential status (living with children, living with a partner or spouse)
- Employment status and history
- Economic well-being (income; earnings; debt, including child support arrearages)
- History of incarceration
- Substance use
- Housing issues (for example, homelessness, housing insecurity)
- Other characteristics of interest to you
Specifying your target population will help you design services that are most likely to engage people and produce the desired outcomes.
Eligibility criteria. Will you establish any eligibility criteria for participating in the program?
It is important that any eligibility criteria you establish are determined through an accurate understanding of your community’s composition and needs – see “Describing Your Community” above for tips on developing this understanding. Narrower criteria mean participants will be more similar to one another, and thus services can be more specifically targeted to meet their needs. But if criteria are too narrow, it can be difficult to recruit an adequate number of participants to fill activities or meet your target number for an evaluation.
Addressing the needs of the target population. What are the most critical needs of the target population that your program might address?
Past research suggests that many programs underestimate participant needs. For example, several studies noted that multiple barriers to employment—such as low levels of education, criminal records, lack of transportation, and weak employment history—made helping men find jobs more difficult than expected.1
Ensuring sufficient participants exist in service area. Given eligibility criteria and your community assessment, are there enough people in the community to meet program enrollment and participation goals?
Most programs find that many eligible participants are unable or unwilling to participate, so it will be necessary to reach out to many more eligible people than you hope to enroll.
Learning from similar programs. Have you reached out to similar programs—or different programs in similar communities—and discussed how they define their target populations? Did their experience influence how you identify your target population?
1 Griswold, E.A., J. Pearson, L. Davis, and N. Thoennes. “Family Reintegration Project: Increasing Collections from Paroled and Released Non-Custodial Parents in Texas.” Denver, CO: Center for Policy Research, 2005.
Lane, T.S., and C.M. Clay. “Meeting the Service Needs of Young Fathers.” Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, vol. 17, no. 1, 2000, pp. 35–54.
Schroeder, D., and N. Doughty. “Texas Non-Custodial Parent Choices: Program Impact Analysis.” Austin, TX: Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, August 2009.
Tannehill, T.G., C.T. O’Brien, and E.J. Sorensen. “Strengthening Families Through Stronger Fathers Initiative: Process Evaluation Report.” Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, July 2009.
Adjustments to previous targeting. If you have operated this program in the past, could your program benefit from adjusting the target populations? For example, would adjusting the target age or employment history benefit your program? Or have you reached saturation—that is, have you served nearly everyone you could serve? Has your community changed in substantial ways in the past 5 to 10 years—and if so, should you change the population you target?
For more information on identifying the target population, see:
- National Fatherhood Initiative. “7 Steps to Starting a Successful Fatherhood Program.” Step Three, “Focusing Your Efforts on the Type(s) of Fathers You Will Engage.” 2014. This section asks a series of questions intended to help programs narrow down a targeted program population.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Marriage and Relationship Education Program Development and Management Manual.” Chapter 1, Section 2, “Identifying Your Target Audience.” August 2013. This section guides readers on how to conduct a community assessment and identify a target population. It also provides a sample worksheet for a community needs assessment.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Start a Marriage and Relationship Education Program.” This web page includes a list of factors to consider in identifying a target population for a healthy marriage program.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit: Resources from the Field.” This toolkit includes some useful tips on thinking about potential participants on the “Finding Participants” page. The “Program Services” page includes guidance on planning for and overcoming participant barriers.
Methods, locations, and partners. How will you reach and engage the target population? Which methods do you intend to employ? Where will the recruitment take place? Will you involve partners? If so, which partners would you select and why?
Methods and locations for direct recruitment. Will your program identify and recruit individuals or couples directly (that is, will your staff interact with the potential participants)? If so, where are potential participants likely to be found (for example, birthing hospitals, barbershops, schools, prenatal clinics)?
