Impact statements convey messages used for far more than supervisor evaluations – though that’s one of the important roles of impact statements. The better they are written, the better your supervisor can assess your accomplishments. But they also provide fodder for speeches by President Alexander, and Anita Azarenko, interim vice provost for the Division of Extension and Engagement, uses them for reports and briefing documents and to communicate with elected officials and stakeholders about Extension’s impact in Oregon and beyond. Regional directors and local liaisons turn to impact statements to present Extension’s successes, and Extension Communications uses impact statements to put Extension in a positive light through impact stories, news stories, press releases and more.
The impact statements you enter into Digital Measures can have an effect on promotion and tenure. They are a way for supervisors to get an idea about how your efforts have contributed to Extension’s mission.
In other words, impact statements have a wide reach and are necessary for letting our stakeholders, legislators, partners, current and future customers know the important things Extension accomplishes. They are posted online on the Our Impact webpage, available for anyone to peruse.
Although many of you know about the site, you may wonder how to find stories so that you can better let your fellow Oregonians know about them. There are more than 165 impact stories on the site now. You can find stories that relate to your region by using the “view our impacts in Oregon counties.”
Once you’re familiar with how to find impact stories, you can share them with the public in a variety of ways, most notably: on your social media accounts, in presentations and newsletters, on posters and grant applications and in written and verbal communications with elected officials.
Writing useful impact statements
Impact statements are straightforward, concise reports of your program efforts and impact. Good ones like the one below conveys three things:
- Problem or issue
- Efforts or activities to solve it
- Impact or change it brought
Here, the problem encompasses the management conflict between sage-grouse and cattle grazing.
The action statement is Extension’s efforts to avoid listing the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species List with an information campaign to landowners, which would result in improvements to rangelands to make them more friendly to sage-grouse.
The impact or change was a historic agreement to protect sage-grouse habitat. Along with that are statistics to back it up.
The idea is to get your impact across without dumping all of your information into your statement. Be short. Think of it as an elevator speech. You want the reader to get the idea of your impact in a few paragraphs. If you feel it must be longer, continue to write in a straight-forward manner and keep it as concise as possible. If you need some coaching, contact Kym Pokorny or Chris Branam on the Extension Communications news team. Always keep in mind (from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications and Marketing, Virginia Tech):
An impact statement
- Briefly summarizes, in lay terms, the difference your teaching/learning, research/discovery, and extension and outreach/engagement efforts have made.
- States accomplishment and creates strong support for programs.
- Answers the questions… “So what?” and “Who cares?”
- Conveys accomplishments in simple language free of technical jargon.
- Is submitted by faculty for three to five efforts each year.
- Helps us reflect on and improve our work.
- Demonstrates the difference we make in people’s lives, communities and the environment.
- Improves visibility of programs (local, state, national).
- Generates support.
- Is a repository of results for speeches and other communication.
- Helps us focus on issues, initiatives, and program themes.
- Builds greater understanding of our programs by the public.
- Illustrates our accountability.
Don’t use jargon. Write as if you are talking to a family member or friend who knows nothing about your topic. You want them to come away thinking, “So that’s what Extension does.” Don’t be vague. Use active verbs. Rather than “She was plowing the wheat field” write “She plowed the wheat field.”
Headlines, subheads, photos and captions grab attention so should be clear and engaging. An example of some good headlines includes:
- OSU research hooks students on marine science
- Urban cosmetologists raise money for Hopkins Demonstration Forest
- 4-H youth sew Stockings for Soldiers
- Wildfire danger in northeast Oregon ignites action to improve forest health
Be memorable. Be punchy. Be concise. Note all verbs are active. You want it to be informative; it is the gateway to the reader and we want them to open the door.
Impact statements are all about communicating to the public, much of which aren’t familiar with Extension or Extension’s reach throughout the state and beyond, so don’t be humble.
It’s recommended that you start thinking of impact at the beginning of your project. Will you determine impact through interviews? Surveys? Measurable impact? Don’t worry if you don’t have numbers to use for measuring impact. Describing what you have accomplished or think you will accomplish works, too. If your project is ongoing, you should update your impact statement yearly as you gather more information.
Remember, impact statements are just a three-pronged report: problem, what you did to change it, what the change or impact was. It can be written in three paragraphs, but it’s okay if you go over. Just don’t put all the details in. Keep it as short as you can. Along with headlines and photos, conciseness in conveying your message is one of the most important aspects of writing an impact statement. You want to answer “So what?” Your statement should draw people in so that Extension is known throughout the state for the important work we do.
We are excited to announce a new feature for the Extension website’s county landing pages later this month. Impact stories related to your county will be featured in the news and impact section. The stories originate from The Statewides: Our Impact website.