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Defining Impact

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. Differing—but unvoiced—assumptions about the definition of impact can also create communication difficulties between donors, grantees, and beneficiaries. This report explores current definitions of impact in philanthropy and international development, with a particular focus on the ways impact definition can affect work serving women and girls. It aims to help donors develop their own definitions of impact and to clarify the many (sometimes conflicting) uses of the term “impact.” In places, it uses real-world examples from the perspective of those working in the women and girls space to illustrate the repercussions of those uses.

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