If potential participants are not connected to other agencies—that is, if you can’t recruit participants from specific agencies such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clinics, hospitals, or schools—it might be necessary to identify them through more informal methods. This might be particularly true for men and fathers. Some Responsible Fatherhood programs, for example, regularly recruit at neighborhood sporting events, barbershops, hardware stores, gaming stores, bus routes and other hangouts. Other more traditional locations to recruit fathers are state agencies where they also look for assistance, such as child care, Head Start programs, Child Support, veteran services, and child welfare. Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs might want to enlist the mother of the child, partner, or wife – sometimes referred to as gatekeepers – to attract a father to the program.
Recruiting with partner agencies. Will other agencies identify and recruit people, or will other agencies refer them to you? If so, how often do these agencies have contact with fathers, individuals or couples in the target population? Will the agencies allow your program staff to directly contact potential participants, or will the agencies act as intermediaries? Will the agencies allow your program staff to recruit participants in person at their agency? Will the agencies allow your program staff to train their staff?
Some programs find that their own staff are the best ambassadors for the program because they are the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the services. In-person recruitment is often the most effective means of outreach.
Adjustments to previous recruitment efforts. If you have operated this program in the past: which recruitment methods worked well, and which could use improvement? Do you have any specific data to demonstrate which recruitment methods are the most successful? Are you considering any new recruitment locations, partners, or methods? If working with partners, have you considered your method of oversight and monitoring of their services to your program participants?
Learning from similar programs. Have you reached out to similar programs—or to different programs in similar communities—and discussed how they recruit their target populations? Did their experience influence your recruitment strategies?
For more information on recruiting participants, see:
- Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation. “Parents and Children Together: Design and Implementation of Responsible Fatherhood Programs.” September 2015. Section F, “Strategies to Recruit and Enroll Participants,” provides information on how to encourage participation among program participants in a responsible fatherhood program.
- MDRC. “Early Lessons from the Implementation of a Relationship and Marriage Skills Program for Low-Income Married Couples.” September 2010. This report discusses developing effective marketing and recruitment strategies, keeping couples engaged in the program, and building management structures and systems.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Healthy Marriage and Relationship Programs: Promising Practices in Serving Low-Income and Culturally Diverse Populations.” January 2009. Chapter 4, “Implementing Your Program.” This chapter covers issues related to recruitment and marketing, particularly in the context of low-income and culturally diverse target populations. This guide includes concrete examples of strategies that other healthy marriage programs use.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Marriage and Relationship Education Program Development and Management Manual.” Chapter 9, “Building Public Awareness,” and Chapter 10, “Participant Recruitment and Enrollment.” August 2013. Chapter 9 of this manual provides information on how to market healthy marriage programs. The marketing techniques outlined in this chapter include writing and disseminating press releases, obtaining media coverage or free/low-cost media advertisements, and optimizing web presence. Chapter 10 focuses on tailored recruitment strategies to encourage people to enroll in services.
- National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families. “Promising Practices and Lessons Learned from the National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families Peer-to-Peer Networking Forum.” August 2012. This document gives an overview of facilitated discussions held during the National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families Peer-to-Peer Networking Forum in Washington, DC, in July 2012. The first two sections of the document focus on community and stakeholder engagement, and the next section (“From Challenges to Promising Practices: Lessons Learned from Safety-Net Stakeholders”) discusses tips and strategies for recruiting and engaging families, including potential participants.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Recruiting Men into Fatherhood Programs: Tips for Program Professionals.” September 2008. This brief presents strategies for recruiting participants into responsible fatherhood programs. Strategies include creative advertising, use of incentives, timely follow-up, and using a relevant curriculum.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit: Resources from the Field.” Section on “Recruitment.” Links include sections on finding and connecting with potential participants.
Program content. Taking into consideration the needs of your target population and the availability of other services in the community, what will be the program focus? What content and topics will be included in the services? Be as specific and exhaustive as possible.
When deciding on content, it might be helpful to think of the desired outcomes for participants and what is needed to achieve those outcomes. For example, parenting is a broad topic. What aspect of parenting do you most want your program to affect? The content should focus on this area.
