The word “impact” is everywhere these days, but not everyone uses or understands it in the same way. Why does this matter? A clear definition of impact is necessary to develop an effective and rewarding philanthropic strategy since impact definitions drive decisions and ultimately move dollars.

Donors have a particular obligation to seek clarity and consensus with regard to definitions of impact, as their definitions often carry disproportionate weight: programs can have more of an incentive to satisfy funders than beneficiaries.

Our hope is that it will be useful to donors developing their own definitions of impact; we also hope to clarify the many (sometimes conflicting) uses of the term impact and the real-world repercussions of those uses.

To that end, we present patterns of impact definition from three main perspectives:

  • a) evaluation professionals;
  • b) funders; and
  • c) beneficiaries, particularly women and girls.

We have also attempted to keep our “gender and bias lenses” on, highlighting where certain definitions may favor or discriminate against certain groups or situations. As illustrated in the preceding pages, impact does not mean the same thing for every per-son or organization in philanthropy and inter-national development. In other words, “what we talk about when we talk about impact” depends on who is talking and who is listening!

With all of these considerations in mind, it is clear that there is no one “right” or common definition of impact for every person in every situation. Good definitions are inclusive, but above all, they are useful in clarifying a path to action.


Read the source article at The Center for High Impact Philanthropy