Tips for Impact Writing

What is impact?

  • Impact is the reportable, quantifiable difference, or potential difference, that your research, teaching or program is making in real people’s lives. It reports payoffs and benefits to society. The focus is on public – not internal, organizational or personal – benefit.
  • Impact is change or potential change in one or more key areas:
    • Economic.
    • Environmental.
    • Social.
    • Health and well-being.

Reporting impact

  • An impact statement is a brief summary, in lay terms, that:
    • Highlights the difference your program or research is making for the public good.
    • Concisely summarizes what you did to achieve this difference.
    • Clearly states payoffs to society.
  • Impact statements answer these key questions:
    • Why you did what you did (what issue or problem your work is addressing).
    • What you did (a high level summary only).
    • The outcome of what you did.
  • An impact statement is not:
    • A long, detailed report.
    • Numbers of people reached, meetings held, acres served (These provide context, but alone, they don't capture the element of change essential to good impact).
    • A detailed description of the research.
    • A list of additional grants, honors, recognition for organizers.
  • Be specific. Report economic, environmental, social or health/well-being impact in terms of:
    • Knowledge gained and how that knowledge is applied.
    • Behavior or attitude changes.
    • Practice or situation changes.
    • Results of the knowledge, behavior, attitude, practice or situation changes.
  • Think about your audience:
    • What do they need to know?
    • What keeps them up at night/what do they care about?
    • How do they like to receive information?
    • What do you need them to know?
  • Effective impact statements:
    • Provide quantifiable evidence of change or difference the research or program made.
    • Give other evidence, such as testimonials or anecdotes.
    • Realistically project potential benefit for work in progress.
    • Provide only enough detail to be easily understood.
    • Highlight public benefits, outcomes, payoffs.

Impact audiences

  • Write impact statements for:
    • State and federal decision makers (reporting needs).
    • Local decision makers, supporters.
    • Taxpayers, stakeholders, commodity groups.
    • Current and potential funders or partners.

Impact tips and tricks

  • Reuse and repackage for:
    • Annual reports, legislative briefings, constituent letters.
    • Web sites, searchable databases.
    • Speeches, fact sheets, displays, posters, newsletters.
    • Media tip sheets, story pitches, PSAs.
    • Background for supporters, collaborators, advisory, alumni groups.
    • Grants and funding applications, federal reports.
  • Write a strong “why” or issue/problem statement:
    • Do a Google search to quantify the problem.
    • Use reliable sources – Centers for Disease Control, EPA, USDA, etc.
    • Find “why” details in grant proposals.
  • For difficult impacts – basic research, emerging issues, 4-H, FCS, academics – try:
    • Testimonials
    • Anecdotes
    • If x then y statements – potential impacts