Program structure. How will your program be structured?
Some programs integrate content in multiple areas (for example, parenting, employment, and relationships) into a single curriculum or workshop so that all participants receive content in each key area. Others offer services in each content area separately. In Healthy Marriage programs funded through the Office of Family Assistance, participants have the flexibility to choose the services that they think are most relevant but might not receive content in all areas. However, Responsible Fatherhood programs funded through the Office of Family Assistance must implement program designs that address the three broad areas in the legislation, that is, promoting or sustaining marriage, responsible parenting, and economic stability, so the participant receives all services. Note that Responsible Fatherhood programs can choose to integrate content in all three areas into a single curriculum, or can provide services in two or more separate workshops.
If your program will consist primarily of a single curriculum, have you checked to determine that the curriculum addresses all of the content you identified as necessary? Will you need to supplement the curriculum in any way?
If your program will integrate services, how will you make decisions about which parts or components to integrate? Will each session include content in all intended areas, or will content be provided in a predefined sequence? What rationale or justification underlies your integration decisions?
If your program is not integrated, will participants have a menu of separately provided classes or services (for example, separate workshops on parenting, relationships, and employment), or will they be expected to complete the separately provided services in some sequence? If there is a sequence, what is the sequence, and why is it the optimal sequence? Consider factors such as participant needs and continued engagement in the program. Should the program address some needs first and others later?
How you structure your program might depend on your target population. For example, with regard to Responsible Fatherhood programs, past research suggests that some fathers prefer to begin with short-term services that will quickly help them move forward, such as getting a job, rather than long-term services such as improving their educational attainment.2
2Romo, C., J.V. Bellamy, and M.T. Coleman. "Texas Fragile Families Final Evaluation Report." Austin, TX: Center for Public Policy Priorities, summer 2004.
Pfannenstiel, A.E., and A.S. Honig. "Prenatal Intervention and Support for Low-Income Fathers." Infant Mental Health Journal, vol. 12, no. 2, 1991, pp. 103–115.
Caldwell, C.H., J. Rafferty, T.M. Reischl, E.H. Loney, and C.L. Brooks. "Enhancing Parenting Skills Among Nonresident African American Fathers as a Strategy for Preventing Youth Risky Behaviors." American Journal of Community Psychology, vol. 45, no. 1–2, 2010, pp. 17–35.
Cohort versus open-entry models. Will your program deliver services through a cohort model (where participants enter and proceed through a program together) or an open-entry model (that is, can participants drop in and drop out)?
Some programs are structured so that a specific group of participants begins the sequence of services together and proceeds through the program as a cohort. This maximizes the potential for group cohesion and is thought to promote ongoing participation and completion. With open-entry models, the core workshop sessions are continually offered throughout the year, and newly enrolled participants can join a session at any point in the workshop sequence. This means that participants can join the program whenever they are ready, rather than waiting for a new cohort to start. This structure is designed to serve participants who might be in crisis and need immediate assistance. However, since participants can change from session to session, a new participant might find it hard to bond right away.
Length of program.What is the minimum number of hours of involvement in the program necessary for creating change in participants’ behavior and other outcomes?
Generally, the more difficult it is to affect an outcome (taking into account the characteristics of the target population), the greater the number of hours needed. Think about what level of participation is likely to be needed to create long-lasting and significant change in your target population.
Selecting curricula. What curricula will your program use? Is there research evidence of its effectiveness? Has it been used or tested with your target population?
Some curricula claim to have evidence of effectiveness, but the claims are not always based on methodologically rigorous or conclusive research. Others might have been found to be effective with a very different target population than the one you are interested in serving. It is helpful to consult with objective third-party experts when selecting a curriculum for your target population.
Uniqueness of services. Is your program unique in your community? How are your services different from those already available in the community?
