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How to Write Effective Success Stories. By Wendi Williams Updated Feb 2008.

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how to write effective success stories

How to Write Effective Success Stories

By Wendi Williams

Updated Feb 2008


These slides are to be used as a guide to writing success stories. The format that involves using “situation/background, program activities, results/impact, and evaluation/evidence,” is a standard “success story” format that can be used for multiple audiences and for numerous Extension documents. - Wendi Williams

definition of success
Definition of success

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines success as an “outcome” or “result” – “a degree or measure of succeeding” or a “favorable or desired outcome.”

what is a success story
What is a success story?

A success story is the successful – favorable or desired result or outcome of a program. In other words, you want to paint a picture as to how Extension makes a difference in the lives of the people it serves.

what is a success story5
What is a success story?

So, consider these factors when you write a success story:

* Pretend the reader knows nothing whatsoever about your program. Don’t assume anything!

* Remember… You are telling a short story about what you want to achieve in a program.

what is a success story6
What is a success story?

* Tells the reader why and how your program was implemented.

* Tells the results or the impact of the program

* Tells the measurable results or how program success was achieved

* Defines the public valueof a program

types of success stories
Types of success stories

* A single event such as a program, meeting, or conference – Urban-Rural Interface Conference

* The series of activities with varying participants – Family Conference

* A program with a predetermined length of time – Points of Light Youth Leadership Institute

types of success stories8
Types of success stories

* A comprehensive program that partners with outside organizations to influence state or national policy.

* A comprehensive program that includes a needs assessment, fund raising or marketing strategies, or applied research that last 6 months or longer.(Iowa State Extension, 2007)

why write success stories
Why write success stories?

* To show why Extension/Urban Affairs uses public funds.

* To document that Extension/Urban Affairs uses funds for intended purposes, which is… to make positive and lasting impacts in the lives of Alabama citizens.

why write success stories10
Why write success stories?

* To share program ideas and to learn what works and what doesn’t work.

* To market Extension – Your Experts for Life(Purdue Extension, 2007)

when to write success stories
When to write success stories?

* When you have something important to report and you have impact data to back up your work

* When you are proud of a program

*Ongoing -- Don’t wait until you are told to write one by your supervisor or at the end of the year. (Purdue Extension, 2007)

how are success stories used
How are success stories used?

Extension administrators and state legislators use success stories for planning and reporting, which translates into $$$.

We want the public to know that we do good work that positively impacts the lives of people in the state of Alabama. AND we want to keep doing what we do.

structure of success stories
Structure of success stories

* Situation/Background

* Program Activities

* Results/Impact

* Evaluation/Evidence

situation background

This is a problem statement.

* Why does the program exist in the first place?

* What are you trying to achieve?

* Why is this program important to the people of Alabama?

program activities
Program Activities

How was the program implemented?

* What steps did you take to carry out the program – fulfill the program objectives?

* Who is your target audience?

* What were they asked or required to do?

results impact

What was achieved as a result of this program?

* What behavior changed?

* What actions are being put into place to ensure your desired results?

evaluation evidence

How do you assess your success?

* How did you measure your success?

* Did you use pre- and post-assessments?

* Did you use surveys?

* Do you have testimonials from participants?

example 1
Example #1


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2001 to 2005, HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have increased in the South.

example 120
Example #1


Forty percent of persons living with AIDS in the United States reside in the South in comparison to 30% in the Northeast, 20% in the West, and 11% in the Midwest.

example 121
Example #1


In Alabama, as in the nation, African-Americans (AAs) have the highest rates of new HIV infections – AAs comprise 26% of the state population, but account for 63% of new infections.

example 122
Example #1

Program Activities

Volunteers were trained by the Red Cross to offer basic HIV/AIDS prevention education courses to local citizens. From January-June, a total of ten, 2-hour prevention education sessions were offered.

example 123
Example #1

Program Activities

In addition, on-site testing was done by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the local AIDS service organization.

example 124
Example #1


Red Cross volunteers are partnering with Extension/Urban Affairs, AIDS service organizations, and ADPH to conduct prevention education workshops and HIV screenings, with a focus on AA residents.

example 125
Example #1


The goal of these partnerships are to educate high-risk communities about the adverse affects of HIV/AIDS in an effort to reduce the number of new infections in the area.

