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Impact statement reporting course available through eXtension.org

Posted: August 14, 2016

A new eXtension.org training opportunity is available to Extension professionals who want to improve their impact reporting skills. “Impact Statement Reporting” is an online course that includes reading, quizzes, and a video-based case study of an Oregon-based non-profit working to document its own impact. NERCRD staff member Kristen Devlin took the course and offers this summary.

An impact statement, according to this course, answers two important questions: “so what?” and “who cares?” Answering these questions about your programs can enhance your credibility, increase visibility, strengthen public support, and help to secure funding. Impact statements have a life cycle, beginning with program design and ending with the writing and distribution of the final report. The course describes each phase in some detail.

While writing your impact report, you should keep your audience’s existing knowledge, biases, and needs in mind. Impact reports inherently ask something of their readers — to volunteer, to donate, or to pledge their support for a program. Whatever the ask, it should be clearly communicated.

Using effective performance indicators can help capture impact, and two categories of performance indicators are described in detail. (For additional reading on impact indicators, check out our recently published guide.)

The course authors provide examples of communications that do not qualify as impact statements, such as success stories or lists of project outputs (e.g., meetings, publications, websites) that fail to document impact. Impact reports should instead demonstrate a measurable change in behavior or knowledge. I found the time spent on the definition of impact to be particularly helpful. Through interactive exercises, I had the opportunity to read various attempts at impact statements and grade them based on how well they demonstrate actual impact. For me, this helped to crystallize the concepts taught in this lesson.

The authors also provide guidance on the actual writing process, and encourage the use of a three-part structure: a concise description of the issue addressed by the program (preferably including data that underscore its relevance); a brief summary of the program’s process (avoiding unnecessary detail); and a concrete description of the impact (think numbers). Impact statements should not exceed two pages, and should include contact information for follow-up questions.

Once you’ve written an impact statement, get it in front of as many people as you can! Your communications staff can help you distribute it, and also may re-purpose it into other formats, like presentations or social media posts, to expand its reach. This training outlines the process for submitting impact reports to the Land-Grant University System Database, and encourages viewers to explore whether their own institutions may also have repositories for impact reports.

The Impact Statement Reporting course offered by eXtension.org and designed by the Office of Professional and Continuing Education at Oregon State University in collaboration with a nationwide team of Extension staff is free to employees of eXtension-member institutions. It offers a good introduction to what impacts are and are not, and how and why they should be reported, and requires a small time commitment (less than two hours) to complete it. To register for the course, visit: https://extension.org/impact-statement-reporting/.