If your program is similar to another in your community, you could be competing for the same target population, which means you might not be able to serve the numbers of participants you expect. Further, if your program is being evaluated in a rigorous research design, the control group could access those other services available in the community, thereby potentially dampening the effect of your program. It might be worthwhile to sit down with the other program and discuss how each program could bring unique services to the community. At a minimum, you could share your successes and challenges and learn from each other.
Learning from similar programs. Have you reached out to similar programs—or to different programs in similar communities—and discussed their programming? Did their experience influence your programming plans?
Adjustments to previous programming. If you have operated this program in the past: have you reassessed what content your target population needs and whether your planned programming addresses these needs? Did your program structure work well in the past, or could it be improved? Are you considering any new programming approaches?
For more information on designing your program services, see:
- Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation. “Responsible Fatherhood Programming: Two Approaches to Service Delivery.” April 2015. This brief uses data from the Parents and Children Together (PACT) process evaluation to (1) provide a general overview of two approaches to service delivery in fatherhood programs, (2) document how service delivery is linked to fathers' characteristics, and (3) describe how service delivery approach might be linked to program participation and retention rates.
- Strengthening Families Evidence Review. This review identified and assessed the research on programs for fathers and couples. Studies are rated on the strength of their design for detecting impacts of the program. Results are available through a study search tool or reports.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. “Strengthening Families Curriculum Resource Guide.” This resource provides information about the content and select features of curricula that Office of Family Assistance Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grantees commonly use. The guide is intended to help answer questions such as Who is the curriculum intended to reach?, What topics are covered in the curriculum?, and What do we need to implement this curriculum? Additionally, users can generate a side-by-side comparison table of curriculum to help them select a curriculum that best fits their needs.
- Friend, Daniel and Diane Paulsell (2018). Integrating Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (HMRE) and Employment Services: Design Choices of Two HMRE Grantees. OPRE Report #2018-51. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/resource/integrating-healthy-marriage-and-relationship-education-hmre-and-employment-services-design-choices-of-two-hmre-grantees
- National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Network. “Extension Resources: Curricula.” This web page provides a list of various healthy marriage curricula and other resources developed by members of this network. The list is divided by specific target populations such as ethnic groups, blended families, and divorced couples.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Healthy Marriage and Relationship Programs: Promising Practices in Serving Low-Income and Culturally Diverse Populations.” January 2009. Chapter 2, “Getting Started: Designing Your Program.” This chapter covers topics such as how to select and adapt a curriculum, develop a service delivery strategy, and choose a delivery format based on the desired intensity, duration, and frequency.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Marriage and Relationship Education Program Development and Management Manual.” Chapter 1, Section 3, “Selecting Program Type,” and Chapter 4, “Curriculum.” August 2013. Chapter 1, Section 3 gives an overview of different healthy marriage service models and guidance on how to select a program type based on a target population. Chapter 4 gives an overview of how to assess and select a healthy marriage curriculum while considering costs and considerations such as training of facilitators. This chapter also discusses options for enhancing existing curricula.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Achieving Economic Stability: Strategies for Successfully Connecting Dads to Jobs.” April 2012. This webinar discusses programming options for bolstering economic opportunities and providing job assistance for fathers.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Compendium of Curricula Used by Fatherhood Programs.” August 2011. For organizations looking to explore curricula for certain target populations, this compendium provides a partial listing of responsible fatherhood programs divided by target populations, including young fathers, specific ethnic groups, incarcerated fathers, and other populations of interest.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Consumer Guidelines to Selecting Curriculum for Use in Fatherhood Programs.” 2008. This brief outlines a six-step process for identifying and selecting a responsible fatherhood curriculum to help practitioners best address the needs of their target populations.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Fatherhood Programming in Correctional Settings: Selecting a Curriculum.” October 2009. This brief discusses factors in selecting a curriculum for fathers who are in prisons, jails, halfway houses, and other correctional settings.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit: Resources from the Field.” Section on “Program Services.” This page lists types of services that responsible fatherhood programs commonly offer.