example 126
Example #1

Program Activities

The prevention education sessions were conducted at local churches and community centers.

example 127
Example #1

Program Activities

In addition, individuals received a free HIV screening. HIV-positive individuals were referred to the ADPH and to the local AIDS service organization for confirmatory testing and treatment.

example 128
Example #1


Participants learned their HIV status in 20-30 minutes, which eliminates a second visit to a clinic for results (most do not return to know their status), and it reduces the time HIV-positive individuals receive treatment. Research proves that when persons know their HIV status, the majority stop engaging in risky behavior.

example 129
Example #1


Participants were given a pre- and post-assessment to test their knowledge of HIV facts. Assessment results showed that participants increased their knowledge of HIV/AIDS after attending the sessions.

example 130
Example #1


As a result of this training, 650 participants received basic HIV education and 300 HIV screenings were provided at a cost of $27.00 each. The free screenings saved participants a total of $8,775 in medical costs.

example 131
Example #1


Additionally, a 3-month survey showed that individuals shared the information they learned with a loved one or colleague.

80% stopped engaging in risky behavior such as having unprotected sex, while 60% stopped encouraged their loved ones/colleagues to get tested for HIV.

example 132
Example #1

Evaluation and Impact

At the end of the year, the ADPH reported (through a tracking system) a 5% reduction in the number of new HIV infections in this area.More individuals know their HIV status and were able to enter into early treatment that helped to prolong their life.


Success Story

Example #2: Ties That Bind

example 2
Example #2


Ninety percent of urban families in Lauderdale and Colbert counties do not spend quality time together – involves family activities, educational preparation, church time, or shopping.

example 235
Example #2


Many of the children move beyond the boundaries of the family to travel the neighborhood, forge their own relationships with close friends, neighbors, and have experiences that are independent of their parents. There is a big need for families to bond and get to know each other better.

example 236
Example #2


Extension’s Urban Center in Lauderdale and Colbert counties, the Area Agency on Aging, the city school system, the law enforcement agencies, the Family Court, Boys and Girls Club, Handy Head Start, and DHR partnered together to hold a Family Festival in the Shoals on April 21, 2007.

example 237
Example #2

Program Activities

Two-hundred forty-seven families participated in this event at the Muscle Shoals Recreation Center. Parents were asked to bring their children to the festival and to stay with them.

example 238
Example #2

Program Activities

A representative of Family Court spoke on the importance of spending quality time with your family, while an officer from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) spoke to families about child abuse.

example 239
Example #2

Program Activities

There were also workshops on safety and prevention, abstinence, and parenting that involved learning how to protect children and youth from strangers, delaying sexual activity, and administering effective parenting skills.

example 240
Example #2


Eighty percent of participants completed a written evaluation and turned it in. Of the 80% percent, 100% implied they would not talk to strangers; 100% vowed they would exercise; and 100% percent stated they are now more aware of child abuse.

example 241
Example #2


Mrs. Mary Smith of Florence said it was the best Family Festival she ever attended because of the participants (parents and children). She enjoyed the variety of the events – found them educational and fun.

example 242
Example #2


Jason brown, a youth from Tuscumbia, said he liked the Family Festival because he could send a personal message to other boys and girls about child abuse through the balloon release.

example 243
Example #2


Little Amy Wilson of Muscle Shoals said that she would never talk to a stranger because “a stranger might take off somewhere or touch her somewhere on her body.”

helpful tips
Helpful Tips
  • Use pictures
  • Proofread
  • Use active vs. passive voice
  • Be clear
  • Read it aloud
  • Will review until you get the hang of it…
  • Alabama Cooperative Extension System. (2005). A success story for ETP11g. Retrieved October 10, 2007, from
  • Alabama Cooperative Extension System. (2005). A success story for PPA 14. Retrieved October 10, 2007, from
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (June 2007). HIV surveillance report: Cases of HIV infection and AIDS in the United States and dependent areas, 2005 (Vol. 17). Retrieved February 15, 2008, from
  • Iowa State University Extension. (September 8, 2006). Success story guidelines for field specialists and ceeds. Retrieved October 12, 2007, from
  • University of Florida Extension. (May 2001). The fast and easy way to write effective success stories.
  • Purdue Extension. (2007). Success story guidelines. Publication 11-2003. Retrieved October 12, 2007, from