June 2009 Special Issue
What to Say in the Making a Difference Templates

So you have a template to use when you speak with your county councils. But what do you put in it?

Our goal here is to provide you with five quick tips to create an effective, compelling case for Purdue Extension in your county. For more information about using the template, see “How to Use the Making a Difference Templates.”

Before you begin, it’s important to remember the audience for this document and your purpose for writing it. Your audiences, of course, are members of the county council and related stakeholders. Your purpose is to remind leaders that Purdue Extension brings value to the county and, ultimately, to ensure that partnership remains a valuable, county-based educational resource.

Do not think of this document as a stand alone communication. Instead, think of this document as a tool that will help you begin an ongoing conversation with decision makers. Your goal isn’t to simply hand the document off and walk away. Rather, use the document an opportunity to discuss your programs at greater length — either immediately or in a follow up meeting.

Your document ought to be brief and provide officials with quick, valuable information at a glance.

At most, your document should have 250 words.

As you compose your message, keep these five points in mind:

  1. Select the right subject matter. Highlight programs that are important to your readers. Review what you reported at annual meetings, the important issues community leaders have identified, and your appreciative inquiries to identify your county’s key needs. Then match your accomplishments with those needs. If you can demonstrate that you are already delivering on identified needs, that will speak for itself. Brainstorm with your staff and key stakeholders to determine where you’ve had the most impact.
  2. Limit yourself to three or four highlights. Again, this is all about staying focused. Remember your audiences are making decisions. Give them information that will make those decisions easier.
  3. Keep it concise and fast. For each highlight, write a single, introductory statement followed by two or three bullet points. Avoid providing background information or describing process. This isn’t your newsletter, it’s a fast fact sheet. Limit yourself to one side of a standard piece of paper and follow the template formatting. In other words, don’t try to fit in more by reducing font sizes or using other formatting tricks.
  4. Show specific evidence. Think impact here. It isn’t enough to merely state that 37 people attended your program. You need to quickly and clearly demonstrate the short- and long-term effects of your programs. Show specific, significant statistics (when available) and significant qualitative information (like testimonials) that clearly demonstrate your success. Highlight those areas that appeal to the pocketbook (economic appeal), head (intellectual appeal), and heart (emotional appeal).
  5. Test your document. Whenever possible, ask stakeholders or clients to read through your document and offer feedback. That feedback will help you make adjustments and create a stronger document.

Once you’ve completed your document, don’t expect decision makers to come and get it. Deliver it to them, make personal contacts, and offer to meet with them to discuss these and other points. The template has space to include the contact information for two people. If necessary, you can make this just one person, or even three or four, but keep it simple.

Remember, this document is not the end of a conversation. Allow it to be short and catchy so it can begin the conversation.

Download a Word .doc version of the template.

Download a Word .docx version of the template.

Download a Publisher version of the template.