- Urban Institute. “Ten Key Findings from Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives.” March 2008. This brief highlights key lessons in development and implementation from past fatherhood programs.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance. “Evaluation Resource Guide for Responsible Fatherhood Programs.” Chapter 3, “Responsible Fatherhood Program Model Implemented by the by the Office of Family Assistance.” This chapter outlines service activities often offered by responsible fatherhood programs in the areas of healthy relationships and co-parenting, developing parenting skills, advancing economic stability, increasing fathers’ involvement with children, facilitating transformations to encourage men to see themselves as fathers, and connecting fathers with their communities and available supports.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. “Guide to Low-Cost Curricula and Resources for Marriage and Relationship, Fatherhood and Parenting, and Financial Education.” December 2009. This guide offers an alphabetized list of curricula and resources in three areas: (1) marriage and relationship, (2) fatherhood and parenting, and (3) financial education. Each listing has a brief summary of the curriculum and a link to a website that hosts the curriculum.
Qualifications. What backgrounds and skills do you expect of staff with different roles (for example, recruitment, case management, curriculum delivery, and employment services), and in different implementation settings (for example, jails or prisons where staff might need security clearance)? Are there particular personality traits that are important (for example, being outgoing, empathetic, a good communicator), and does this vary by role? In what ways should the staff be culturally competent?
Some programs believe it is important to hire staff from the target population, such as program graduates, because with their similar backgrounds, they are well-suited to engage participants and might serve as powerful role models. Others believe it is more important to hire staff who have four-year or postgraduate degrees in specific areas, regardless of their personal backgrounds, particularly for curriculum delivery. Programs sometimes strike a balance between these two extremes. For example, some hire program graduates who are attending college to attain a relevant degree. Programs can also use different types of staff in different positions, such as using program graduates to recruit new participants and using staff with postgraduate degrees to deliver the curriculum.
Number of staff. How many staff will you allocate to each of these services?
Training and supervision. How will these staff be trained and supervised? Will there be ongoing or refresher trainings? Who will provide supervision? How often will supervision be conducted?
Adequate training and ongoing supervision are key to ensuring that staff have a clear and common understanding of the objectives of their role (and how to carry it out), the curricula, and the program overall. Program success is more likely when participants are receiving the same key message from all staff. It is also important for programs to think about training they should provide to partners that may provide service delivery and/or referrals.
Communication. In what ways will the staff responsible for different parts of the program communicate and coordinate with one another?
When facilitators deliver the core curriculum but have no time set aside for communicating and coordinating with case managers, employment specialists, or other staff, the result is often a lack of cohesion in message content and service delivery. This challenge can be more common when contract staff deliver core curriculum.
Case review meetings. Will cases be “staffed?” That is, will staff responsible for various parts of the program (i.e., program director, facilitators, case managers, job development staff) come together on a regular basis to review a specific participant’s progress and, if needed, decide on a course of action?
Some programs schedule regular “staffings” of each father’s, individual’s, or couple’s case at least once or twice over the course of their participation. Case managers, group facilitators, employment staff, and others attend and provide input from their perspectives on a father’s, individual’s, or couple’s progress. This helps to shape the program’s understanding of services participants need.
Continuous quality improvement (CQI) teams.Which staff members will you include in your CQI team? More information on developing CQI teams can be found on the Continuous Quality Improvement page of this website.
Learning from similar programs. Have you reached out to similar programs—or to different programs in similar communities—and discussed how they staff their programs? Did their experience influence your staffing plan?
Adjustments to previous staffing structures. If you have operated this program in the past: were the qualification levels set in the previous program sufficient? What about the number of staff? Were there any communication “bumps in the road”? Are you considering any new staffing approaches?
