What can you do with the outcome data you have?
This part of the tool explains how to go about calculating outcome costs, and includes 3 examples of outcome data and associated cost information. However, the tool does not calculate costs for all outcomes that may be of interest to you and your program. Doing so would be too complex for this instructional tool, and requires a skilled cost analyst. However, by following the examples given you will learn the basics of how to approach a cost benefit analysis using your own time periods, data, and cost information. You can also use the tool to estimate hypothetical cost-savings for your program (if you have collected program costs) for selected outcomes.
The type of outcome data that you have and whether or not you have a comparison group (i.e., a group of families for whom you have outcome data but who have not received program services) dictates the type of cost analysis that you will be able to do. Some outcome costs can be estimated, using what are known as "proxies." Proxies are research-based estimates that can be used if actual cost information is not available. For the 3 examples, you may use your own local cost information, or you may enter the cost proxies provided.
In addition, the more outcome data you have, and the stronger your research design (e.g., whether participants were randomly assigned to the program or control group; whether you have data at intake and at follow up data points, etc.) the better the quality of your cost benefit analysis. Similarly, if you have outcome data but don't have accurate data on program costs, the validity of your cost-benefit analysis will be questionable. For this reason always start with a program cost analysis (see Calculating Program Costs section).