What is impact?

Impact is the difference your programs are making in peoples' lives. In more technical terms, impact is the reportable and verifiable difference a land-grant program makes in the lives of citizens.

What Is Impact?

Impact is the difference your programs are making in peoples' lives. In more technical terms, impact is the reportable and verifiable difference a land-grant program makes in the lives of citizens. Impact reporting lets us:

  • illustrate the importance of the land-grant effort
  • provide public accountability
  • provide program accountability
  • show a return on investment
  • foster a better public understanding of the whole picture of research, teaching, and service
  • obtain future funding
  • increase awareness of all the programs within the institution

An impact statement is a brief summary, in lay terms, of the economic, environmental, and/or social impact of our efforts. It states accomplishments and their payoff to society. In short, an impact statement answers the questions "So what?" and "Who cares."

Why Should You Care?

Impact reporting is important because it:

  • illustrates our accountability
  • improves visibility of programs (local, state, national)
  • generates support materials for lobbying
  • is a repository of anecdotes for speeches or letters
  • helps build greater understanding of the Extension Service programs

Impact reporting is important to you as faculty and field staff because:

  • this kind of reporting is easy for the public to understand
  • your work will get more exposure
  • it is easier to continue getting funding when the public understands the value of what we do

Impact reporting is important to communicators because it is a source of story ideas.

Who Is Your Audience?

  • the general public
  • local governing bodies
  • state officials
  • federal officials
  • your peers

These audience members:

  • exercise some kind of control over your programs
  • generally want only information vital to decisions
  • are asking for quantifiable differences brought about by investments in your program

What Makes a Good Impact Statement?

Remember, an impact statement is a brief summary, in lay terms, of the social, environmental and/or economic impact of your efforts. It states accomplishments and their payoff to society. A good impact statement:

  • answers the questions "So what?" and "Who cares."
  • illustrates change in at least one of these areas: economic value or efficiency; environmental quality; social/individual well being (health).

Brief impact statement examples

Economic value or efficiency
To remain competitive in a global market, Oregon grass seed growers are always on the lookout for new marketing opportunities.

OSU Extension specialists, working with the Oregon Seed Council and the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Introduced China to high-quality Oregon cool-season turf and forage grass seed varieties. As a result, Oregon grass seed exports to China have increased nearly 19-fold from 338,500 pounds in 1994 to 6.4 million pounds in 1999. In 5 to 10 years, Oregon grass seed exports could reach 100 million pounds annually.

Environmental quality
Growing concerns about maintaining the quality of the environment have prompted Oregon schools to emphasize education about the environment in school curriculums.

The OSU Extension 4-H Youth program partnered with local schools to help provide environmental education by starting the 4-H Wildlife Stewards Program. Wildlife Stewards are adult volunteers who help local schools establish natural habitat areas that are used to complement lessons in science, math, are, history and other subjects. In 2001 9,397 Oregon school children in 10 Oregon counties participated in programs led by volunteer 4-H Wildlife Stewards.

Social/individual well being (health)
Low-income families spend proportionately more of their income on food than families with higher incomes.

The OSU Extension Service conducts the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program to help families better manage their resources and make healthy food choices. In 1999, more than 10,000 children/youth and 2,000 individuals or families received nutrition education. Extension staff trained about 100 community volunteers and agency staff to deliver nutrition education to other.

Have Trouble Describing Your Project's Impact?

Reporting Potential Impact
Sometimes its very hard to define or quantify the impact of your project. This is especially true for basic research and work with youth and families, teaching and long-run efforts. If this describes your work, consider including potential impact:

  • the most likely benefactors of the research or education project
  • what you expect the outcome to be and why
  • an idea of how long it would take to reach expected outcomes
  • real or hypothetical examples of expected outcomes

Example of a potential impact statement:
We bought special software for classroom computers. The students learned to analyze the total true cost of producing food products. Using the same software industry uses makes these students ready for the job market and ready to enhance the food economy.

Getting help

If you have questions about writing impacts, or if you want to tell us about some of your program successes, please contact EESC.

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