For more information on staffing, see:
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Healthy Marriage and Relationship Programs: Promising Practices in Serving Low-Income and Culturally Diverse Populations.” January 2009. Chapter 3, “Developing Your Program Infrastructure.” This chapter covers considerations in staffing and hiring and training facilitators, especially in the context of providing services to low-income and culturally diverse target populations.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Marriage and Relationship Education Program Development and Management Manual.” Chapter 6, “Marriage Educators and Facilitation,” and Chapter 7, “Program Management.” August 2013. Chapter 6 discusses factors in hiring educators and facilitators for programs. Chapter 7 discusses factors in assigning program staff, hiring new staff, training staff, preventing turnover, and managing staff.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Using Volunteers Effectively in Delivering Marriage Education Workshops.” Programs that work with volunteers might find this brief helpful, as it covers recruiting, selecting, supporting, and retaining volunteers.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit: Resources from the Field.” Section on “Staffing.” This page contains information on staff competencies, key roles, hiring and training, managing fatherhood program staff, and more.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Staff Coaching: What’s Important for Fatherhood Programs?” October 2009. Coaching involves interactive, action-oriented, goal-setting processes to help improve staff performance. This brief encourages the use of coaching to strengthen and reinforce newly learned behavior for responsible fatherhood program staff and practitioners.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Staff Selection: What’s Important for Fatherhood Programs?” October 2009. This brief discusses tips for recruiting and retaining staff, including partnering with universities, promoting from within, relying on peer recruitment, and using media sources to find candidates. Practitioners are encouraged to select candidates who demonstrate the ability to work with fathers and show enthusiasm for the program mission.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Training Program Staff: Five Tips for Fatherhood Programs.” September 2008. This brief offers five tips for training staff, including explaining the theory behind program implementation, making training interactive, providing staff with assistance and support, collaborating with community organizations, and assessing the needs of staff and participants.
Setting participation expectations. What is your expectation of participation? How will you communicate that to participants?
Some programs find that too much flexibility leads to decreased participation. For example, open-entry/open-exit programs might dampen a father’s, individual’s, or couple’s motivation to begin attending at a specific session because they know they can always attend the next one without repercussions. Unfortunately, studies suggest that the longer people delay engaging, the less likely they are to ever engage in services.
Communicating expectations. How will you communicate participation expectations to those who enroll? How will you encourage and enforce these expectations?
Barriers to participation. What barriers, if any, might interfere with the target population’s participation in the program? How do you plan to address them?
Encouraging initial participation. How do you plan to encourage enrollees to begin participating in program services?
Programs have found that the longer people must wait to begin program participation, the less likely it is that they will start. While waiting for a workshop to begin, some people lose interest or motivation, and some experience schedule changes that would interfere with their participation. More successful programs tend to arrange their schedules so that people do not have to wait more than a couple of weeks after enrollment to begin participation.
Designing incentives. Will you provide an incentive for enrollees to attend for the first time? If so, what incentives? Will you offer gift cards to encourage participation, , or other grant-funded participation supports like transportation, child care to remove barriers to participation?
Learning from similar programs. Have you reached out to similar programs—or to different programs in similar communities—and discussed how they encourage participants to attend the first class or activity? Did their experience influence your initial engagement strategies?
Adjustments to previous engagement strategies. If you have operated this program in the past: what was your previous initiation rate—that is, the rate at which those who enrolled actually began attending? What is your new target initiation rate? What strategies are you considering to encourage participants to attend the first session?
For more information on encouraging initial participation, see:
- Office of Planning Research, and Evaluation. “MotherWise: Implementation of a Health Marriage and Relationship Education Program for Pregnant and New Mothers, STREAMS.” November 2019. This report discusses successful participant engagement in Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education programs.
- Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation. “Parents and Children Together: Design and Implementation of Responsible Fatherhood Programs.” September 2015. Section G. “Practices to Promote Participation” provides information on encouraging participation among program participants in a responsible fatherhood program.
- MDRC. “Applying Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques to Employment Programming for Fathers.” December 2019. The section “To What Extent Were Programs Able to Engage Fathers and For How Long?” provides information on using incentives to encourage program participation in an employment program.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Marriage and Relationship Education Program Development and Management Manual.” Chapter 5, “Workshop Logistics.” August 2013. This chapter discusses strategies for scheduling and locating services, supports to encourage participation (such as child care), and other considerations.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Working with Fathers in Groups: Tips to Enhance Your Facilitation Skills.” February 2009. Strategies covered in this webinar might be relevant for engaging new participants in fatherhood programs that use facilitated group discussions.
