Impact writing ensures our stakeholders recognize the important work Extension does.
Good impact writing isn't about you as the program implementer. So, stop writing about what you did. Don't tell us what you did to make a thing happen; instead, tell us what changed in the community (person, family, business) because you did that thing.
Next time you write a success story or an impact report for your supervisor, county board, or donor, number your paper 1 through 5 and answer these five questions about the program:
- What's wrong in the world that this program was developed to improve?
- What happens to the world if we don’t fix this problem?
- What will fixing the problem achieve? (How will our participants or communities be transformed?)
- How many people were reached with each thing you did to address the problem you stated in #1? (What's our footprint in addressing the problem?)
- What changed for the participants or community because Extension did this program?
Let's walk through a pretend program.
Let's say you're hosting a cultural exchange program that includes a roller skating event at the end. Although we want kids to have fun, just having fun isn't the reason we're having the program. Our real goal is to broaden the diverse experiences youth need to be culturally aware in a global community. Now, as we walk through each of the questions above, our impact story may sound like this:
- Youth in rural settings often lack opportunities to meet diverse young people beyond their local communities.
- Youth who lack exposure to diverse communities may have difficulties navigating relationships once they leave their small communities and sometimes struggle in college and careers. (Back this up with research.)
- Diverse cultural perspectives can inspire creativity and drive innovation. "Talking about diversity and integrating it into everyday life makes a child accepting and proud of who they are and enables them to embrace not only their own diversity, but also the diversity of all those around them," according to the Kids Matter Mental Health Institute.
- For five weeks, 125 youth were teamed with a youth from County A. They attended weekly online gatherings and exchanged emails. As a culminating event, youth met together for roller skating.
- As a result of the program, youth say they have a greater appreciation of what other kids go through, as well as an understanding of their favorite activities, foods, and family celebrations. Youth say they've made new friendships that inspire them to travel more and be more open to new experiences, and 94% say they want to learn more about the global community.
Focus on the need and the change.
Sure, you can sometimes move these sentences around to make a better story, but all five elements are important to a good impact story. The process you went through to make the event happen should not be included. After all, they're called impact stories, not what-I-did stories. Some examples of things you can leave out of your story include:
- A committee was formed to discuss what we might do.
- We did the first art project in the basement then moved upstairs for the second art project
- We set up more chairs than the previous session since we ran out the first time.
- I notified the participants in March and followed up in April with the first lesson.
Beth Welbes has created some priority issue statements which might help you begin to answer questions #1, #2, and #3.