Retaining participants. How do you plan to keep participants engaged in the program once they begin participating? Will you offer an incentive (such as a gift card, assistance with transportation, or child care) or other way of encouraging ongoing participation and reducing program attrition?
Maximizing participation is essential to participants learning the skills taught in a program and growing; after all, if a father, individual or couple does not participate, there is little chance they will experience positive program outcomes.
Grant-funded participation supports to facilitate ongoing participation. What grant-funded participation supports will you offer participants to facilitate their continued participation over time? Will you offer regular transportation to the workshop, child care during program sessions, or other supports to remove barriers to participation? Will you make phone calls or drop by to visit participants who miss sessions? Will staff call program participants to remind them of upcoming sessions or activities?
Completion. How will you motivate participants to complete the program? Will you offer any incentives to participants who complete major milestones or complete the entire program? Incentives might be tangible, like a gift card, or symbolic, such as an award ceremony that will occur upon program completion.
Learning from similar programs. Have you reached out to similar programs—or to different programs in similar communities—to discuss how they encourage continued participation? Did their experience lead you to alter your retention strategies?
Adjustments to previous retention approaches. If you have operated this program in the past: what was your previous rate of program retention—that is, the proportion of participants who remained in the program until a certain point, such as halfway through the program? What was your rate of completion? What are your new target rates of retention and completion? What new strategies are you considering continuing to engage participants?
For more information on encouraging participation and completion, see:
- Office of Family Assistance. “Recruiting and Retaining Men in Responsible Fatherhood Programs: A Research-to-Practice Brief." 2012. This brief summarizes practices from the Strengthening Families Evidence Review on recruitment and retention. The brief includes suggestions on how to plan for recruitment, engage fathers in services, and maintain high rates of participation.
- Office of Research, Planning, and Evaluation. “Participation in Responsible Fatherhood Programs in the PACT Evaluation: Associations with Father and Program Characteristics” November 2018. This report highlights characteristics of fathers and programs that predict fathers’ initial and ongoing attendance. Grantees can use the findings from this evaluation to recognize how they can design and implement their responsible fatherhood services to better support fatherhood participation.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Healthy Marriage and Relationship Programs: Promising Practices in Serving Low-Income and Culturally Diverse Populations.” January 2009. Chapter 4, “Implementing Your Program.” This chapter covers issues related to retaining, following up with, and tracking participants, focusing on low-income and culturally diverse populations.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. “Marriage and Relationship Education Program Development and Management Manual.” Chapter 11, “Retention and Engagement.” August 2013. This chapter offers practical information on how to encourage program participants who have left services to return, continually enhance participants’ experience, and handle disruptive participants.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “Tips for Retaining Participants in Fatherhood Programs: Wisdom from the Field.” September 2008. This brief presents practical strategies for retaining participants in responsible fatherhood programs. Strategies include using incentives, providing transportation, offering child care, providing job assistance, engaging participants in leadership roles, and allowing for flexible scheduling.
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. “What Works in Fatherhood Programs? Ten Lessons from Evidence-Based Practice.” This brief includes 10 lessons learned from responsible fatherhood programs, several of which address strategies for engaging fathers, such as encouraging one-on-one relationships between staff and participants, providing incentives to participants, and personalizing information to participants.
Inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes. Logic models usually have four components: inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes. Grant applicants are required to submit a logic model with their application (see the examples for a Healthy Marriage logic model and a Responsible Fatherhood logic model). Please see the bullets and links below for more information on these components. (See the glossary for definitions.) Consider your answers to the questions below to define the specific components of your program’s logic model.
Constructing a logic model can ensure that appropriate programming links target populations with the desired outcomes. Once you have thought through the other design issues outlined in this document, you should be ready to design your logic model.
Inputs. What financial, staff, and material resources will your organization have for the program?
Inputs include staff and volunteers, funding, physical space, equipment, collaborations, program regulations and requirements, and the participants themselves. All of these factors interact to inform what resources will go into your program.
Activities. What activities will your program offer? How will those activities lead to your intended outcomes?
Your logic model might include general strategies or services (such as workshops and case management) as well as the content (such as curricula) that you expect to offer.
Outputs. What aspects of program activities do you expect to measure (for example, how many workshops were offered, and the expected length and frequency of services)? How many people do you expect to enroll in and complete the program?
Outputs are measures of quantity, usually having to do with service provision. Output measures will demonstrate what services the program actually offered and to how many people.
Outcomes. What short- and long-term changes do you seek for program participants? See the Resources for Evaluation Design page of this website for more information on how to identify and measure outcomes.
The outcomes you expect in your participants should be directly tied to the content, message, and focus of the program’s services. Outcomes can take the form of changes in participants’ attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. Inputs, activities, and outputs will all feed into outcomes in your logic model.
Timing of outcomes. When do you expect these changes to occur (for example, at some point during the program, immediately after the program, three months after the program, six months or one year post-program)? Are there shorter-term outcomes that are precursors to longer-term outcomes?
Some outcomes might represent interim steps on the way toward longer-term outcomes. For example, immediately after a program ends, a father might have made specific plans for spending more time with his children but not had an opportunity to act on them. However, this planning could lead to greater father involvement some time after completing the program. In your logic model, you might want to split up outcomes into shorter-term and longer-term expected outcomes.
For more information on logic models, see:
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Family Assistance. “Evaluation Resource Guide for Responsible Fatherhood Programs.” 2010. Chapter 4, “Developing a Logic Model.” This guide offers insights into building logic models for responsible fatherhood programs and contains exercises for identifying components that a program’s logic model should include.
- Barthle, Courtney, and Richard Lewis. “Developing a Logic Model: A Road Map for Navigating the Future.” Presentation at the Entrance Conference for Healthy Marriage and Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Grantees. December 2006. This PowerPoint slideshow gives a basic overview of the purpose, uses, and elements of logic models within the context of an example of a responsible fatherhood program.
- Burke, Michael. “Tips for Developing Logic Models.” November 2007. This poster illustrates and explains the level of detail to include in a logic model, the categories to include, how to define outputs and outcomes, and how to use a logic model for planning and evaluation.
- Child Welfare Information Gateway. “Logic Model Builders.” This interactive website helps programs build logic models specifically for programs intended to address family support. It also includes a webinar and other information on the purpose and importance of logic models.
- Fatherhood Research and Practice Network. “Logic Models.” March 2014. This brief describes what to include in a logic model, an example of a model for a fatherhood program, and additional resources to consider.
- Mathematica. “Using Logic Models to Guide the Planning and Evaluation of Complex Initiatives.” November 2019. This brief highlights how logic models can be an effective tool for guiding the planning and evaluation of complex initiatives. The brief includes examples of logic models, an explanation of logic model components, and factors to consider when creating a logic model for your initiative.
- McGroder, Sharon. “Use of Logic Models in Healthy Marriage Programs.” Presentation at the Entrance Conference for Healthy Marriage and Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Grantees. December 2006. This PowerPoint slideshow gives a basic overview of the purpose, uses, and elements of logic models within the context of an example of a healthy marriage program.
- University of Wisconsin-Extension, Program Development and Evaluation. “Logic Models.” This site provides a self-study module on how to develop and use logic models to enhance program performance and evaluation, as well as examples of logic models and templates for developing models.
- United Way. “A Guide to Developing an Outcome Logic Model and Measurement Plan” This web page includes a short PowerPoint tutorial on measuring outcomes and designing logic models. It also shares basic templates for designing a logic model and outcomes.
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “Logic Model Development Guide.” February 2006. This guide offers exercises, tools, and templates to help organizations develop appropriate logic models for their programs.